Have you ever received a beautiful sentiment from a friend, only to find a “pass this along to twenty people and you will be blessed” sentiment, on the bottom? Some are afraid to break the chain, for fear of some sort of dire consequences. Some emails even warn of such consequences.
One such chain letter, making its way around the www, claims origination from Mother Teresa herself, in 1952. But a Mother Teresa Center in California takes the time to debunk that myth, writing:
Chain letters or chain prayers are superstitious practices that can create fear and lessen our faith in God who loves us and who is not controlled by the number of letters sent or prayers said. The Catholic Church teaches that “According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2562). It also states that ‘In the battle of prayer we must confront erroneous conceptions of prayer, various currents of thought, and our own experience of failure. We must respond with humility, trust, and perseverance to these temptations which cast doubt on the usefulness or even the possibility of prayer’ (CCC, #2753).
Our team has received that very letter, and we were torn. On the one hand, we loved the sentiment it expressed from the sender, about God’s love. On the other, we surely didn’t want to promote superstition or foster the growth of an urband legend. This thought came to mind: what if there were a way to teach others how to remove the problematic aspects of such viral emails? It’s not hard:
- Step one: remove any threats about what might happen if anyone hits ‘delete.’
- Step two: delete any superstitious aspects, such as abundance theology ( “this is what is promised if you hit ‘send.'”). These reduce God to the level of a personal genii to be summoned as in rubbing on a magic bottle, rather than a transcendent yet immanent presence who loves to be in relationship with us.
- Step three: delete any requirements (even requests) to forward the email to any specific number of people.
Voila, what remains is simply the essence of the message.
You were chosen to receive this novena. So, perhaps, on receiving it, you will choose to take a moment to pray the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Interesting history: This Novena in its original form had a superstitious aspect, and claimed (falsely) to have been originated by Mother Teresa herself, in 1952. One Mother Teresa Center debunks that chain, reminding visitors that the God who loves us “is not controlled by the number of letters sent or prayers said.” God sees our hearts. They suggest we be wary of superstition and its tendency to cast doubt on the usefulness of prayer, and instead respond with humility, trust, and perseverance. With historical “chain letter” aspects removed, what now remains is the Lord’s Prayer itself, and the sentiment of the sender for you.
Consider this prayer as a “spiritual bouquet” for you, a prayer of blessing, sent with love. Imagine that the sender of this email knocked at heaven’s door this morning, and as always God asked ‘My child! What can I do for you?’ The sender’s prayer for you?
‘Father, please protect and bless the person reading this message… For them, I pray:
• That it shall be well with you this coming year;
• That no matter how much your enemies try this year, they will not succeed;
• That you have been destined to make it, and you shall surely achieve your goals this year (those that are congruent with God’s will);
• That for all of 2012, all your agonies will be diverted, tears will fade away, and joy and hope will fill you in abundance.
You may have someone you think would like to receive such a sentiment. If so, you can pray for that person, and then send the email along. Or you may want to send some other “spiritual bouquet” – fragrant and lovely, to someone you care about. Or there may be others for whom you would like to pray, but without sending anything to tell them. It’s up to you. If nobody comes to mind, you may want to take a quiet moment to feel gratitude for being alive to see another day, or to wish the world well, before deleting this email. Be assured, the God of Love and Light won’t judge you, and you needn’t feel superstitious or concerned, because only good is wished for you with this email.
Today, may your heart be warmed with the knowledge that you are in the thoughts and prayers of this email’s sender, and that you are a beloved child of God, now and always!
As noted in the revised letter, when the email stands alone, without any of its former “chain letter” aspects, what remains is simply The Lord’s Prayer, and a heartfelt sentiment from the sender for the recipient. But the work isn’t entirely done yet. There is a final, fourth step:
- Step four: consider each potential recipient. Are they likely to take offense for any reason? If you feel there’s a possibility, find a different sentiment to send them. And if and when you do send a message, show concern for the recipient’s email privacy. Send to just a few people who know each other, or individually. Hiding email addresses in a ‘bcc’ is useful in newsletters, but in a personal sentiment it telegraphs “I sent this to a large number of people.”
The next time you receive a chain letter that has a core of beauty that you wish to preserve, follow our handy stepwise guide to breaking the eChains that bind, before hitting send. You, and your friends, will be glad you did.