Love + Letters = Love Letters

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A while back I attended a lecture at my Church given by a cardiologist and  professor from Notre Dame University in Indiana. This man had impressive credentials for sure, but the crowd hadn’t gathered to hear him speak because of his accomplishments in medicine and education.  We were all there because at one time this man had worked side by side with Mother Teresa, that tiny woman who possessed no fancy degrees or titles, only a great big loving heart and the desire to serve others.  He shared with us all sorts of stories about Mother Teresa.

After attending this lecture I found myself running into Mother Teresa everywhere I went – not in person of course, but in books and articles telling even more stories about her life and work.  Being a spiritual person myself, I figured  this had to mean something.  I decided Mother Teresa must be trying to get through to me because she knew I reach out to lots of people through my writing and she must have had a few ideas she wanted to share with me, ideas that I then would share with you.

Here’s one of those ideas.

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“I do not agree with the big way of doing things.  What matters is the individual.  To get to love a person, we must come into close contact with them.  If we wait until we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers and we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person.”

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of HTSABO

“What do these words mean to you?  To me, an avid letter writer,  these words reinforce the value of writing letters one at a time to one person at a time.  There are ways to address many people at once – Facebook for one thing – and I like Facebook, but Facebook lacks intimacy, the sort of intimacy a personal letter offers. Without intimacy we can never get beyond superficial relationships and  to feel loved we need these deeper relationships.

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The news is filled with stories of human suffering.  People find themselves homeless because of war, natural disasters, or personal misfortune.  Others are in need of food and clothing.  They could be living across the world or in our own town.  We want to help all these people but without big bags of money it seems we can do so little.

But Mother Teresa reminds us that,

“Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth.  Nakedness is for human dignity, for respect.  Homelessness is not only for a home made of bricks.  Homelessness is being rejected, unloved, uncared for, having forgotten what is human touch.”

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When we write a personal letter to show we care about a home-bound, elderly, or  sick person in the hospital, or to anyone lonely or grieving, we are helping to make the world a brighter place.  We are relieving suffering just a little bit.  We may not be able to do everything for everybody, but any little bit of kindness helps.  I’m sure Mother Teresa would agree.

Another idea Mother Teresa shared with me, an idea that I want to share with you, is that thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity.  Webster defines sanctity as holiness and saintliness so it follows that when we write a thoughtful letter to someone, but especially when we write to those who are suffering in some way, we are on our way to becoming saints, and don’t you want to become a saint?  I do.

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Just remember, all our words will be useless unless they come from within.  That’s not my advice.  It comes straight from Mother Teresa.  It’s important to be real when we speak to someone in person and when we write a letter as well.  We must look into ourselves and share our true spirit, our true feelings, our dreams, faith, hope and ideas.  All good letter writers reach deeply into themselves and share from this interior place.

My dear pen friend Vicki who hails from Iowa, puts it this way and I agree with her completely.

“My friendships through letters are often closer than those in person, for the process of writing seems to draw more private thoughts from a person.”

So, how do you love?  Are you trying to make a big splash by doing monumental things?  Well, good luck with that, but remember what worked for Mother Teresa.  Her one-to-one approach might not have allowed her to treat millions herself, but she certainly had an impact on the world.  By her actions she inspired others to carry on her work.

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Mother Teresa was only one very small person, and so am I, and so are you, but we just might be able to accomplish more than we think.  Her way was not in big things – but in small things done with great love.  That should be our way too.

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That letter you are about to write could make a huge difference in someone’s life – and in your own as well.  Service to others can become quite addictive because it leaves us with such good feelings. That person we perk up can go on to perk up others, and a beautiful chain of events can be activated.  We may never know the full extent of what our kind letters have accomplished until we get to heaven, but once there we’ll know and we’ll have to look up Mother Teresa there and tell her how she inspired us – not to fuss writing big things, but rather humble little letters filled with great love.

Every day can be Valentines Day if we write love letters.

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The Sacred Art of Letter Writing

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.