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)


  1. This post brought a smile to my face since I also love the long lost art of letter writing and I totally understand how letter writing can become a form of prayer.

  2. Ditto! Everything you've written here about writing I relate to, so strongly.

    And there is such a difference in receiving a handwritten letter to receiving an email or e-card. For all the level of thought put into them can actually be the same, I would take the handwritten, carefully selected card/paper over an e-version any day. It's like receiving a prayer. And there is a connection there that there just cannot be in type - the person's hands have touched this paper, you can tell by the flow in the writing where they have paused to think and smile, you can read their emotion in their handwriting...

    Thank you for such a lovely, affirming post.

  3. Yes, yes and yes, Amanda! Thank you for your conviction which I share!

  4. Estoy de acuerdo completamente, chica. What a gift that God has given us writing as a part of our unfolding vocations. Love to you :)


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