Sister Eileen White: Remembering

Written on: November 24, 2015

A strange combination of themes comes together this month.  Gratitude.  Memories of loved ones.  Veterans’ pride.   Saints – recognized and unrecognized.  Turkeys – pardoned and unpardoned!

For me and my family, November recalls our mother’s death – and with that sadness comes joy as well, in the memory of all the ways she loved us and taught us to love.  This year it happens that November is also the 50th anniversary of my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding, which I missed, unhappily, as I had recently entered my religious community and in those days, couldn’t attend a wedding.  Thankfully, my life as a Catholic Sister changed and I have had the privilege of being very much part of their lives since then.

At 70, I have been doing a great deal of remembering – not where I put the keys, of course (no hope for that!), but rather, where we lived, what we did, how we laughed, what we saw – back then. So, I think of November as a month of remembering. In the psalms of the Old Testament or Hebrew scriptures, there are many admonitions and also pleas about remembering – urging God to remember, and urging one another to remember, too.

Remember, Lord,  your great mercy, for they are from of old  (Psalm 25)

On my bed I remember you, God, I think of you through the watches of the night. (Psalm 63)

I will remember the deeds of the Lord.  Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Ps. 77)

Remember the wonders (God) has done; his miracles.  (Psalm 105)

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.  (Psalm 143)

In these days of speedy internet, fast food, and instant gratification, remembering can be a really essential spiritual discipline. Taking time to reflect on one’s experiences and feelings and especially on how God may have been present in some special way is a kind of prayer. I try to do this every few days, not so much remembering “the days of old” as remembering where I have been and what I have said and done and heard and learned and felt yesterday or over the weekend. I ask, then, for help to see where the Holy One was nudging me, inspiring me, and how I responded to that nudge.

Where I work, I sometimes teach our residents – victims of commercial sex exploitation and human trafficking – a method of looking over the day in this way. They are getting lots of support in dealing with the traumas of their previous life, and I do not revisit those painful memories with them.But now, in this time of another better chance at life, it is edifying to hear them share what they remember and are grateful for today or this week – a phone call from an estranged daughter or son; a visit with a friend they never expected to see again; a kind word from a therapist or peer mentor; a dinner they cooked that turned out to be delicious; the simple pleasure of being together with others who understand what they have missed out on in life and what their hopes and fears are.

In this month of remembering, what do you recall from your yesterday or last week?  What did you say? Do?  Whom did you hear from?  What did you enjoy?  Find sad?  Find funny?  And where was God in your day – nudging you or holding you in comforting embrace or challenging you or begging you not to go there or urging you to call someone or . . . . ?

Pray with the psalmist the prayer of remembrance:

These things I remember as I pour out my soul  (Psalm 42) 

This reflection first appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times as part of their From a Faith Perspective series on November 13, under the title Spiritual discipline in remembering God’s grace in our days. We are grateful to them for allowing us to re-publish it here.

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