At Immaculate Heart of Mary School, memory items play an important part in all our subjects.
Brother Francis, who taught for more than eighty years, used to describe memory items as the structure—the framing—of a house. Once you have the framework up, you can fill the building in, hanging all kinds of interesting information for walls, ceilings, windows, etc. But how can you hang drywall without studs?
I have taught at IHM for fifteen years (in all the grades, although I am now teaching high school level subjects), and one time in Religion Class I had a junior-high student who balked at memorizing her catechism.
This young lady was having a hard time with remembering the exact wording of certain key questions and she asked: “Why do I have to memorize this? I know what is true.”
Since we were preparing to take this class of students to accompany us on our missionary work, I asked this young lady: “What if someone, while we are doing missionary work, asks you ‘Who is God?’”
Right away, she fired back: “God is the Supreme Being Who made all things!” (She knew the answer to that question! She had memorized the answer in first grade and reviewed it in every grade since.)
“Correct,” I said, “but what do you mean by a Supreme Being?”
“When we say that God is the Supreme Being, we mean that He is above all creatures.”
And as I watched, I saw the light dawning.
“Ohhhh!” she said – and then proceeded to carry on an imaginary conversation with someone who would be asking her questions (in the exact wording of the catechism, of course!). But she got the point: it is helpful to have key information memorized in a set pattern.
Not only are memory items useful for retaining and collating information, but memory items also help us to determine what is important to remember. I remember Brother Francis telling us how he thought about his memory as a cupboard. Whatever he put in that cupboard would be there forever.
What would you like in your cupboard?