I finally looked up the passages I recalled from reading the book years ago.
It was impossible to say Mass in the barrack, of course. From time to time, however, Nestrov and I would take a walk into the forest, when we were free from work, and say Mass there. We used a big stump as our altar, and while one of us offered the Holy Sacrifice the other stood guard on the road. It was an experience I’ll never forget. In the heavy silence of the thick forest, you could hear the chipmunks running and the birds gathering overhead. Suddenly, you seemed very close to nature and to God. Everything seemed beautiful and somehow mysterious, all dangers for a time remote.
At other times, if we had an hour alone but couldn’t leave camp to say Mass, we would take turns reciting and memorizing the prayers of the Mass until we knew them all by heart. We were always aware that the Mass kit might be discovered, and we would lose our book and vestments, but we were determined that as long as we could get bread and wine we would try to say Mass.
After breakfast, I would say Mass by heart–that is, I would say all the prayers, for of course I couldn’t actually celebrate the Holy Sacrifice. I said the Angelus morning, noon, and night as the Kremlin clock chimed the hours. Before dinner, I would make my noon examen (examination of conscience); before going to bed at night I’d make the evening examen and points for the morning meditation, following St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Every afternoon, I said three rosaries–one in Polish, one in Latin, and one in Russian–as a substitute for my breviary. After supper, I spent the evening reciting prayers and hymns from memory or even chanting them out loud: the Anima Christi, the Veni Creator, the Salve Regina, the Veni, Sancte Spiritus, especially the Dies Irae and the Miserere–all the things we had memorized in the novitiate as novices, the hymns we had sung during my years in the Society, the prayers I had learned as a boy back home. Sometimes I’d spend hours trying to remember a line that had slipped my memory, sounding it over and over again until I had it right. During these times of prayer, I would also make up my own prayers, talking to God directly, asking for His help, but above all accepting His will for me, trusting completely to His Providence to see me through whatever might lie ahead. (pp. 88-89)
Fathers, seminarians, do you memorize? It could be good to memorize a Mass formula, such as the classic Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary along with the Ordinary of Mass.
Frankly, we all should have the necessary prayers of Holy Mass memorized, right?
Parents, perhaps you could motivate your children (and yourselves) to memorize prayers and hymns and catechism answers through some prizes and so forth.
Memorization fell out of favor. But once you have something memorized, it’s yours in way that it otherwise is … not.