Daily prayer online

Latest Space #18

      Greetings from the Editor and the other members of the Sacred Space Team to the community of those who pray in Sacred Space. We hope you will receive this issue of Latest Space before Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2006. Many of you will remember that our site was launched as “something to do for Lent” seven years ago on Ash Wednesday, 1999. So many visited and prayed with us during that Lent, it was decided to continue to make it available. And the rest, as they say, is history.

      Someone has said that this year Sacred Space has reached its “seventh heaven”. As we give thanks to God for the continuing growth of Sacred Space over the past seven years, we are happy to record that on February 7, 2006, the 17 millionth visitor was welcomed to the site. And on that same day, 17,416 visitors visited the site – the highest number ever since we began seven years ago.

      As we celebrate in 2006 a Jubilee Year for three of the founding fathers of the Society of Jesus – St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and Blessed Peter Fabre -we feel sure there must be special joy in heaven at the way in which God has blessed our efforts. Sacred Space must be especially dear to the heart of St. Francis Xavier. The mission of the site has been well described as “bringing God’s word to the ends of the earth”. This mission was certainly very much at the heart of the inspiration of Xavier. May the Lord continue to bless our efforts as we enter the season of Lent and prepare for the celebration of the coming feast of Easter.

– Fr. Gerry

Sections within this issue of Latest Space:

  • A Lenten Message from our Manager
  • Our Sacred Space Retreat
  • The Novena of Grace in Sacred Space
  • PRAY AS YOU GO for Lent
  • Feedback from around the World
  • Continuing to Spread the Word about Sacred Space

  • A Lenten Message from our Manager

          I’m always delighted when the Editor of Sacred Space asks me to write a few words of greeting to you. Fr. Gerry puts me to shame! He celebrated his 80th birthday in January, and he has more energy and enthusiasm than the rest of the team put together. We wish him many more years of devoted ministry.

          I met a Greek friend of mine for lunch on the first of February the feast day of the wonderful Irishwoman, St Bridget. I mentioned her to him and also the fact that her feast day heralds the beginning of Spring. He was completely taken aback because as far as he, as a Greek, was concerned, Spring doesn’t start until March! So my apologies to all our Latest Space readers who may be confused when I say that since it’s officially Spring here in Ireland, at least, and the Sacred Space team are full of the joys of this season, shaking off the winter gloom and channeling our energies into promoting our prayer site to an ever wider community.

          And we’re looking for your help in spreading the good news. So at the start of Lent you’ll see a new feature on the Sacred Space website, a selection of 5 e-cards that you can e-mail off to someone you think might like to hear about Sacred Space or who might just like to receive a card from you, showing you’re thinking of them , with a spiritual ‘thought ‘ for their day.

          At a later date we’ll be designing and printing our own Sacred Space bumper stickers, and we’ve asked a wonderful young graphic designer here in our offices to design a poster and flyer that could be made available worldwide on our site.

          There are various ways that we’d like you to be part of this effort. Firstly, you may have some good visual ideas that might inspire our designer! Or you may have the talent for a catchy turn of phrase. Or (not to be forgotten!) we always need financial help, and we’ll need it more than ever for this new campaign. This could be ‘something to do for Lent,’ and we really do need all the financial support we can get.

          Thank you always for your support in all its different aspects and especially for the many encouraging emails that we receive each day from all over the world. Please continue to keep us in your prayers and you are remembered in ours. Saint Bridget was renowned for her enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel and her generosity to all in need. She will surely bless those who do the same.

    – Pat Coyle

    Our Sacred Space Retreats
          Fr. Frank Doyle, who contributes in Living Space our regular reflections on the scriptures for the Sundays and weekdays of the year, has made available a retreat online for Lent, 2006.

          2,258 Sacred Space visitors from 88 countries registered for the Advent Retreat during the season itself and in the weeks until Feb. 21, 2006, when it was taken down for the launching of this Lenten Retreat. The greatest number were from the USA (948), followed by Portugal (221), Canada (218), the UK (193), Ireland (96), Australia (80), Germany (73) and the Philippines (51). The numbers who signed up from the other 81 countries were in numbers from 23 to 1 from each country.

          4,431 Sacred Space visitors from 131 countries signed up for the Lenten Retreat 2005 from February 9 to November 4, 2005. Again, the greatest number were from the USA (2,288), followed by the UK (466), Canada (321), Ireland (215), the Philippines (190), Australia (185) and India (72). The numbers who signed up from the other 120 countries were in numbers from 45 to 1 from each country.

          We hope that many of our world-wide Sacred Space community will find time to make our Lenten Retreat, too. It is certainly something well worth “doing for Lent”. We pray that, like Sacred Space itself, the retreat will help to meet the spiritual needs of as many as possible.

    The Novena of Grace in Sacred Space
          In past years we have offered online the Novena (nine days of prayer) of Grace (a term used for a favour or a free gift from God) in honour of St. Francis Xavier from March 4 to March 12. But in this 500th year since the birth of this great Jesuit saint we would like to suggest to all our Sacred Space community that we all make a very special effort this year to make the Novena together.

          The first Novena of Grace is said to have taken place in Goa, India, in 1615, when a boy, crippled from birth, was cured. After Francis Xavier was canonized on 12th of March, 1622, the Novena of Grace grew in popularity around the world. It is usually celebrated in a church, where a preacher gives a sermon during Mass based on the life of St Francis Xavier, with a practical lesson for each day for those who have gathered during the Lenten season. On Sacred Space, a link to Novena material for each day will be offered on our front page.

          It is customary to pray the Novena for a particular intention; to ask for what you desire from God, a particular grace for yourself, for your loved ones, or for the needs of the world. As one gentleman in Dublin, who had been making the Novena for twenty years, commented to the Editor of Sacred Space: “Frank is my friend in heaven. He either gets me what I ask for, or he gets me something better!”

    PRAY-AS-YOU-GO for Lent
          Fr. Peter Scally, SJ, at Jesuit Media Initiatives in London is running a trial for the whole of Lent this year of a new project called pray-as-you-go. Some of you may remember that Peter, while still a Jesuit Scholastic, was working at the Jesuit Communication Centre in Dublin when Sacred Space was launched as “something to do for Lent”. In fact, it was Peter that came up with the name, Sacred Space.

          The idea is to provide daily prayer in the MP3 audio format for the many people who travel to and from work every day on bus, train, tube or subway – using music and scripture to guide them through a ten minute prayer session every day. It is downloadable for free from the internet, so that you can take it with you on your player, and pray on your way to work, or on your way home, or whenever you like!

          To take part in the trial, you need two things: a computer with a broadband connection (because MP3 files are substantial downloads) and an MP3 player (you can get a basic model quite cheaply these days) or some other device that plays MP3 files, such as a PDA, handheld computer, or one of the more recent mobile phones. The trial begins Ash Wednesday, March 1, at:

    Five Weeks of Sacred Space

          This graph recording visitor numbers for the five weeks from January 17 to February 21 gives some indication of the weekly ups and downs in the number of visitors to the site. Clearly, weekdays more than weekends are days for prayer in Sacred Space!

    Feedback from around the World

          At the end of each month, we select ‘feedback’ from the daily letters that have come to us during the previous month and share them with our visitors to Sacred Space. Since this issue of Latest Space should reach you about the end of February, we have decided to publish here a number of the letters that show the worldwide nature of our Sacred Space community.

    From Shanghai, China: I am very grateful for your website. I can get hope and happiness and power from Sacred Space . I am a Chinese girl, working in Shanghai, China. It’s a very beautiful international city. I am 23 this year. By chance, God came into my life, and I am always blessed because of God. I found the hope to survive again, and I promise that whatever happens to me, I will try my best to work hard and live strong with my God. And I have given the website to some friends of mine. They all like Sacred Space very much like me. I will pray for my parents, my real lover, my good friends who care for me. All of them are here with me every day. I trust in God forever and ever.

    From the Philippines: I have been visiting your site for the past few days and have found it very calming. I log on every afternoon just before I say my 3 o’clock prayer. I am so at peace after my prayer session that I look forward to it everyday. Thank you because I know that I was guided to this Sacred Space by the Holy Spirit to let me know that in my loneliness, I am never alone, but only a prayer away from Jesus who said, “Come to me and I will give you rest”.

    From Phnom Penh, Cambodia: I discovered your website nearly two years ago, when I was a beginner in prayer, a Christian discerning, without realizing it, the need to move into full communion in the Catholic Church. After I became more and more comfortable praying on my own with the scriptures, opening myself to the Lord and feeling his loving, guiding presence, I turned less and less to the website. For the past 6 months or so, I have experienced a disheartening, discouraging dryness in prayer. Intellectually I know that is normal and does not mean I am praying alone. Yet it is still hard to feel drawn to such dark prayer each day! Today I decided to turn, once again, to Sacred Space. On reading the introductory encouragement from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, I found myself silently crying out for the Spirit. I found myself moved in a way I have not been for months, a ray of light in this darkness, an invitation to persevere. Thank you for always being the right place at the right time.

    From Sydney, Australia: Along with thousands of other Christians worldwide, I belong to the non-denominational movement of Emmaus in Western Sydney, Australia. As a result of that involvement, I was recently asked to be one of two prayer directors for the next Kairos Outside event, taking place in May this year. For those of you who are saying “Huh!”, Kairos Outside ministers to the partners of prison inmates, many of whom do not know our Lord and are doing it tough in society. When I was asked to do this, I initially thought, “Oh Lord, you have a sense of humour”, as I did not consider myself to be a person who is able to express myself in words very well, without becoming overly emotional when talking to my Maker. I doubted my ability to take on this role and be an effective vessel for Christ. So, I went looking for inspiration and I found it here (in Sacred Space). Thank you for making it so easy to communicate with Him. I know that God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called. I know that this Kairos Outside weekend will bring many souls to the Lord. God bless you for this website.

    From Bangalore, India: As I was praying with the help of your site, I felt the Lord was with me..sitting next to me – tenderly feeling my thoughts, my emotions. What else can be a greater joy than this? What else can be a greater success than this? Yes, we all need material success and need to celebrate life with him. I just want to thank you for creating this space on the Internet, and also in the souls and minds of people.

    From Sweden: Thank you so much for this site, which always brings me comfort. It is wonderful to have a haven on the Internet, an online church where I can be still even in the middle of school or doing homework. Today, February 16, I received an answer from God very directly through your site. I had been having troubling thoughts about Jesus as God, and when I came to your site to pray the day’s scripture, there was Mark 8:27-33! Once again, my humble thanks to you. May God bless you.

    From Norway: I just want to thank you for this blessed site. It was good to use the prayer of the day (for me, 13th Feb) to end the day before it’s time to sleep. I was blessed and now I have a good and warm feeling inside. Be blessed and keep up your good and important work!

    From Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada: I would like to congratulate you on reaching another fantastic milestone: 17 Million visits! I have been visiting since 4 Million. The website has really made a difference to me and to the people that I have passed your link to. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn so much about the scripture. I am an engineer. It would be interesting to have a graph of accumulated visits per year. As well, it would be insteresting to see a graph of the average visits per day. I suspect that it has increased over the years. Anyway, thank you again for your great work.

    From Beirut, Lebanon: I thank you for helping me have a few moments with the Lord even while I am at my computer.

    From Athens, Greece: Easy to follow, and with a clear message. For me prayer is very difficult. Thus I have put it off for too long. I hope to visit this site every day!

    From New Brighton, Minnesota, USA: Thank you. Here are s ome of my thoughts after a lot of Sacred Space.

    God Speaks
    It came so softly that I barely noticed
    Like a light breeze on a warm summer’s day
    Silent, barely rustling my senses
    The message wasn’t clear to me
    Too many distractions spinning around in my brain
    Until, I had a quiet moment
    No distractions pressing in on me
    Then it came through
    Fuzzy at first
    But surrender made it clearer
    It happens when you listen with your heart!

    From Burlington, Vermont, USA: This is a message to tell you how much I appreciate the Sacred Space Prayer Book. I am a Sister of Mercy and we have a copy in the back of our chapel. It serves as a useful guide for my morning meditation… I’d like to tell you about an adventure I am having at present that fits with this week’s “Freedom” comment, “I ask that God, through my freedom, may orchestrate my desires in a vibrant loving melody rich in harmony.” I am a retired middle school science teacher now serving as convent receptionist on weekday mornings and doing volunteer tutoring with refugees, mostly from Africa. I am also cantor and play keyboard for my community. At present I am taking some wonderful and challenging lessons in keyboard jazz. Some “fringe benefits” applying to spirituality that I have learned include:
    1) Judging from the metronome, my timing hasn’t always been right even when I’ve been sure that it was. How many times in other contexts have I been off-center when I was “sure” that I was right?
    2) One week, I laboriously played a piece for my teacher that had impossible ranges of notes. He commented, “Well, you certainly played what was on the sheet, but the bass plays the low notes.” Being a very independent person, maybe I’d better learn more often to “let the bass play the low notes.”
    3) There is a maxim for practice: “Maximum relaxation; maximum control.” That certainly can apply to more than music.
    4) Dissonance has a place in harmony but must be used with great care. That also is good advice for life in community.
    5) I have been reading a book called “The Freedom Principal: Jazz after 1958”. I like to think of God that way, as the Ultimate Freedom Principal who lets the sun shine on each person, no matter how they stand.
    There have been other lessons, but this e-mail is becoming rather long. So I’ll stop.

    From our Australian Publisher: Ave Maria Press advised us that they have just sold 12,000 copies of Sacred Space – the Book 2006. This is wonderful at this early stage. We have sold roughly 800 copies – shows you the difference in population, doesn’t it?

    From our French Translator: Our counter at this time goes up by 150 to 185 a day on the average, so that it is now about 1000 – 1200 per week. We capped 100,000 visits by our third anniversary, last June 28. I asked the Lord to show us if the site pleased him with 200,000 by our fifth year anniversary. But I think we might make it sooner, and maybe by our fourth anniversary…..Surprisingly anough, francophones are not writers. Comments, or ‘feedback’, are few and far between. The last one dates from December 24, ’05. The one before was November, ’05. On the average, people say about the same things you report on Sacred Space.

    From our German Translators: The German version of Sacred Space has been firmly established on the homepage of the German Jesuits since August 2003. In the past year the number of visitors has almost doubled, with about 100 people taking time for prayer at their computer every day. This encouraging development is no doubt partly due to the fact that the German version of Sacred Space is directly accessible via other sources in addition to the German Jesuits, for instance the Austrian Jesuits and the website of the diocese of Speyer. The World Youth Day in 2005 also had links on its website and in the official Pilgrims’ Handbook.
          And what keeps us motivated is the encouraging feedback that we receive. Emails show what a very wide spectrum of visitors pray with us every day. As far as we can gather, they come from every age group and from all sorts of different locations, men and women with an almost equally wide range of spiritual backgrounds. Here are a few quotations from our postbag: “I am very happy about the choice of texts and the thoughts on them. They lead me further step by step, and that’s a blessing in the stress of daily life .” A journalist from northern Germany sends “a warm Hello from Hamburg , where God is almost unknown.” And an older man, who describes himself as “Catholic, seldom in church, active and enjoying life”, writes, “I had been looking for a page like this for a long time without actually doing anything about it – and now I’ve found it. The texts speak to me, for they don’t bring you over-meditated texts or empty phrases. This page will often round off my day from now on, for it was good to pray it. Thank you!” We sense a special optimism in the mail that “hopes priests will read this page too, and not just their flocks – and give some thought to today’s text.”
          The acceptance we experience encourages us to go on with our own style in the impulses for prayer. For translating, in a spiritual context, can’t be a one-to-one transfer from one language to the other. Inculturation is not just a phenomenon that affects other continents: some things that are a matter of course in an Irish cultural setting could be misunderstood or the message simply not understood elsewhere. That’s why we’re grateful for the editorial freedom from Dublin and their trust in our approach to the religious and socio-cultural background of visitors to the German site. My sincere thanks to you for this. I wish you God’s blessing on this work.

    Continuing to Spread the Word about Sacred Space
          When considering things to do for Lent, here are some ways you might help to spread the word about Sacred Space.

    • We plan to have e-cards available before Ash Wednesday. We suggest that you use them to suggest to your friends that “daily prayer online” with Sacred Space is a good practice for Lent.
    • Check the website of your local diocese, parish, or other similar organization – do they have a link to Sacred Space? If not, why not recommend a link? Suggest they use one of the icons below.
      Sacred Space      
      Sacred Space      
      Sacred Space
    • Do your friends have homepages? Ask them to include a link to Sacred Space.
    • Has your local newspaper (diocesan or otherwise) ever featured an article on Sacred Space? If you think they might be interested, do not hesitate to suggest one. There is an abundance of material in past issues of Latest Space, or in the feedback of past years, now beautifully archived. You may even put them in touch with us, and we will be happy to supply them with helpful material.
    • Have you considered a financial contribution to Sacred Space so that we may continue to respond as effectively as possible to the spiritual needs of our very special international community? See our link at the end of each day’s prayer to support Sacred Space.
    • A regular contributor from Oxnard, California, sent us these reflections to encourage all to share Sacred Space with as many as possible:
      We at Sacred Space have made many friends in the last few years.
      We started with an idea; God gave us faith and the tools; we knew no fear.
      He also sent us the people that would help us along the way.
      People with vision; they helped us march forward as we prayed.
      And as we look back as to how we have grown,
      it’s amazing what God has done – who would have known?
      He used the world of technology to open many doors.
      We could only imagine what was out there, one click and it all just pours.
      God helped created a haven where anybody could visit – a special place.
      Prayer after prayer, it’s no wonder He gave us the name
      Sacred Space.

    With best wishes from the Sacred Space ( team –
    – Pat, Dermot, Jae-Hong, Paul, Frank, John and Gerry

    Jesuit Communication Centre, 36 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

    Sacred Space Daily online prayer Sacred Heart Novena Podcast feed for Novena