A new scientific discovery: Remembering makes us forget

​Remembering makes us forget! No, you did not misread it, and it is certainly not a typo. Earlier this week, a group of neuroscientists in Britain discovered that remembering makes us forget as the process actually causes people to lose other memories [of less importance and/or information that has become irrelevant].

Dr. Maria Wimber, of Birmingham University, said: “[…] there has been an emerging belief within the academic field that the brain has this inhibitory mechanism that recalling memories has this darker side of making us forget others by actually suppressing them.” The act of suppressing information eventually causes this information to be forgotten from our memory.

I have experienced this theory first-hand on many occasions. In the last nine years of my priesthood, I have moved parishes four times. And each time, I initially have difficulty memorizing all the new information: new addresses, new phone numbers, new email addresses, faces and names of new parishioners, teachers, staff and students of new parish schools…and the list goes on. What has occurred is that in the first two or three months of being in the new parish, if I am asked to provide either my personal or parish information, instead of the new information, auto-pilot takes over and I catch myself providing the old information, which has become the incorrect information. With time, I remember the new information by suppressing the old information, it may take a year or two, perhaps more, but, eventually the old information gets lost and forgotten. If I do need to call my former parish, I have to look up the number as I am no longer able to recall that bit of information.

St. Andre Bessette ParishSo, what lesson can we draw from this new scientific finding? To learn to “forget” the trespasses of others and to “remember” mercy. Sure, it is much easier to recall our old wounds and scars inflicted by our family, friends, or co-workers and we may struggle to remember mercy, but when we go to confession, God not only forgives, but forgets our sins. They are gone! Rembrandt’s famous painting of the Prodigal Son has a wonderful illustration of this, you see, the eyes of the father are depicted as those of a blind person. The blind eyes manifest the fact that God will not, and has rendered Himself incapable, if you will, of looking at our sins, due to His infinite mercy. Let us not also forget the words Jesus said to His disciples when He taught them to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, in order for us to grow closer to God and with one another, let us avail ourselves of God’s wonderful gift of His boundless mercy in confession during this Lent. Let our experience of God’s mercy help us to remember His mercy and to forget our old memories of hurt and pain. Let us forget what we have done and what others have done, and may we remember mercy!

To help with going to Confession:

1. “Bless me,” or “Forgive me,” Father for I have sinned.
2. “It has been (how long) since my last confession, and these are my sins.”
3. Confess your sins
4. Priest will offer brief spiritual advice and assign an appropriate Penance
5. Pray “The Act of Contrition”:
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”
6. Priest prays the words of Absolution
7. Once you have finished your confession, do your penance right away before leaving the church.

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