St. Teresa of Avila, the first female Doctor of the Church. CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

Harry McAvoy: Prayers are like ‘cash in the pocket’

By  Harry McAvoy
  • May 28, 2020

COVID-19 threw an interesting twist into a recent visit with the memory specialist. I was advised by e-mail my appointment would be conducted via video e-consult. I looked at the Bride and wondered, “What is e-consult?” The next morning we were staring into our laptop where the specialist appeared. 

With a brief hello, the good doctor asked about changes in my memory. I provided examples of recent memory slips from both our family life and my work.

After listening attentively for seven or eight minutes, he stared at the Bride and I through the video transmission and said, “Given the lockdown, further neurological tests will have to wait; therefore, I am not able to make a diagnosis. When COVID-19 clears up we will reschedule the tests and hopefully see you in six months,” then he was gone.

The Bride and I sat at our dining room table and stared at the laptop. Jennifer was first to speak.

“That was quick. I’m not sure we are any further ahead and now we have to wait another six months.”

She looked down at my four pages of pre-meeting notes, mostly capturing examples of memory slips, recorded in case the doctor asked, but also notes about the emotional suffering that comes from not remembering. She said she was surprised at how thorough I had been and the fact that all the recorded memory slips had been experienced in such a short period of time. We sat quietly and were tempted by great sadness.

I told Jennifer, I remembered attending a retreat at which Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, spoke. I said I appreciate the cardinal’s wisdom and the simplicity of his delivery, so I had brought pen and paper, and anticipated capturing spiritual insights to help me on my journey. 

On that occasion I recall the cardinal saying, “Words on the page are like money in the bank; words in our memory are like cash in the pocket.”

My takeaway was when we memorize prayers and spiritual truths we build and strengthen our foundation which helps us in good times and bad. As someone who prays the rosary most days, I desire a deeper understanding of each of the mysteries so my prayer time will be richer. Now with memory issues it seems I am losing ground. 

Too often I wrestle with remembering the events associated with this mystery or that. Recently, I could barely get beyond the title of the third Luminous Mystery, the Proclamation of the Kingdom. I patiently accepted, and I prayed on.   

With daily reciting I have been able to memorize several wonderful prayers such as the St. Michael the Archangel prayer. I love the reference to defend us in battle because often life is a battle and we need help.

Another prayer calls upon the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with the fire of His love because we need God’s love animating our lives, helping us to be the people God intended us to be. A third powerful prayer companion as I wander through this “valley of tears” is the Hail Holy Queen, where we call upon Mary, our mother of mercy, to pray for us.

Just before we went online for the update with the memory guru, I quietly reflected on the words of St. Teresa of Avila when she said, “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass away. God doesn’t change. Patience achieves everything. Whoever has God lacks nothing. Only God suffices.”

Along with the rosary, St. Teresa’s words are my “cash in the pocket.”

They are where I go to in the middle of the night when the dragons dance, or in the daylight hours when I think pain and suffering are hiding just around the corner.   

(McAvoy has been sharing his journey of dealing with memory loss with Register readers.)

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