I love mail, whether it’s snail mail or email. Old-fashioned letters are usually a great way to stay in touch with friends and relatives without creating another electronic “footprint” that must be managed, updated and eventually purged.
I used to get letters via any and all delivery systems that required me to do something and then send it to maybe 10 of my closest friends. These letters also cautioned that if I didn’t do whatever was required, dire consequences would follow.
I have also seen in the pews of a Catholic church slips of paper with a prayer on them to a saint, often St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless or desperate situations. These papers came to be part of a novena (prayer or devotion said or prayed for nine consecutive days).
This particular novena evidently included a requirement to leave a copy of the prayer in the pews, making it sound something like the chain letters with the threat and promise attached, i.e., do this or else. Or else what?
We Catholics pray, often daily, often for help in times of pain or stress, for the people we love, and sometimes in thanksgiving that pain has diminished or disappeared, that “our people” have been spared, uplifted, rewarded in some way.
When visiting holy sites around the world, you can see that some are described as historical (verifiable), traditional (some basis in fact) or devotional, what I like to call fanciful (no facts, just legends).
We have special devotions to any number of saints that confuse those who are either not Catholic or not old enough Catholics to remember.
For instance, many of us grew up with St. Christopher medals in our cars to “protect” us on our travels. The legend of a man bearing the Christ Child across a river is more tradition than historically verifiable fact, but many folks still keep the saint as a traveling companion.
Legends, unfortunately, can degenerate into superstitions or be co-opted in ways that have little to do with their original meaning.
Naturally, the left is reserved for evil and demons. “Left” in Latin is “sinister.” How do you think that makes all of us “lefties” feel? We were always on the wrong side of something.
Over the years, I have adjusted my prayers. Instead of praying for something specific, I pray constantly and always for the grace to accept God’s will and to move forward with hope and trust that God will provide for me in the present as in the past, and move into the future with a spirit of hope and trust. Naturally, that’s easier said than done.
I’ll keep my crossed fingers and my two fingers held in front of me as crosses to ward off negative people or situations, but I won’t be throwing any salt anywhere, hypertension notwithstanding.
I’ll continue to delete chain mail, and although times certainly change, the need for prayer remains constant, giving us hope for whatever tomorrow will bring.