Redeeming Memory | Fr. Jacob-Bertrand Janczyk & Fr. Joseph-Anthony Kress

April 11, 2024

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: This is Fr. Jacob-Bertrand Janczyk.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: This is Fr. Joseph-Anthony Kress.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: Welcome to Godsplaining. Thanks to all those who support us. If you enjoy the show, please consider making a monthly donation on Patreon. Be sure to like, subscribe and all of that stuff wherever you listen to your podcasts. Here we are, Fr. Joseph-Anthony. How’s it going?  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Let’s go. It’s good. It’s good.  I think everything’s going good. It’s a little different setup.  We’re remote for this episode.  So yeah, it’s nice to be nice and cozy in my own kind of setup, which I like.  I know. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: For us, it kind of works because you and I are the ones who are the ones who have to travel.  Not that it’s a bad thing, but have to travel to DC.  We record our episodes, most of our content in our studio in DC.  And Fr. Joseph-Anthony and I are the ones who don’t live in DC.  And actually, my not living in DC is the reason that we’re not in the studio this time because I got caught… Well, didn’t get caught, but I wasn’t able to get out of New Hampshire because of snow.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, it was weather oriented.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: So we’re, we’re making up for it now, like the good old days. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Like the good old days. Yeah. Remember back back in the day when we kicked it and we started doing all these recordings on Zoom?  That was a mess. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: It was… it wasn’t the greatest. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: I mean, it’s all on the Internet, so it’s out there. You can go find it.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: Yeah. And truth be told, like right now, our our podcast quality compared to others is still a little like we’ve for us, we’re doing great.  I’m going to say that we’ve had our rough patches.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Everybody’s got to start somewhere, baby.  That’s fine. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: Amen. Amen.  So what it’s we’re like a week, two weeks, whatever time out from Holy Week and Easter.  So yeah, from the beginning of Holy Week, at least like a week-ish from Easter.  How are things for you 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Uh, at the time of recording this?  I mean, we just finished with, what is it?  We just finished with spring break and we’re like two weeks away from Holy Week.  So it’s… there’s a lot going on and it’s a busy time in the semester and it’s a busy time for the Church year and with the date of Easter this year.  So I feel like it’s high tide, like there’s a lot happening right now.  But that being said, it’s a lot of good things like you can see, like the preparations that the Lord is moving in the in the student body here.  And there’s a lot of really good things. So I’m excited for it. And I think we’re in a really good place for, for everything right now.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: That’s great. That’s so good to hear. We’re kind of in a similar place.  I mean, everybody, if you’re working on a church calendar, you’re kind of in the same place.  So it’s good. Yeah, it’s a good place.  We’re kind of in the well, again, as you said, at the time of recording, we’re kind of in the pre Holy Week lull.  So preparations like the remote preparations are done.  Proximate preparations are starting to pick up today.  Actually, we opened our paschal candle that came in the mail to make sure it wasn’t cracked.  Something I have to do is, hey, if you’re ever if you if any of our listeners are ever prepping the paschal candle,  make sure that that candle fits in the base of your candle of the stand before the Easter Vigil.  I did that accidentally. I accidentally checked like the day of the Easter Vigil last year.  And if I hadn’t accidentally checked, it would not have fit in. I had to carve it down, which is not uncommon. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: I was going to say, was the candle too big for the base?  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: Yeah. So I had to carve that down to fit it in 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: …or you have to like wrap masking tape around the bottom of it to like add layers.  So yeah, something, you know, it never gets exactly right. Never. It never does.  You always got to do something to it. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: The memory of that. Oh, you like that transition.  I just said, oh, you see that? Yeah. All right.  So let’s get to the that was awful. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this episode,  which we’ve entitled “Redeeming Memory”, something that that comes up a good bit, at least in maybe not always directly, but something that comes up a lot,  especially in in chatting with people, whether it be in the confessional or talking about life or whatever,  whatever the context is, whatever the setting is, are is is our past, right?  So that’s not and shouldn’t be a surprising thing because the past in a lot of ways defines who we are  and shapes our experiences, encounters, et cetera, et cetera, relationships, all of that.  So even though the past is past, it’s behind us. I’m getting very clever today.  It’s great. It’s behind us. It has in many ways a real hold on who we are.  And I think that we’ll get to it and through the course of the episode or as we continue on.  But part of part of what we want to focus on and what we want to talk about is  especially what the title of the episode is, is “Redeeming Memory”,  because a lot of our memories include painful moments or hurts or like,  you know, even just the sort of effects of our of our sin on our own lives.  And there’s a lot to be said about how to live and deal with that,  but also how it is that that grace and our and our Lord works on that. Or does He work on that?  Is it something that we just have to put up with?  Is it something that we can hope for some sort of change or process or something like that?  So that’s kind of setting up where we are, the problem, as it were, you know, the sort of the theme of the episode.  So I don’t know, Fr. Joseph-Anthony, in your in your work, in your experience,  I guess I should speak for myself and not paint broad brush strokes and for everybody else.  But in your experience, have you, yeah, do you come across this?  Are you chatting with people about like past memories, blah, blah, blah, that sort of stuff?  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that we have to start off when we talk about a past because we hear it quite often, right?  We hear somebody say like, oh, you don’t want to deal with me.  I have a past. And it’s like, yeah, no, no crap. Who doesn’t? Like, we all got a past.  Or you even see people kind of glorify in their past as if like, oh, I had this major conversion.  Listen to all the nitty gritty details of my past life.  And now here’s the glorified conversion is like nobody really cares, but like the past is the past.  And I think that’s one of the things we have to remember is like the past is done.  Like you can’t go back and change it no matter how bad you want to or maybe you don’t.  But like the past is the past. It’s done.  And whether it’s, you know, sketchy and it’s it’s somebody’s got a checkered past or it’s squeaky clean or whatever it may be.  The reality is when we look back into the past and we as beings, we human beings are body and soul.  We have a body and we experience, you know, time and that has a past, a present, and a future.  So that means everybody has a past and that means we all experience it.  And that means that we can’t time travel and go back into the past and fix things or change things.  So, our engagement with that reality means that we we have memories of the past.  You know, sometimes they’re good ones and sometimes they’re bad and we have to talk about how we interact with those.  But I think the first thing is to recognize is that because our corporality and our humanity,  we experience time in past, present, future, and we have a certain engagement with that, but we can’t change it.  And so it is what it is. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: Yeah, it’s kind of a double edged sword here, isn’t it?  Right. Because because on as you’ve described, there’s no because of who we are, what we are, how we’ve been created,  we exist in this continuum, continuum of time. And there’s no fast forward and there’s no rewind.  There just is. And time progresses. But it’s all in that,  it’s the case as you were as you were explaining that some things about the past are good and great.  And some things about our past are less than good and less than great.  But in either case, as we, you know, as we well know, and I’m sure everybody listening,  I think the problem or a problem arises or an issue can arise when we live as though we are bound by the past.  In a way that in a way that it becomes a stumbling block or an obstacle to  living in the present.  And I don’t want that to be come a sort of like cliche, like we “have to live in the now and the present”.  But we in a real sense do. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: But we do!

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: But yeah, we do. I think it’s Father, Father Jacques Philippe.  I’ve forgotten which book if you if you’re looking for, I think we’ve we’ve done an episode on Father Jacques.  We have a contemporary spiritual author, really excellent.  But I’m forgetting I’ve forgotten which which book of his.  It might be his book, “Interior Freedom”, but I’m not 100 percent sure.  But he talks in I actually think it is because I think in that book he talks about it’s about freedom to live with Christ.  And I’m pretty sure he spends a little time talking about our relationship to the past and to the future.  And part of what he says in that and this is this is stuck with me, I think since the first time I read his book is that is that grace,  like because God is an eternal present, God in the grace that He offers us is given to us in the present.  It’s not grace isn’t given as a future contingent and it’s not given as something that exists in the past,  but is something that is only given in the present.  And I make mention of this because of what I said with regard to our past becoming a stumbling block, right?  Like we need to there we can rejoice in the things of the past.  We can learn from things of the past. But when they begin to and this is where I see the problem is that when they begin to become a sort of focus,  they begin to be, the past begins to become a distraction.  We’ve kind of become trapped by it in ways that are that are unhelpful.  So maybe let’s talk about that a little bit about how the past can even with good things  or bad things can become kind of a trap a bit or yeah,  I’ll leave it say we I don’t need to describe 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: One of the things that I find myself talking a lot about particularly in the confessional is that will we engage with the past,  our past write our past let’s say sins bad things we’ve done the bad actions the evil one typically manipulates those.  And so he kind of represents our past to us as if it has a shelf life… as if it’s still currently happening.  And this is why I kind of emphasized at the beginning. It’s like the past is the past it’s it’s it’s done.  You know, there’s no changing it but then also means that maybe there are consequences that affect us in the present,  but the action itself or the thing itself is done.  And we can talk about how the consequences interact with us,  but it’s not as if that particular past event thing, action, word, that we was spoken, that past sin, is still currently happening at this moment,  right? That’s a manipulation of the past.  And so, you know, we can talk about how we engage with that and I’m talking a little bit about the negative aspects of the past,  but there’s also positive aspects. We can recall memories of good experiences,  right? I can recall a memory of a great, you know,  let’s say pilgrimage to Rome that was taken over a certain spring break in a certain year and it was fantastic.  And I can recall the emotions, the experiences the church visits  and the tours because it in a certain sense had a certain edification on my faith.  And so when I hit kind of tough moments,  I can recall the past not as if it’s drawing it up out of like a Rolodex as if like,  okay, we’re going to re-initiate this event,  but it’s a recalling as an encouragement for the future.  Well, at the same time we can recall certain elements of the past not to have them happen anew  and again whether they’re past sins or things like that,  but we have to be able to recognize that that thing has been done.  It’s completed, and my engagement with it from my memory isn’t to perpetuate it like  and it doesn’t have that shelf life like there has to be that recognition in reality that what is done,  whether it’s good or ill has been completed.  And now I have to engage with it as a past reality not a present kind of still continuing reality.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: Yeah, I think too in in listening to what you’re saying.  Well, I should say by the way your cryptic sort of like what mention of Rome Fr. Joseph-Anthony just went to Rome like last week and he’s been talking about it which is good.  He should but it’s in the past.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Dude, that pasta!  I had ravioli with orange cream pasta.  It was orange cream sauce ravioli with orange cream sauce.  It was fantastic.  That’s a memory I will recall on a repeated basis, delicious.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: That’s awesome.  Good for you.  I’m so happy for you.  It is cool because Father hadn’t been to Rome…  you’ve been to Rome before but hadn’t been since you’ve entered the order  or which even you know not even as a priest  which is a priest going to Rome as a priest is a pretty awesome experience,  but that’s what he’s talking about.  So, you know, I’m sure he prayed for you all…

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: I did, I really did. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: …some really space or place.. But as you were talking to two things,  I think are important or came into my mind that I think are important to put on the table,  especially when thinking about the past  and and that’s I think often thoughts about the past.  I don’t know,  maybe we do.  Maybe it’s because I guess you’d have to tune into the optimism, pessimism episode,  but maybe it’s because I’m more sort of on the pessimistic pessimistic side of things.  I don’t know.  But I think the things that stand out as what was particularly difficult to deal with with respect to the past.  I think that’s how I’ll put it things that are tough.  I think fall into two categories when we think about the past  and especially as you and I were talking about these sort of stumbling blocks  or like the shelf life of the past they stand out in the first is and I think they go together.  The first is regret and the second is pain, the pain of whatever might have happened. And I think we have to like name and claim those things regret and pain,  you know, especially with with respect to the past.  I think that if you are, a hot take or at least a hot take for me, that if you’re a person that says I have no regrets,  I think you’re completely delusional.  I think everybody who’s lived life has has regrets or wish things could have been done differently or better.  I think only a perfect person has no regrets and there are very few of those.  And I think that that the mistakes that we make  whether with whether it’s with respect to our relationship with God or others or ourselves,  like we regret those and they weigh heavily on us sometimes more often than others.  And that follow, you know, what follows in that too is this sort of pain in that of whether that’s like the pain of failure  or of embarrassment or the pain of regret of some sort, you know, something like that.  And I think that that weighs we’re very good at hiding and masking these sorts of things.  And I think one of the privileges of being a priest is that, you know, Fr. Joseph-Anthony and I and other priests, we have the what the weighty privilege of encountering these bits of people, especially in the confessional  or in spiritual direction where the sort of sort of vulnerability is taken off.  So I think that if you’re I want to say that if you’re experiencing these things  or thinking about these things with respect to your own life: you are not alone.  Like it is it is a normal and common human experience to engage.  You’re to have these, they have these emotions, these thoughts about our past, our memories, about what has been, what hasn’t been.  And I think it’s important to say. It’s not from the start because we’re like halfway through, but that it’s that it’s okay.  Right? That it’s okay to have this regret and this pain. And it’s not so much as sort of like, how do I get rid of it?  But it’s sort of like what happens next, kind of. Because as we’ve said, we can’t erase it.  You can’t go back and change it. But so what happens next? How are we to deal with and move forward?  I don’t know if you have thoughts on that. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, I have basically two thoughts on this one.  The first is I think the Lord in His brilliance and in His genius knew that this is a normal part of the human experience is that we engage with time,  including the past, and quite often we engage with it with regret.  And he provides a direct pathway for dealing with our past actions, and that’s called the Sacrament of the Confessional.  So like the Sacrament of Confession, Reconciliation, Penance, whatever title name you want to give it, it’s all the same.  That sacrament precisely deals with the concept of time.  Right? And what I mean by that is that we bring our past sins, the things that have been done.  And we place them into the hands of the Lord in the confessional. And the reason we do that is because those sins are ours.  We did them like we said those words, we did those actions. And thus we have a certain authority over them.  The evil one does not have the authority over it, but we do because they are ours.  And then we place it in the hands of the Lord, who is legitimately the only other person who has authority over the past,  because he created time, past, present and future.  And when we give it from our authority to the Lord’s authority, he then takes it and forgives it.  Right? And it doesn’t mean that he erases it as if it is, you know, a poof and there’s no consequences and we hit the reset button control, alt, delete.  We were not talking about that, but He forgives.  And so the reason He can do that is because He has authority over time and He created it.  So I think that’s the first thing I want to mention is like the Lord understood this and actually institute instituted a particular sacrament for His mercy and grace to heal our past.  Right? So that’s the first thing to look at.  And I think the other aspect of it is to legitimately talk about how do we heal from past wounds’ hurts,  whether they’re self-inflicted wounds or maybe wounds that we’ve received from another, you know, via traumatic events or different elements.  There’s a real possibility that these things can be healed.  I would definitely advise that you have to have a certain level of spiritual maturity before embarking on kind of healing memories or healing past realities.  And I do not advise anybody to do it by themselves. Right?  If you are, you know, it’s definitely somebody who is at a very, very high level of spiritual maturity that can do this on their own.  Most times you need to do it with a certain guide to walk you through the healing of past memories,  be the hurtful memories, wounded memories of those types of things.  So, you know, I was talking to a friend of mine and they were like, yeah,  like it’s such a beautiful thing to see how memories can be healed through the grace and mercy of the Lord.  But it is super important that it’s not a process as embarked by them by oneself.  Like my friend was saying that she was like, you can’t do this by yourself.  Like it just has to be at a super high level of maturity.  But we can do that with a guide and with the right kind of coaching and guidance.  And I think what we’re talking about, this is like the beauty of the what’s the word, the kind of neuroplasticity of the brain to recall those memories.  Those pathways can actually be reforged away from having the memories be triggered,  triggering and kind of almost almost paralyzing experiences to being infused with the grace of God and with His presence that they can be healed.  And that takes some work and you can do that and you can be done with a tremendous amount of grace.  And like I said, with the right kind of guides and coaching through it.  But in allowing the Lord into those memories,  allows you the opportunity to retrain your kind of neural pathways to walk through these memories again,  but with the presence of God in them where maybe it wasn’t there the first time around.  So I think it’s an encouragement to the listeners that like, yes, these types of memories, even very difficult memories,  they’re very hurtful memories or traumatic memories can be healed in a certain sense with the presence of God.  But it does take a lot of work and it’s not to be done very flippantly.  But we can find that when the Lord enters into these things, it’s as if He’s the light shining in the darkness.  And it’s the recognition that he heals,  but also He allows his light to illuminate certain areas of our life that were previously very dark and very painful.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: Yeah, I think what you said about about the fact that the past and our memories aren’t erased these things,  because I think sometimes when we think healing with respect to thoughts and memories that like they wouldn’t they don’t exist anymore.  You know, that’s what healing looks like. But it’s not it’s not what healing looks like.  As we’ve said, you know, from the beginning, we are shaped by our past.  It can’t be changed. It can’t be taken away. So we and I’m not saying you’re saying this at all.  It’s just an additional point, right? That like healing in this is not the erase, the what’s the verb, the erasing.  That’s not a verb, but, you know, the erasing of our memories, our past.  It’s not that they’re not going to be there. It’s not that we sort of forget what has happened.  But as you were describing, it’s a transformation of those memories.  And I think what I like to highlight or what I like to remind people of or even myself be reminded of is that,  you know, often, well I’ll say this first, right, that often I think at least it’s my experience,  that memories of the past that might be painful or have some regret attached to them,  they sometimes like kind of surge to the fore and then sometimes they’re not there.  You know, like even in unexpected ways, the kind of pattern of their being what like on my mind  and I imagine on other people’s minds is sort of an unpredictable thing.  And perhaps that with greater introspection or whatever,  I could recognize what it is like what’s causing that or that sort of thing.  But that doesn’t matter, at least for now.  But the reality is that, again, this this transformation, this infusion of grace into who we are,  I like to point out these two things, especially when dealing with like memories of past things.  So it is Christ, as you were mentioning, Father, just like right, that it’s the light of Christ that transforms.  And it’s when our sins, whether they be the past remnants of our sins and memory or whatever,  it’s when or those broken parts of us currently,  it’s when those parts of us encounter the Light of Christ,  that there begins to be some sort of truth, meaning, sanctifying reality infused into them.  And that’s the case with our memories. That’s the case with our past.  So what I like to ask people or even myself is is when these memories surface,  I look them I look at them as not as a moment to to be distracted, as you were saying,  not as a moment to let, you know, the evil one distract me from our Lord,  not as a moment to feel bad about myself again or gosh, I wish this didn’t happen or like I hate thinking… but as a moment to ask two questions and one, they’re both teaching things.  So what is the Lord revealing about Himself in this moment to you?  And what is He revealing about yourself to you?  Like, what does He want you to know about himself?  And that answer could be as simple as like,  He wants to remind you of his merciful love for you, that even despite this thing from the past,  He loves you. He loves you!  And he’s pouring out His mercy, as Fr. Joseph-Anthony was saying, like, that’s that’s enough.  That’s more than enough. And, you know, what is He revealing about you with respect to this past memory?  I don’t know. That might be a little more complicated.  But in each of it, in each of those, there’s goodness to be had.  There’s hope to be had, not because we’re going to make ourselves better,  not because we’re worthy of it, we’re going to figure, but because God loves you.  And in that comes the healing. In that comes the healing.  Our Lord never promises to take our crosses away, but He always promises to carry them,  to carry them with us, to be with us in that suffering.  However, coming, going, transient might be, however deep or painful or not,  it might be, you know, our Lord promises to be with us in those moments.  And this spiritual maturity that you’re talking about, Fr. Joseph-Anthony,  part of that growth is growing and living in that hope,  in the reality that the Lord is faithful to those promises, that He pours out his grace simply because He loves you.  And this is where the healing and the transformation takes place,  not in a forgetting of the past or like, I will this, you know, sometimes I think of that,  like this is kind of silly, but that spell in Harry Potter where they can wipe people’s memories away.  And actually, I think there’s a really tragic moment when in the movie, when Hermione, when they’re going to chase Voldemort and Hermione wipes away her parents’ memories of her,  you know, that’s that’s not what we’re after an erasing of the memory,  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: …but I would have used Men in Black. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: I was thinking of that, too, but I didn’t want to use two examples.  Yeah. So we’re not looking for the Men in Black or the Harry Potter fix.  We’re looking for the Jesus fix. And that’s an offer.  That’s an offer. It really is. It truly is.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And I think this is where we get back to, like, you know, when I’ve when I’ve struggled with,  you know, my own past and like trying to figure out how this needs to be redeemed.  And I found part of that, like you were saying, is allowing the Lord to let His light shine in those moments.  But like what a beautiful testament it is to look at Jesus Christ.  This man who suffered was crucified, died, and rose again.  And yet He had wounds still. His resurrected body still had wounds.  You know, He had the marks in his hands and the the the hole in His side.  And so what I find is that even in this new resurrected life,  those wounds are not necessarily evaporated, but they are redeemed.  And so my own past, whether it’s a wounded past,  like I said, a self-inflicted wound or maybe one that I’ve received from another.  But I can look at the wounds of Jesus and recognize that there’s, even those wounds don’t hold back new life.  And I don’t necessarily need to be one that advertises it.  Like I said, I sometimes kind of balk and cringe at some people that like,  you know, really throw their their past on, you know, kind of advertisements and things like that.  And it’s like, I’m not sure that’s the best thing to do, but I can look at the Lord Himself in His resurrection  and recognize that even my past, my wounds, my hearts do not hold back from new life.  And I think that’s what you were talking about when you were talking about that.  We move from pain, we move from regret to hope and living the new life that is done in hope.  And that’s so important. And that takes a level of spiritual maturity.  Sometimes that takes, you know, good friends and good spiritual directors and confessors and things like that.  But that kind of transition away from regret, fear, pain, to living in hope in new life, which is basically living inside the resurrected wounds of Jesus.  That, to me, is where forgiveness and that’s where the fullness of hope is with the new life of the resurrection.  

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: There you go. Regret to hope. It’s a good book title. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Hurt to hope. 

Fr. Jacob-Bertrand: There you go.  Or a good way to end this episode, which is what we’re going to do.  All right, y’all. Thanks for listening to this episode of Godsplaining.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, like, subscribe, leave a five star review.  If you’d like to donate to the podcast through Patreon, follow the link in the description.  We’re especially grateful for that. You can also follow the link, the links in the description to shop Godsplaining merchandise  and to get information on upcoming Godsplaining retreats and events.  As always, thanks for tuning in. Know of our prayers for you.  Please pray for us. And until next time, God bless.