By Rita Piro
So, did I tell you that I got a letter from the pope? Yes, that’s right, the pope. You know, the one in Rome.
The papal correspondence was in response to my own letter sent to the pontiff several months previous. It was delivered to my home through the office of the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., which is the diplomatic mission of the Holy See to the United States.
Though somewhat formulaic in style, the letter did reference several statements I had made, indicating to me that at least one person in the Vatican had actually read my letter. It was a connection that strengthened me spiritually and personally.
Whether in paper or electronic form, cards, notes, and letters have a powerful effect on us. They can bring comfort, joy, support, encouragement, advice and instruction – sometimes all in one letter!
That’s something that Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude, authors of the letters to the early Christian Churches, knew very well. Their combined 21 Epistles (from the Greek “epistole,” or letter) were written to the newly established churches, their pastors and their faithful in the earliest days of Christianity to support them in their growth and life in Christ.
We have some great letter writers of the Church right here, right now in our own diocese. Each week The Tablet brings us letters from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (“Put Out Into the Deep”) and Editor Ed Wilkinson (“The Editor’s Space”).
Our school principals and directors of religious education send letters home to families throughout the year, and most pastors publish a letter in their weekly parish bulletin.
All this letter writing in the Church of the 21st century has the very same intention as that of the first century, to provide each other with encouragement and support to grow in our personal relationship with Christ and the Church.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “I long to communicate with you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1: 11)
With the long, languid days of summer upon us, why not take a few moments to pen or email a letter to friends and family, or maybe even a foe?
Thank your parents for providing a wonderful Christ-centered home. Recall with your grandmother the prayers she taught you in childhood. Remind a godparent or Confirmation sponsor why they were chosen for such a special role in your life. Encourage a young person and assure them of your prayers. Offer peace to someone you have hurt, or to someone who has hurt you.
Sure, they may laugh or scratch their head and wonder what it’s all about at first, but your words will most assuredly impact their life in Christ, not to mention yours.
Piro, a freelance writer for Catholic publications, is a native of the Diocese of Brooklyn.