Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
I recently made a commitment to say the Morning Offering every day. I’d been having trouble making time for longer prayer sessions, so I figured that the least I could do would be to start each morning with that short prayer, which says simply:
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day,
for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.
It seemed like an easy enough resolution. What’s so hard about saying a few lines of prayer? Yet I found that I often wasn’t doing it, the main problem being that I kept losing my sheet of paper that had the Morning Offering printed on it. Of course I wasn’t bound by those particular words, and would just speak to God from my heart (as I always did in prayer anyway) on the days that I couldn’t find it. But it was frustrating because the particular words of that prayer helped me articulate concepts I had trouble expressing on my own, especially before my morning cup of coffee. Also, it was always inspiring to know that, by saying the Morning Offering, I was joining thousands of people across the world who were speaking those exact same words to God that day.
I’d been trying to memorize the prayer for a few days, but I wasn’t having much luck. Then I remembered Dr. Kevin Vost’s book Memorize the Faith! (and Most Anything Else). I’ve mentioned before how much I love this book. Using the simple exercises Dr. Vost lays out in the chapters, I had memorized the Stations of the Cross and all the Mysteries of the Rosary in a matter of hours; yet I’d never tried to apply the techniques outside of the examples in the book. I decided to give it a shot with the Morning Offering.
The memorization method that Dr. Vost uses was originally perfected by St. Thomas Aquinas, and involves creating detailed visuals anchored to a specific place. So, for example, if you need to remember to get eggs, jelly and orange juice at the store, you wouldn’t just visualize those three things in isolation; rather, you would picture them in different places in a specific room. You might imagine that you walk into a sparse room with white walls. When you first walk in, you look down to see that there’s a broken egg on the floor; to the left there is a window, and you see that someone has smeared jelly all across it; straight ahead, there is a coffee table with a glass of orange juice on it. (The visuals are supposed to be somewhat outlandish to make them easier to remember…although what I just described is a perfectly plausible scene at my house.)
Anyway, here’s the visual I created to get the Morning Offering in my brain:
I walk up to a plain suburban house. Jesus is standing on the front porch, opening the door for me.
Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary…
Standing just inside the doorway is the Blessed Mother, who has her hands over her heart.
I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day…
Behind the Blessed Mother are four people. From left to right: A nun looking heavenward, her hands clasped in prayer (“prayers”); a man wearing a hardhat, hammering something into the floor (“works”); someone jumping up and down in glee, throwing confetti into the air (“joys”); St. John of the Cross, appearing weak and in pain (“sufferings”).
For all the intentions of your Sacred Heart…
I walk past the group of people to see a closed door. On the door there is a large painting of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world…
I open the door. To my surprise, it leads to a large auditorium, and there is a Mass going on in here, with people from all over the world in attendance.
In reparation for my sins…
I happen to have walked in during the Penitential Act of the Mass, and strike my chest three times as I think about my sins.
For the intentions of all my relatives and friends…
I look up to the front of the room, and recognize a bunch of friends and family members sitting in the front pew.
And in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.
Over to the left there is a balcony that looks down onto the auditorium. I look over and see Pope Benedict sitting up there, smiling and watching the Mass.
That’s it! I went over these visuals about three times, and in less than a minute I had the prayer memorized. Granted, some of the pictures are a little silly, but that makes them easier to remember.
When I first started saying the prayer using this memorization technique, the visuals were slightly distracting; I was spending almost as much mental energy remembering the cues as I was putting my heart into the prayer. But as the days went on I found that the visuals faded into the background, and the words rolled off my lips more and more easily.
I wasn’t asked to promote Dr. Vost’s book; I’m recommending that everyone read it only because it’s been so helpful to me. I’ve gone on to use this memorization method for everything from store lists to to-do lists to facts and figures, but my favorite use is still for committing prayers and Bible verses to memory. It’s been nothing short of life-changing to have a way to quickly and easily commit to words of the Church to memory, so that they’re on the tip of my tongue whenever I need them.