Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dr. Vost's "Memorize the Reasons" - A Book Review

It is with great joy that I review Memorize the Reasons!  Defending the Faith with the Catholic Art of Memory.  This book was actually the first time I got to see my friend systematically bring his incredible intellect to bear on hot button apologetic issues - both answering the objections and giving the positive reasons that move one to embrace Catholicism as the full, historic expression of the Christian Faith.

By training, Kevin Vost is a psychologist with a special emphasis on human memory.  His first book, following his conversion from atheism while in his early forties, was the immensely popular Memorize the Faith!, where he showed readers how to use the "method of loci," a form of memory training employed by ancient Greek writers and orators, as well as by Christian giants such as St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. (Thomas' massive Summa Theologica, of which no notes have ever been discovered, is thought to have been dictated by Thomas to secretaries directly from memory!)  Kevin taught readers how to memorize everything from the Ten Commandments, to the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit, to the Forty-Six Books of the Old Testament by mentally visualizing a familiar place (such as a room in your house) and then sequentially placing memorable (often funny) items at various locations.

Kevin employs this same method of loci in Memorize the Reasons! by using different sections of a cathedral - its facade, left side of the nave, sanctuary, right side of the nave.  In each section of the cathedral he draws our eyes to ten different locations where we see vivid images that help us recall the reasons to hold the Catholic Faith as well as the source for that reason.  In the course of the book we are led through three cathedrals: St. Peter's (where we learn 40 reasons for Catholic beliefs regarding the Papacy, structure and authority of the Church), Notre Dame (40 reasons to believe Mary was the Ever-Virgin, Immaculately Conceived, Mother of God, Assumed into Heaven), and the First Catholic Bible Church (40 reasons for Catholic beliefs regarding the Bible and Tradition).

I was immensely impressed by the reasons Kevin selected.  Scripture, as it should be, is given the lion's share; but he also provides meaty quotations from the early Fathers of the Church and, get this - even Protestant Reformers!  Let me give an example:  Location 29 in his Notre Dame Cathedral is the main sanctuary's altar, and there at the altar is the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., holding up "a pure white filet of sole in a fuse."  The image reminds us of a quote from the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther.  He preached that Mary's soul was infused with grace at the very moment of her conception, "... while the soul was being infused, she [Mary] would be at the same time cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God ... in the very moment she began to live, she was without all sin."  Even Martin Luther believed the Immaculate Conception was perfectly consistent with Scripture - that's an important point for Catholics to remember and share with separated brothers and sisters!

The images chosen as memory aids are extremely effective.  Whenever a reason is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, an "ax" appears in the image; if from Philippians, a person "flipping;" if from Ignatius of Antioch, an "igniting flame," etc.  To me the most difficult aspect of using the method of loci is being creative in developing the images; but Kevin has already done it for us!  The reasons he has provided for Catholic belief are reason enough to consider it an apologetic goldmine, but the tools to commit these reasons to memory make it like no other book of apologetics in existence.  I do not say this lightly:  I can easily see future generations using MTR!  I believe we are witnessing the birth of a classic, and it's pretty amazing to have a ringside seat! 

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