About ten years ago when I was living in DC, I met a kind man who became a friend to me. We now live in different cities, but every time my birthday comes around or my wedding anniversary or another holiday, I receive a message from him wishing me well. Each time it happens I’m moved that he remembered the date and took the time to reach out. And it happens without fail, year after year. His simple act of remembering makes me feel loved. This man’s ministry is remembering.
I know another person who pastors a church and has a keen ability to remember names, even after meeting someone just once. I’ve heard from his parishioners how wonderful it is that he remembers their names when he greets them.
There really is something special about being remembered. It gives us a sense of dignity and we feel seen, as a fellow human being. In our Western culture we can be so isolated, caught up in the busyness of our own lives, in our screens, and own affairs. When someone remembers us, it pulls us out of our bubble and reminds us that there are relationships beyond ourselves, that we are part of a larger community. Remembering re-members us to a larger body. We’re reminded that we are important and worthy parts of our community.
Ignatius names memory as a primary gift from God in his Suscipe prayer. God gives us this gift to hold our relationships in our hearts even when those people are not present. When we are not remembered or fail to remember someone who remembers us—and it’s certainly not intentional—we know how disconnecting it can feel.
Remembering in Prayer
We can immerse ourselves in God’s own ministry of remembering in prayer. We piece together the memories of people and needs we wish to hold before God, a God to whom we look to make things whole. Through this process our eyes are opened to the ways God has remembered us in the past and continues to do so. Prayer allows us to take a contemplative stance, to see the larger picture, to see the wholeness we may not have seen initially. Through this remembering, God calls me outside of myself, to be mindful of those people and things in my life who call me to greater things, who bring me to a sense of wholeness.
The Examen prayer is an intentional act of remembering the moments of my day—my lived experience—looking for those places I’m moving toward God and feeling grateful, and for those places I’m still seeking wholeness. Remembering moments of our lives helps us locate those pieces that need healing, and those places where we have found healing.
Remembering in Scripture
Consider the centrality of remembering in religion. Jesus asked to be remembered through the Eucharist, something Christians celebrate not only weekly but daily. Judaism is very much about remembering the goodness of God who freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, celebrated each year at Passover. Mary, in her Magnificat, expressed the many ways God remembered God’s people. In Isaiah 49 God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (verse 15). After the flood, God says to Noah, “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature” (Gen. 9:16). Throughout the Bible we discover a God who never forgets and holds us as important members of God’s family through the act of remembering. We maintain faith by remembering how God remembers us!
Recall the man crucified next to Jesus who said to him, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). We tend to read this through our Christian lens of heaven and afterlife. But see the human desire in this suffering man, one who has been “forgotten” in a sense by society, who asks to be remembered, to be re-membered, to be made whole. Was Jesus’ whole ministry not an act of re-membering and restoring God’s people?
At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius asks us to remember the many ways God has loved us, given to us, and laboured for us. This prayerful act of remembering draws us back into union with God. God and I become one. We are re-membered with all creation.
Whom do you need to remember in your life? How has God remembered you recently?
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