Writing a letter is a physical, social, and intellectual activity, but did you realize it can also be a spiritual activity? I didn’t until a friend sent me a book entitled “Secular Sanctity” . This book, written by Howard Hayes, made me realize The Art of Letter Writing does not only have spiritual possibilities, it can actually become a ministry.
In his book, Hayes talks about all sorts of ordinary things that we do every day and he suggests if we can put a spiritual spin on these things they can be made holy. This idea was interesting to me, but because I’m an avid letter writer an even more interesting idea was presented in his chapter entitled ‘The Sacred Art of Letter Writing’. I always knew letter writing was an art, but a sacred art? Hmmm…
In this chapter Hayes suggests writing a letter is far more than a relaxing physical activity in which we dabble in art play, choosing or creating our stationery and carefully penning our script.
Writing a letter is also far more than a social activity where we visit with existing friends and family while also meeting new people from around the world through pen pal organizations.
Writing a letter is even more than rich intellectual activity as we share facts and personal thoughts, writing them down for our pen friend to read, and for generations to read in the future (for as you know letters are quite lasting).
Letter writing can become quite the spiritual exercise as we reach out to others showing concern and interest in them.
Letter writing is such a rich activity – physical, social, intellectual fun all rolled up into one. I’m totally amazed most modern people don’t realize how rich an activity letter writing is. Don’t they see it can be a complete treat? How many activities accomplish so much all at once? And adding the spiritual implication too? Now we really have something that’s truly worthwhile and even of everlasting significance!
Hayes suggests the writing and reading of letters can be a form of prayer. Not only that, he ventures to say letters can be sacramental. After all, aren’t letters an essential part of Christian worship. the reading of epistles written by Paul, Peter and others?
Hayes reminds us that the New Testament of the Bible contains 21 letters, letters not essays, which were originally sent and read to early Christians, but now, all these years later, they are still being read to Christians in services all over the world.
Well, I’m one of those Christians, a person of faith who goes to Church regularly and hears those letters read week after week, but until I read “Secular Sanctity” I never related the letters I write to those letters written by saints of the Church. I never realized what a great opportunity we all have to spread good news in every letter we write, good news in the form of faith, hope, and charity.
We sure hear a lot of bad news these days. The media doesn’t seem interested in spreading good news of any kind. All it reports is doom and gloom. Television and movies aren’t much better. Too many plots thrive on crime and other dark topics. Gone are the days when sweet innocence is praised and moral wholesome entertainment is predominant. Thank God for PBS! It’s no wonder people aren’t beaming from ear to ear as they walk down the street. Too many dreary thoughts are floating around in their heads. Maybe if we all make an effort to write and send more positive letters filled with joy and love, letters that focus on beauty and goodness, we can help the citizens of our weary world feel more optimistic.
Writing positive, loving letters is not only a good deed, but Hayes suggests these letters filled with goodness are also prayers, for as Saint John the Beloved wrote, “God is love”. Therefore, Hayes deducts to send greetings of love, affection, and affirmation is to send God to one another. To receive love through the mail is to receive a beautiful form of holy communion. Wouldn’t you like to find your mailbox filled with love instead of junk mail? It can happen if you write loving letters yourself for when you give good things come back to you.
So now, with the help of “Secular Sanctity”, I realize letter writing, as well as many other secular activities, can become holy activities if we inject these activities with a loving, hopeful spirit. And infusing our letters with that beautiful spirit will transform the already beautiful Art of Letter Writing into an even more beautiful Sacred Art of Letter Writing. As we and others make this effort we might just be able to help renew the face of the earth – one letter at a time.