This is St Ignatius's "Suscipe" in Latin. Fr Hardon says that it is better read in Latin because of the nuances of some of the words, that can't quite be translated into English. I would not know.
Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem.
Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem.
Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum.
Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, hec aliud quidquam ultra posco.
In English, it goes like this:
Receive, O Lord, all my liberty.
Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.
Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me;
I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.'
It is only found in the last week of the Spiritual Exercises, but I had come across it in a prayer booklet years back when we were with Aidan in San Francisco waiting for his transplant, and I memorized it during the long afternoons in the NICU, and have been saying it after communion ever since. So it was like an old friend when I met up with it.
Fr Hardon has an interesting reflection on the "memory, understanding and will" part of the prayer.
"Take" ...means surrendering everything over which we have voluntary control. These are mainly the three faculties of our soul: the memory, the understanding, and the will. ...if we are truly sincere in sacrificing our freedom to God, we are implicitly giving him dominion over the three highest possessions we have:
- our memory of the past;
- our understanding of the present;
- our will with its desires and hopes and loves for the future.
Why did this strike me? I think it's because of the connection of the three main faculties of the mind with the processes of Time. I had never thought about it that way before, but memory, understanding and will are our specifically human ways of dealing with the sequential aspects of this great mystery. They are what make us able to transcend what we share in common with animals -- our instincts and conditioning -- and to some extent choose freely what we are to think of and do in light of these things. Augustine says, in Book XI of the Confessions:
Permit me, Lord, to seek further. O my hope, let not my purpose be confounded. For if times past and to come be, I would know where they be. Which yet if I cannot, yet I know, wherever they be, they are not there as future, or past, but present. For if there also they be future, they are not yet there; if there also they be past, they are no longer there. Wheresoever then is whatsoever is, it is only as present.Daniel Siegel, in The Developing Mind, says much the same thing -- that our (explicit) memories aren't fixed, but are present representations of our past experience. Every time we recall something, we basically recast it in our present moment. The content of the memory may be something past, but the actual "recollection" is something occurring in our present. This is why, if I understand his complicated prose correctly, a coherent "narrative" of the past -- even a troubled past -- can help us restore our present and affect our futures.
Although when past facts are related, there are drawn out of the memory, not the things themselves which are past, but words which, conceived by the images of the things, they, in passing, have through the senses left as traces in the mind. Thus my childhood, which now is not, is in time past, which now is not: but now when I recall its image, and tell of it, I behold it in the present, because it is still in my memory.
Whether there be a like cause of foretelling things to come also; that of things which as yet are not, the images may be perceived before, already existing, I confess, O my God, I know not. This indeed I know, that we generally think before on our future actions, and that that forethinking is present, but the action whereof we forethink is not yet, because it is to come. Which, when we have set upon, and have begun to do what we were forethinking, then shall that action be; because then it is no longer future, but present.
A key sign of a troubled understanding of past problems (and a fairly accurate predictor of troubled relationships with one's children) is the coherence of a narrative about the past. (see Adult Attachment Interview). In other words, the main predictor of shaky attachment with one's children according to attachment theory is not so much a troubled background per se, but the way one has processed it and brought it into the present. "Earned security" is the term for the state of adults with troubled family history who have come to the point where they can remember and recount their past history with some kind of coherent perspective, without either dismissiveness ("everything was fine, but I don't really remember details") or intrusion of present into past ("she always favored my brother.... just last week she took HIS kids to Disneyland, she never does anything nice for ME and my kids..").
There is much more to it than this, obviously. But the part I wanted to bring out is that by understanding (by means of processing and narrating) our past better we can better understand our present and future. It is interesting, and reminds me a bit of Oscar Wilde's insight, though he is talking about personal sin and not past "issues" inflicted on oneself by other people:
Of course the sinner must repent. But why? Simply because otherwise he would be unable to realise what he had done. The moment of repentance is the moment of initiation. More than that: it is the means by which one alters one's past. The Greeks thought that impossible. They often say in their Gnomic aphorisms, 'Even the Gods cannot alter the past.' Christ showed that the commonest sinner could do it, that it was the one thing he could do.
Perhaps to connect Wilde's idea better with Siegel's attachment theories the word "metanoia" comes in handy. Metanoia literally means "change of mind" -- it can imply repentance per se but also a sort of more general restoration/change of attitude about things that are dragging one down or locking one in and are perhaps a cause for one's present failings and misdeeds, or at least a contributing factor.
Metanoia in the context of theological discussion, where it is used often, is usually interpreted to mean repentance. However, some people argue that the word should be interpreted more literally to denote changing one's mind, in the sense of embracing thoughts beyond its present limitations or thought patterns (an interpretation which is compatible with the denotative meaning of repentance but replaces its negative connotation with a positive one, focusing on the superior state being approached rather than the inferior prior state being departed from.)I don't think the theological notion of "repentance" is quite as negative as the Wikipedia entry makes it sound for the purposes of contrast. Etymologically speaking, "repentance" means "re- thinking"; most of the saints encouraged one to employ sorrow and regret for the past as a stepping stone of humility and receptiveness to grace, in order to recast the present and future. Getting bogged down in remorse is contrary to the restoration and renewal aspects of "metanoia". In fact, in some ways this bogging-down in past shame, anger and fear is exactly what keeps us from getting somewhere better. King David said:
In the context of rhetoric, metanoia is a rhetorical device used to retract a statement just made, and then state it in a better way.
"Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me!"
Daniel Siegel says that "shame" is often a problem with people who are bogged down by their pasts. He defines "shame" as something that has been laid down below the foundations of the rational mind, that often doesn't have a just reason. For example, a child may have been brought up to feel "shame" for needing affection or comfort. Siegel has another word for the just sense of guilt and regret we ought to have when we've done something to harm someone or ourselves, but nevertheless he proposes acknowledging the failing and bringing it to the surface of one's mind in order to deal with it and move on. In fact, probably one of the most difficult aspects of a troubled childhood is that it is difficult to perceive what is real guilt and what is "shame" imposed in early childhood, where one's memories are buried under the conscious surface of one's mind.
Siegel is talking from a scientific, secular-psychological perspective, but the parallels are interesting to me. If something is true, it is going to be true across the board.
A bigger subject than I meant to take on at first! I am no theologian, nor a psychoanalyst (obviously!) so these are just things I'm processing in my mind right now.