Four Good Times to Write Letters

Happy Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul!  

I’m going to be honest with you: it has always kind of baffled me that St. Peter and St. Paul are paired together to share a feast day.

St. Peter was not only one of Jesus’s twelve original apostles; Jesus gave him “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” and the Catholic Church understands him to have been established by Jesus as the first pope. Meanwhile, St. Paul is largely responsible for spreading the teachings of Jesus throughout the first century world, and his letters to the early Christian communities that he founded make up a sizable portion of the New Testament. These letters have significantly influenced (and continue to influence) theology, worship and pastoral life in Catholic and Protestant traditions.  

Suffice it to say, St. Peter and St. Paul are two of the most important figures within the history of our faith. Don’t they each deserve their own feast day?!

Be my opinions as they may, today is an important day within our faith tradition, a day to remember, honor, and be guided by the examples of saints Peter and Paul. There are so many ways that we can learn from these two early saints, so many aspects of their lives that are notable, and so many legacies that they leave us. But today, I’d like to focus one one particular aspect of St. Paul — his letter writing.

The Letters of St. Paul, also known as the Pauline Epistles or Epistles of Paul, consist of the thirteen books in the New Testament that are attributed to St. Paul (though most scholars agree that only seven of these letters were actually written by St. Paul). In them, Paul details ideas and teachings that have formed the backbone of our Christian faith, including the concepts of salvation by grace through faith (in other words, salvation is not earned through our own efforts, but is a gift from God); the necessity of Christian community; and the importance of living life with moral behavior (as well as guidance on how to live in such a way). Paul wrote his letters to provide instruction on these matters and more, but also to foster a sense of unity among the newly formed Christian communities, to address problems that he heard about occurring within the communities (from doctrinal errors to interpersonal discord), and to encourage the communities in their walk with Christ and with one another.

St. Paul had good reasons to write letters…and in honor of his feast day today, I’m arguing that we, too, have good reasons to write letters to friends, family members, and acquaintances.

Here are four times that a piece of snail mail might be well received!

When you are feeling grateful

Many of us are in the practice of writing thank you notes for gifts that we receive, or after we have been hospitably received in someone’s home, or if a friend brings us a meal. But what about all the myriad other times when we’re feeling grateful for a particular person or action? Here are a few recent experiences that come to my mind that elicit a thank you card: for my hair dresser, when I got an especially great haircut; for the friend at work who cheered me up after I had a disheartening session with a client; for the lifeguard at the pool who knows all my kids’ names.

On a birthday

I keep a detailed birthday calendar, including the names of all my friends from various phases of life, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and even my great aunts and great uncles. If I’ve learned someone’s birthday, I write it down. And yet, I can probably count on one hand the number of actual birthday cards I have sent in the past year. I’m much more inclined to make a birthday phone call or send an email or text than I am to bust out the stationary and postage stamps. But do I absolutely love receiving notes in my mailbox on or around my birthday? YES! Anytime I remember this, I feel inspired to get back into the practice of writing birthday cards.

When someone you care about is sick or struggling in another way

Do you know what’s harder than going through a challenge? Going through a challenge and feeling like you are alone in it. Sending a letter is a wonderful way to remind your friends, family members, and other loved ones that you are with them in their pain, that you care about them, and that you are praying for them, even if you live hundreds of miles apart from one another.


On an important faith milestone

It’s common for relatives and friends attending first communion and confirmation parties to bring a card and sometimes a gift, but I think it’s worth casting our net even wider. If you know the child of a friend, a niece or nephew, or some other important person in your life is making a sacrament, consider sending a card. It’s an opportunity to be like St. Paul and share encouragement, support and wisdom on living as a follower of Christ.

May we remember the life of St. Paul with gratitude, and may we work to follow in his footsteps of discipleship!

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