I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again now: I am a big fan of the practice of memorization.
I like to learn the lyrics of songs so they are ready to be sung at all times, accompanying music present or not (sorry, family!). I also like to memorize poetry, in part because I have a theory (errrr…wishful fantasy?) that filling my mind with beautiful language will make me more likely to produce elegant turns-of-phrase in my own writing. But most of all, I like to memorize pieces of writing that — locked in the recesses of my mind and the inner sanctuary of my heart — will be a boon to my spiritual life.
I memorize prayers so that when I don’t know what to say to God (sometimes extemporaneous prayer is hard for me) I still have words to speak. I memorize Psalms so that in both my darkest and my most joyful moments, I can join my voice with people all over the world and through the ages who have called out to God using the words of the King David. I memorize other Scriptural passages so that I can carry God’s word with me in all circumstances.
I also like to memorize ideas, observations, and prayers expressed by Saints. In their beautiful diversity of experience and circumstance, the Communion of Saints provides us believers an abundance of wisdom on everything from how to be a loving member of a community, to the promises that God has made to us.
Here are five saints whom I love to turn to for inspiration, and some of their words that I think are worth memorizing.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a late 19th century French Carmelite, is known for her simple and yet profound spirituality (often called “The Little Way”). St. Thérèse saw all parts of life — little as they may be — as avenues through which to grow closer to God and to show love for our neighbors. It’s a way-of-life that I hope to embody, and this quote helps me remember the goal:
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most venerated Catholic saints, and it’s unsurprising why. He experienced a dramatic call and conversion, he founded the Order of Friars Minor (also known as the Franciscans), and he preached broadly and lovingly to not only the people of Italy, but the birds and the animals as well!
If you’d like some help memorizing St. Francis’s Peace Prayer — a true spiritual classic — consider learning it via the musical rendition.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Saint Mother Teresa
Saint Mother Teresa is a relatively new saint within our tradition, canonized less than a decade ago (I can remember the day of her canonization in 2016 because my family was on a vacation at the time, and I was so happy that we stumbled into a Mass where the priest preached about St. Mother Teresa). Non-Catholics and Catholics alike have found the wisdom that Mother Teresa offers applicable and inspiring, and I’m sharing two quotes because one just isn’t enough!
“The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace.”
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Saint Josephine Bakhita
Saint Josephine Bakhita was born in the Darfur region of the Sudan, and after being kidnapped, enslaved, sold, and then resold numerous times, she eventually landed in Italy. Once freed, she joined the Canossian Sisters, and she gifted us with words that can be remembered easily in their simplicity and used as tools for grateful and praise-filled meditation.
“The whole of my life has been God's gift.”
The Magnificat, also known as the Canticle of Mary, is the hymn of praise that Mother Mary called out as she embraced her cousin Elizabeth, while they were both pregnant (with John the Baptist and Jesus, of course). Found in the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55), the Magnificat is a beautiful prayer that names attributes of our loving God and provides reminders of God’s promises to people everywhere.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”
Do you like to memorize Scripture, prayers and quotes? If so, what are your favorite passages?