Letter Writing: A Long Lost Ministry of Words

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nobody uses snail mail anymore. That's a generally accepted fact here in the United States and probably around the world. USPS is declining in business, we get more than a handful of emails a day but all the snail mail we get is junk mail, and we're more likely to send birthday cards with just a signature and some cash rather than a letter of more than two sentences.

It's true for almost everybody. That is, except me.

Here I sit, in south Texas, writing letter after letter. I've must have sent out more than twenty letters since I've gotten here. Is it a desperate attempt to keep in touch with others, now that I'm thousands of miles away but still in the same country? Maybe. Is it because I love to write? Maybe.

Dorothy Day wrote “Writing is an act of community...
 It is part of our human association with each other.
It is an expression of our love and concern for each other.”
But there's something else about it. When I pick out the perfect card to write in for this specific friend (it's a process - I don't pick just any card), when I put the pen (black, never blue) in my hand to begin to write, something happens. It's more than just me asking how they've been, giving updates on myself, etc. With each sentence I write, I think more about the person and subsequently pray for them. It makes me feel a spiritual connection with them despite the distance, and in some cases, despite the fact we haven't seen each other in a year or more. My letter actually becomes a form of prayer.

I don't write anything profound in the letters - they're really fluff compared to the letters of St Paul, St Therese, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen or Ita Ford (all of which I've read and loved) - yet I find it an extension of my prayer life. It makes me think outside of me and my own little world, outside of my local community, outside of my ministry in Brownsville, outside Texas and even outside the country. It increases my gratitude for all that I've experienced and all the people I've encountered in my life.

Outside of the benefits to my own life, it's also my own way of showing love (and such, showing God's love). When I send a letter, I send it with the hope that it brings a smile to someone's face and lets them know that someone cares. Someone cares enough to console them, to congratulate them, to encourage them or even to simply say hello from miles away. And when someone cares, it's a sign that God cares. Letter writing allows me to a be a daughter of charity from miles away, states away, even countries away.

It's a long lost ministry. Not many even think of it any more. But slowly, I've realized that writing is part of my vocation, its own separate type of ministry. And the wonderful thing about that (and also maybe the demanding) is that it comes in many different forms - journal entries, blog posting, letter writing. And as long as I continue to listen to this voice compelling me to write, the long lost ministry of letter writing won't die (and USPS and greeting card companies will continue to love me because of my business)

My Own Mission Statement

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Daughters of Charity have a mission - "given to God in community for the service of the poor" - which I try to follow every day. Yet, I think, at my deepest core, I have a different one. It's not one in contrast with that of the Daughters; in fact, I think they go together. I live this mission through theirs.

My own personal mission - my own personal dream - is to spread God's love everywhere. I want others to be so totally immersed in the awareness that God loves them that they couldn't imagine living life any other way. Anyone that knows me - that really knows me - probably just let out a "ha!" because they know I have to remind myself of God's love all the time (I'm a not-so-closeted perfectionist). But perhaps it is for that very reason that I feel compelled. Just as the Daughters of Charity (myself included) remind ourselves of their mission, I too have to remind myself of mine because it is so easy, and so human, to lose focus.

I've always wanted to write on God's love in this blog but I have never found the words. And perhaps the words will never quite be there because, in fact, God's love is so beyond description, so beyond reasoning, so beyond understanding. I just know that it's there and it's amazing. I believe that as Christians, that is where our unique joy stems from - God's love. And if our faith could ever be truly explained, God's love would be the explanation - the explanation for the nativity, the cross, the resurrection, the mystery.

But just me writing about God's love here in this blog won't make you aware of it. Reading about it won't change your life, just as seeing a picture of Jesus won't change your life. Our true experience of God's love isn't anything that is felt with the senses. It's supernatural, as if a mystical blanket has placed over you and warmed your your soul at its deepest and at its most intimate. It's a consuming flame that engulfs us in a most beautiful way. 

It is indeed overwhelming - to know that you are loved beyond all understanding. You're loved not because of your talents and gifts but with your talents and gifts. Not despite your faults but with your faults. It's overwhelming to know that this love is not earned nor does it end.

You were born because God loves you. He loves you so much that He chose you to be born, He wanted you here on this earth.

You live because God loves you. You're still alive because God wants you to have those positive moments (even the negative ones too), He wants you to spend time with loved ones, He wants you to smile and laugh.

We are created for love. By love.

As for my mission - to spread God's love everywhere - whether that awareness comes through me personally or not isn't the issue, just as long as others reach that milestone in faith. Thinking it can only come through me would be egotistical, not to mention far-reaching. I'm also not as unique as I make myself sound, for millions out there probably have the same mission and I'm just not aware of it. Yet, for some reason, I still cling to it as it were personal....because, really, it is. Just as God's love is personal, yet universal.
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