What shall I render unto the Lord, that I can recall these things and yet not be afraid! I shall love Thee, Lord, and shall give thanks to Thee and confess Thy name, because thou hast forgiven me such great sins and evil deeds. (St. Augustine, Confessions II.7)
Memory is a peculiar thing. It can be the source of joy and nostalgia, a reliving of some of the happiest times in our lives. But it can also be a source of pain and grief, a testament to our failures and to the various trials that make this world a “vale of tears.” Each of us can recall events in our lives that we might wish had not happened: a harsh word spoken to a loved one; an ordeal that has scarred us physically, mentally, or both; a humiliation that put our brokenness on full display. How should we consider those aspects of our life that bring us the most shame and pain? In St. Augustine’s Confessions we see a profound reflection on memory as a witness to the mystery of providence. By seeing our past sins in the light of God’s care for us, they can become opportunities for growth in the spiritual life.