Whenever we commit a sin our memories are affected in a negative manner. This especially becomes problematic when we commit habitual sin. Our memories are filled with our past actions which can at times put us into an occasion for sin. This can happen most easily with sins of the flesh such as eating decadent foods all the time or committing sins of impurity habitually. For example people who view pornography over and over again can become prisoners to their own memories. The devil can bring up the images over and over again enticing the individual to commit the sin again. Our memories can also be damaged by sins committed against us. We can have anger issues for example for unjust things people have done to us in the past. We dwell on them and wish we could have revenge when we may have been vulnerable in the past.
Often the affects of our disordered memories come in the form of despair, or sins against the virtue of Hope. We project onto the future our disordered past, and it inclines us to fall into a state of hopelessness. Our sins become alive in the future even before we have committed them. Our imaginations often take over the reality that God loves us and wants us to overcome the sin our lives. This is the tactic the demons love to use against those who are trying to overcome sin in their lives. He tries to bring up the past and get you to project it onto the future so you can lose hope and commit the sin again. If anger is your issue the devil will stir up something in your memory so you can project a past injustice onto a current situation. This will often get you to justify some outburst of anger that is not really justified. This can happen with the sexual appetite as well. The devil will bring up how many times you have committed the sin in the past and convinces you that one more time won't make any difference. Then when you commit the sin again it attaches even deeper into your intellect. For those who have issues of attachment to material things, he will use your thoughts against you and get you to dwell on goods that catch your fancy such as expensive cars, big houses, decadent clothes and the list goes on.
The memory and our imaginations can be used against us if we are not careful. We have all fallen prey to this in one form or another. What can we do to combat these sins that are enticed by our disordered memories? Mother Angelica in her book called, 'Three Keys to the Kingdom' tells us that we must cultivate the virtue of Hope. Instead of letting our minds go into a fog of fantasy in which we then project onto the future, we focus on the kingdom of God. It is much easier to accept our immediate suffering and put up a struggle against our sinful inclinations when we reflect on God, focusing on His sacrifice and the kingdom that awaits us if we are faithful to Him. Mother wrote, "Hope keeps our memory and imagination from harboring resentments and gives us the assurance that no matter how dark things seem to be, our little boat is being guided by the hand of a loving and omnipotent Father. It gives us a light heart in regard to disturbing occurrences and helps us to see God behind everything that happens."
In her book Mother uses examples of Saint Peter and Judas to show us which two choices we have before us. Judas let his past sins and damaged memory drive him into despair. It became fuel for his pride and he eventually destroyed himself by suicide. We see many people follow a similar course when they become addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography or engrossed in their material wealth They slowly kill themselves, if not physically then always spiritually. Saint Peter on other hand let those memories humble him. He did not dwell on those memories and let them drive him into committing the sins again. He fortified himself with the virtue of Hope through Jesus Christ. So Mother says, "We must use all our past regrets as opportunities for greater things, because they have taught us to depend on God and not ourselves."
How do we nourish the virtue of Hope in our lives?
1. We must make a serious effort to guard our intellects. Garbage in means garbage out in the actualization of sin. We must not watch movies or television shows that will cause us to reflect on things that tempt us. The people we surround ourselves with should not build up our inclination to sin, but help us to live holy lives. Guarding our intellects takes serious and persistent effort.
2. Nourishing our intellect with holy images and reading can begin to heal our memories and imaginations. Reading Sacred Scripture or a good Catholic book can have a great affect over a period of time. Using holy images in our homes to keep our eyes on and intellect focused on God and the Saints help to keep us from projecting our bad thoughts onto the future. Instead the images invoke Hope in us.
3. Prayer and meditation goes along with reflecting on holy images and good books. I have written many posts on the importance of prayer so I will not repeat myself here. There is no better saying to remember than, " Those who pray little have little chance of getting to heaven. Those who pray much have a great chance of getting to heaven, and those who do not pray have no chance. Be sure to make a daily prayer schedule and stick to it. Include the Rosary every day. "I think we forget that the Rosary is powerful." (Mother Angelica) This is not an option as in fact one of the most essential ingredients to making this all work.
4. Christ has given us immense graces through the Sacraments. We must receive Baptism and Confirmation. Most of us already practicing the faith have already received them. Through these Sacraments comes a healing grace and a fortifying of our souls against sin. These Sacraments must also be nurtured by the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Confession. When we commit a sin, we must immediately make an act of contrition and schedule a time as soon as possible to receive the Sacrament of confession. The Sacrament of confession reconciles ourselves to the Body of Christ and forgives our sins. This gives us a divine affiliation once again with God the Father. Once we are in a state of grace, we then can receive the Holy Eucharist when we attend the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our Lord gives us spiritual healing and nourishment through His most precious Body and Blood. It is good to go to daily Mass if possible.
5. Finally, Our beautiful Queen of Heaven, and the Saints are always ready to assist us in our battle. Devotion to Our Lady is something every faithful Catholic will hold as a treasure. She is at the center of all things and points us to her Son Jesus Christ. She along with the Saints bring Christ and help us along on the field of battle. I don't know where I would be without The Blessed Mother in my life. No matter where I may find myself on any given day, I always begin by asking her for the grace to love her Son more. I also ask for the help of the Saints, especially that of my dearest friend St Dominic.
In summary, our thoughts determine our future actions and will determine our lives. If we let our memories and imaginations run amok in past sin, causing us to abandon Hope we will find ourselves void of divine life and will be damned. If we choose to begin again, guarding our minds, nourishing ourselves with holy images, reading and receiving the grace of the Sacraments, we will find life through divine affiliation. Our minds will begin to heal and the virtue of Hope will grow within us inoculating us against committing sins in the future. This all requires patience and persistence. It is important to remember that all of this takes time. There are no instant cures. Many of us have fast food mentalities and we think there is always a quick cure for everything. Mother Angelica said it best, "Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, sweetheart, its a requirement."