The beginning of fall is a chance to start new habits or resume routines we relaxed over the summer. At the top of my list this year is to resume our family’s practice of memorizing scripture together. By consistently working on this last year, we learned many short verses and two longer passages.
There are three reasons why this practice is meaningful to my family. First, things we commit to memory through repetition become part of us. My children effortlessly memorize dialog from Star Wars and radio ads. Scripture memorization uses this impulse to help them focus on what is good, beautiful and true.
The second reason is that having a family collection of verses creates a shared language to talk about issues we face together. When we are having trouble treating one another well, we focus on a verse about kindness. If our household is full of complaining, we might learn a verse about being cheerful. The verses become a kind of mantra we can use to remind each other of what behavior is expected.
The third reason why scripture memory is so important is that it helps us take ownership of our faith. The Bible is the inspired Word of God to His people. It is our inheritance. Hearing it proclaimed at Mass is only the first step. Encountering its words in written form on the page takes us deeper. Taking portions of scripture into our hearts and minds through memorization allows it to form us into the people God wants us to become. When we hear passages we have memorized as part of the readings during Mass, we listen even more carefully- those are our verses! This sense of ownership of the Word of God helps us to take it more seriously and allow it to work its way into the ordinary moments of our lives. Internalizing and pondering scripture in our hearts helps us take our place in the larger story of God’s people and the Church.
If you would like to begin memorizing scripture yourself, here are some tips to get started.
1. Pick a verse you love.
Choose something that is encouraging or inspiring to you. Scripture memory is a very personal practice. Picking something meaningful means you’ll be more likely to commit it to memory.
2. Start small.
It can be overwhelming to think of how many verses there are that you don’t know. Many long passages are memorization-worthy, but starting with a huge chunk of text can leave you feeling discouraged. Instead, choose something with which you can quickly be successful, even if it’s just a few words. Once you have them down, you can move on to something harder. You’ll be surprised how quickly those verses begin to add up. To learn a longer passage, try breaking it up into smaller verses and doing just a little at a time. We did this last Advent with the prologue to St. John’s Gospel, and everyone was able to learn it as we went along.
3. Use strategies that work for you.
Some people easily learn verses if they are set to music. Others use hand gestures to go with certain words or write the verses out by hand. We post the verses in our kitchen and say them together as a family several times each day. I also put them on post-it notes on our bathroom mirror for an extra reminder.
4. Connect memorizing to another part of your daily routine.
If you tie your scripture memory to something you already do automatically every day, you won’t have to create an entirely new habit. You will only be modifying a habit you already have. This will be easier than remembering to do something entirely new. Could you practice when you make your morning coffee, when you brush your teeth, when you take your dog out for a walk, or when you get into bed each night? Our family practices our verse of the week right before we say the blessing at every meal.
5. Review what you already know.
We use the memory system from Simply Charlotte Mason with a box of index cards, so we frequently review the verses we have already learned along with the one we are currently learning. Practicing old material helps move it from short-term to long-term memory, where it truly makes an impression on our hearts.
Has your family memorized scripture together? If so, what has worked well for you? If not, what barriers keep you from beginning? Leave us a comment, and let’s help each other with this important practice.
Copyright 2016 Abbey Dupuy.