Memorization – It’s Not Just for Kids

Memorization as a style of learning goes in and out of fashion. Usually, we associate it with children. For many of us the word “memorization” brings back tedious memories of flash cards, spelling bees, or biology tests. But even as adults, memorization is an essential part of our formation as apologists and evangelists—and the good news is, you’ve probably already memorized more than you realize. 

I was reminded of this during a door-to-door visit from local Jehovah’s Witnesses. After politely listening to their introductions and exposition of the Bible to prove how relevant Scripture remains today, I responded, “I agree that the Bible is still completely relevant today and shows us God’s plan. But—and I apologize if this is incorrect—you don’t accept the Trinity, right?”

One of the men shook his head no. So I continued, “Well, I think a lot of hard debate and work of the early Church went into fleshing out the Trinity—and that’s pretty convincing to me.”

For a moment, I was relieved that I’d been able to actually say something substantive about why I did not agree with their theology. But then the questions started coming—What exactly did I believe about the Holy Spirit? How could it not be a creation of God? Where does the Bible say the Holy Spirit is divine?

The questions went on and on. At this point, I felt frustratingly underprepared. If only I could use online resources, books, or just a catechism to show them the exact wording and precise nuances of our belief in the Holy Trinity.

But I realized I did have a wealth of memorized phrases from prayers, from liturgy, and even from hymns to guide me…

From the Liturgy of the Hours:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

From the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

From a favorite hymn, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”:

Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, Three we name thee, While in essence only One, Undivided God we claim thee…

Did these short phrases help answer every question? No.

But they were plenty to give me material to structure the conversation, to confidently answer questions, and to plant a seed of curiosity with those who had come to my door.

So here’s a challenge—the next time you’re praying something you nearly know by heart or singing your favorite hymn, take a moment to savor the doctrinal truth behind it. Recognize that, without even trying, you have a wealth of knowledge of the faith to fall back on when those unexpected questions come!

Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

3 responses to “Memorization – It’s Not Just for Kids”

  1. Cuious if they accepted any data that was not from the Bible.

  2. […] at, I write about how creeds, familiar prayers, and even hymns are great memory aids for when we find […]

  3. […] Memorization – It’s Not Just for Kids […]

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