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  • Sarah Raad

Letters

“O Jesus, concealed in the Host, my sweet Master and faithful Friend, how happy my soul is to have such a Friend who always keeps me company. I do not feel lonely …” (Saint Faustina, Diary 877)

The Virgin Mary in prayer (Albrecht Durer)

I have been praying for people who are lonely over the last few days and weeks. Loneliness is for me the greatest torment that I could imagine. If I were to image Hell, it would be to be alone forever, suffering without compassion for all eternity. And so, I pray these days particularly for those who are lonely and for the Lost Souls of Purgatory, who require some hope…


People are increasingly feeling lonely, although we are increasingly developing sophisticated technologies to better connect with others.


In the old days we could greet each other face to face as we passed by each other, in the street, while socialising, or while we were at work. Or, we could call each other on the telephone and have a conversation with each other. We could send telegrams or letters to each other. These things took time. It took time to arrange face to face meetings with each other. We used to wait until people were at home and not eating dinner to make telephone calls. We used to post letters out and wait – sometimes months – for replies.


These days, we can text each other, or use Whatsapp or Messenger or Facebook or Instagram or some other similar app. We can email each other. We can video call each other. These things happen quickly. In this way, we expect to have instantaneous gratification. We send a message out and expect a response within moments, if not seconds…


One thing is for sure… whether we are patient or impatient, we can communicate with each other. We can connect with each other in many different ways!

When I was in my final year at school – a little more than 20 years ago – I had never used the internet for anything at all. In those days, we used books for research and Google was a very new phenomenon.

In fact, after I finished school and when I was required to use the internet to finalise my enrolment for university, I had to ask my little 11-year-old brother to teach me how to open a web-browser and to enter the URL, because his was the first generation that used the internet as a regular part of their schooling.


In those days, when I needed an English essay marked by my English or History teachers while I was preparing for my HSC, I would hand write the essays onto paper and then fold the essays into an envelope and post them to my teachers. There was no rush in those days. It would take at least a few days for those essays to arrive at their homes, and then a few days for them to mark my work, and then a few days for the posted replies to come back to me.


I did own a mobile phone in those days. It was a cute little Nokia that did nothing other than call and text, and my parents had bought for me when I started driving so that they could be sure I was safe on the road. But, I was terribly embarrassed by that phone – and much to my father’s disgust – kept it switched off and dumped at the bottom of my bag for most of my university life.


These days, such a thing would never happen. These days, we are constantly after the instant reply. The faster the response the better. Gone are the days when people would receive a communication and reflect on it and then decide upon a response. Now, my students come in for classes with me, having caused themselves all sorts of dramas by responding to a text message or snapchat on the spur of the moment – using their initial impulse – rather than thinking things through.


When I was a young university student, I continued to correspond with my English teacher using written and posted letters until a time close to her death. Our letters would travel backwards and forwards between us quietly, and slowly. And though I looked forward to receiving her small blue writing paper covered with her familiar written scrawl full of anecdotes of her beautiful grandchildren and beloved daughter, we did not rush to respond to each other – though our correspondence was frequent.


I have been reflecting on those letters very much in the last few days. They were slow. You would post the letter and not even be entirely sure that it would not be lost in the mail. Even if it were received, if it arrived at a particularly busy time, it would be filed away to be responded to at a later time – sometimes months later. Sometimes the letters were read over and over again. Often they were shared, as I showed siblings or parents or friends particular parts of the letters that I found amusing. It was a very old fashioned sort of thing and not something that we would consider doing these days.


It is strange now when I think about it, because in all the years that we wrote to each other, never once did we call each other on a telephone. Never once did we email. Never once did we meet for a coffee – though her home and mine were only 10 minutes’ drive apart.

And yet, there was sometime important about the process of letter-writing…

My husband often tells me that we do not need to institution of the Catholic Church because it is sufficient to pray inside our own mind – God belongs to each of us. And though I agree that God belongs to each of us, He gave us His Church in His infinite wisdom to guide us and help us.


You see, when we pray, it is as though we send a letter to God. While God receives each prayer, from our perspective, it may at times feel as though the letter has been lost or filed away or disregarded. It is then, that we need the Church to remind us that God is always listening. For God is outside time and space and His ways are not our ways. His time not our time.


Once we understand how it all works, we can understand the words of Saint Faustina in her Diary 877, “O Jesus, concealed in the Host, my sweet Master and faithful Friend, how happy my soul is to have such a Friend who always keeps me company. I do not feel lonely even though I am in isolation. Jesus, Host, we know each other — that is enough for me.”

I pray that we may be like Saint Faustina in this, for she could see the truth and was never lonely again…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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