St. John of the Cross and the Purification of Memory

Thomas Mulcahy, MA

Mr. Mulcahy looks at the teaching of Saint John of the Cross regarding the virtue of hope and the healing of memory.

Summary by:
Dr. Marcel Lanahan

Key Insights

  • Constant re-living of painful memories is an obstacle to hope and happiness
  • Saint John of the Cross tells us that harmful memories are gradually purified and healed by the theological virtue of hope (a virtue infused into our soul at baptism).
  • After there has been helpful dialogue and processing of the memory, hope diminishes the distress associated with the memory
  • Purifying memories indirectly predisposes the person to advance in prayer
  • Fr. Garigou Lagrange, OP is also quoted - warning of how focusing on useless or harmful memories can distract us from focusing on God. He gives the visual of the cross. When we are focusing on past memories, we are forgetful of God and immersed in the horizontal timeline of life. We need to remember the vertical line that connects us to eternity.
Consider a broken bone: there is a time for casting and physical therapy, but hopefully the bone will heal and the memory of the painful fracture will diminish.

Find the article here.