Thursday, September 4, 2008

Handwritten Holiness

More than almost anything else, back to school preparations here at Sacred Heart Academy evoke dreams of new office supplies! Fresh clean notebooks, newly sharpened pencils, red pens (filled to the tips with editorial ink), the essential 3M products, and perhaps a few not-so-necessary impulse purchases all contain the excitement of upcoming year, and promises of a more organized life.

Of course, the nicest distractions at an office supply store are often found in the stationery aisle where we're reminded to join the "finer things club" and be gracious and grateful. Where our instant gratification is set aside in favor of the more lasting gift of something created by hand, thoughtfully, and containing the full sentences we are often tempted to sacrifice in electronic communications. We find little pieces of artful self-expression just waiting for our creative contributions. Really, who can resist?

I was reminded of this today when I found a mother's day letter that I've re-read about 317 times and an article in today's diocesan paper about shopping for thank you notes:

The cards inspired a spark of wonder, reminding me of Pope John Paul II’s letter to artists, who are “captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colors and shapes.” Faced with artistic marvels, he wrote, “wonder is the only appropriate attitude.”

I dropped $46 in wonder.
Of course, every Church Lady needs stationery for a variety of needs and having the right design sets the tone for the message therein. In the past few months I've written many of the typical wedding, graduation, and birthday greetings, but I've also had occasion to send words of sympathy to a young friend whose husband died unexpectedly, a stern note to a young man, and a rather long tome to someone I missed who lives three states away. Each called for a different setting. (And, of course, there's something just ... wrong ... about replacing a love letter with an email.)

One creative Church Lady I know, (artistic, proficient in the use of PhotoShop, and having a generous university print allowance) creates her own stationery, and happily has been known to give it as gifts. Another choreographed papers from five different sources to create her own wedding stationery. I usually spend one weekend in January surrounded by the mess of my rubber stamps and related goodies, making cards for the upcoming year. Of course, there are MANY places to purchase lovely stationery, classic, religious, and funky, so not having the time or inclination to create is no excuse. The trick is to move past owning the paper and onto the actual letter writing.

One Lent my small saints and I resolved to send a hand-written note to someone every week. I don't remember any particular experiences associated with it aside from the drama of knowing we were practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (and our handwriting) for only 39 cents a week. But I do now have four stationery-loving daughters. Perhaps they and I will all be inspired to join Christina Capecchi's resolution:

I’m joining in the back-to-school spirit of sharpened pencils and blank notebooks, assigning myself one thank-you note a week. A thanks for something, anything. Weekly.

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