Daily prayer online

Sacred Space: an international apostolate

The 2004 edition of Jesuits, the yearbook of the Society of Jesus, carried an article about Sacred Space in which Gerry Bourke descibed the international apostolate that the site had become.

Sacred Space, a web site of the Irish Jesuit Communication Centre, went on line for Lent, 1999. It started just after a web site for the Irish Province had been set up. In considering ways to make the best use of that site, someone said, “Wouldn’t it be ideal if, instead of someone directing a person in prayer, either individually or in a group, that person could use the “mouse” of the computer to move from step to step.

As a result, Peter Scally (a British Scholastic, assisting at the time in the JCC) and the Director, Fr. Alan McGuckian, developed the different elements of Sacred Space. The basic format would lead the visitor into God’s presence and to a moment of prayer for openness and freedom. That format would change only slightly and occasionally. What would change every day would be the Scriptural text. This is usually, but not necessarily, the Gospel of the day An important little addition is what was called “stuck points”. “Are you stuck?” is the lead into that. These are little prods to help people, who might be stuck in their reflections, to proceed further and a little bit deeper.

Alan and Peter were wondering what would be a good name for the website. Manresa, perhaps, or Loyola? One morning at an early morning Mass in Belvedere College, where Peter was living, Fr. Joe Dargan, spoke about the need each day to create some “sacred space” in our lives. Peter couldn’t get across town fast enough on his motorbike to share his idea. He burst into Alan’s office. “Sacred Space”, he exclaimed. “How about that?” And since then the site has been known as Sacred Space.

Because of the significance of Lent for many people, the media took seriously the first press release on Sacred Space. On Shrove Tuesday the front-page headline of the Irish Independent read, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Web!” Other newspapers in England and Ireland also covered the story. BBC Radio picked up the news from the London Times, and Alan did a phone interview with BBC World Service. In the afternoon, he and Peter were invited to the Irish Television studios to appear on their daily chat show, Open House. On Ash Wednesday, some 2,000 people, from all over the world, logged on to the program. Some were probably just curious, but others were certainly seeking spiritual food to respond to their spiritual needs. Sacred Space was “something to do for Lent”.

The feedback on the Lenten Sacred Space was so positive that it was decided to continue it throughout the year, changing the scriptural content each day Reuter’s News Agency had sent the news around the world, which meant it was written up in newspapers, such as the Vancouver Star, Der Spiegel, Liberation, and The Gulf News. During Lent 2000, the average number of daily users reached 3,000. During Lent 2001, more than 6,500 people from all over the world logged on each day. Now (early 2003) the number of visitors each day reaches 7-8,000 on weekdays, and drops significantly on weekends to 4-5,000.

The development of Sacred Space into versions in other languages started a week after it first went online. Alan received an e-mail from someone who protested, “It is ridiculous that this is not available in Irish!” That spurred him to action, and, with help from some friends, Tearmann was up for Saint Patrick’s Day of that same year. With the help of a scholastic from the Paraguay Province, who was finishing his Theology in Europe, and two members of the Teresian Movement in Dublin, Espacio Sagrado was up in Spanish before Christmas of 1999.

Within a week of the Spanish version going up, an e mail came from Sophia Andrade in Lisbon, saying that she felt that it really should be available to Portuguese speakers around the world. When she was told that there was a lot of work involved, she responded, “My Christian Life Community have thought about it, and prayed about it, and we will do it in Portuguese”. Within a short time Lugar Sagrado was on line.

With the help of Virgilijus Saulius, a Lithuanian Jesuit scholastic in Munich, a version in Lithuanian was up for Lent of 2000. There was great excitement when an Argentinean Jesuit in Japan, Alfredo Segovia, e mailed to say he would like to get a group together to do it in Japanese. It has been available in Japanese since mid-2001. Woo-Bae Sohn, a Korean Jesuit, had the site already online, but we didn’t know about it until another Korean told us that it existed!

Marzena Frolow contacted the Centre from Poland, saying that she was part of a Christian Life Community group who were thinking of taking on the translation. The Polish version is currently up and running and the site is being hosted by the Polish Jesuits in Krakow.

One day an e-mail came suggesting that a certain URL be looked up on the Web. When this was done, Spazio Sacro appeared – Sacred Space beautifully presented in Italian by a member of the Prima Primaria in Rome, the centre of the old Sodality, now the world centre of the CLC.

The initiative to create Sacred Space in the Latvian language came from the Jesuits there. Two scholastics, Oskars Mikazans in Munich, and Edgars Sprugis in Dublin, worked together to prepare the material and they were helped in the technical work by fellow scholastic, Virgilijius Saulius, studying in Munich. The Latvian version, begun in February 2002, was host to some 3000 visitors during its first year.

On May 1, 2002, after weeks of hard work, Santi Torres S.J. and Montse Girbau had the Catalan translation of Sacred Space, Espai Sagrat, online, and was soon receiving accolades for her vision. One person wrote: “Many thanks for this chance to pray in Catalan. My relationship with Jesus is always in Catalan and to have Sacred Space in a language other than Catalan takes away my spontaneity”. Another wrote: “Praying in your own language helps a lot in assimilating and expressing all that you live and feel. Yours is a great service”. A priest wrote: “Espai Sagrat is wonderful for me and my community. I beg you not to cease offering this service which is so useful for praying”. Moritse and Santi now have a team of people who collaborate with her not only on the website, but also in publishing a monthly newsletter related to the world of Espai Sagrat and with ideas concerning prayer and spirituality. Their intention is to create a small virtual net around Espai Sagrat that will be open to interested people.

A Romanian Jesuit, Claudiu Ciubotariu, is one of three volunteers that have succeeded in putting up Un Loc Sacru (the Romanian version of Sacred Space) around October 15, 2002. Moreover, his intention is to do a Byzantine version of the Romanian Sacred Space for Greek-Catholics and Orthodox people. He hopes that, with the help of his Orthodox friends, this version will be ready early in 2003.

Most recently, on January 2, 2003, Bertrand de Beaudoin, who handles Un Moment Sacré, the French version, from Quebec, Canada, wrote: “I want to tell you how I got to do this service for Sacred Space. As I was completing ‘the Spiritual Exercises in daily life’ in May 2002, the Holy Spirit led me to Sacred Space, and inspired me to place my talents at the service of a French version. I e-mailed the Director and enquired. And here we are. With help from my wife, Françoise, and Stephanie in Amerstview, Ontario, and a new offer from a Brother Ovide Fortier, of the Frère des Ecoles Chrétiennes, “. . .I feel blessed by God and I render thanks to Him for all that is happening, as it is so marvellous.”

We are grateful, too, to Peter Kmet for the Slovak version, and Peter Gabor for the Czech version. All of the above have contributed to the global dimension of this apostolate. As of January 2003, Sacred Space is available in over fourteen languages. We hope that before this article is published there will be versions, too, in German and Maltese.

There have been adaptations of Sacred Space, too. Youth Front is an evangelical group in Kansas City who work with young people in the area of evangelisation. They contacted us in November 2001 about adapting Sacred Space for the young people that they minister to. Mike King and Gorman Stanley came to Dublin, and, as a result, designed a version to suit their audience. They now offer daily prayer in the Ignatian style of Sacred Space. The site is called Sacred Gateway. It was launched soon after Easter, 2002. The URL is

In Hong Kong, early in 2002, the Diocesan Audio Visual Centre, with the encouragement of the Irish Jesuits, put up a prayer site after the model of Sacred Space. Apart from the texts in Chinese, they produced also audio clips for those who pray daily. Catholic celebrities are invited to do the readings. The URL is <defunct>

There is also a powerful ecumenical dimension to this global ministry. Many people who are not Catholics, and some who are not Christian, use it, and write to say that it has been a tremendous support to them. Somebody from an Anglican parish in Ontario, Canada, wrote saying that Sacred Space had helped them very much and that they had adapted it for use in their parish. They had printed out a format based on Sacred Space, and were seeking permission to use it for their prayer group. Of course, permission was granted. Thus, in many different ways, people are finding Sacred Space helpful, and are using it creatively.

Personally, I have been privileged to experience the international nature of Sacred Space as I handle the “feedback” that comes in daily. Sixty years ago, as a scholastic, I was accepted for another “international mission” – in Japan. After some 50 years “on the road”, I was very happy to return to Ireland and accept my present ministry as correspondent for Sacred Space. I can use my experience of working in an international community, especially in the field of counselling and spiritual direction. It is an inspiration each day to download the e-mails that come in from all over the world. Many of them are just expressions of gratitude, but many write of the challenges the Writers face and how they are coping with the help of prayer in Sacred Space. The following samples of feedback received in recent weeks reveal the international nature of this ministry:

From Zagreb, Croatia: Click, click, click with mouse on heaven’s door? Oh, yes! God bless the Internet where all the world is praying with me. Thank you for the chance to become better, and closer to Jesus.

From Helsinki, Finland: Thank you for Latest Space and your continuous work with Sacred Space. It’s great that Sacred Space comes out in so many language versions and there are new versions on the way… Although we can’t really suppose that Sacred Space will be translated into Finnish, most of us can still “use” the English version.

From Dublin, Ireland: This chance to meet God daily is causing me to change and broaden and deepen in a very subtle but profound way, and not to feel so limited by my limits but full of hope and amazement…

From Germany: I found your page and I am glad to read it. Thank you very much. My English is very poor, because I am German. I wish you and all people the very best and the blessing of God for your work. Perhaps soon there will be a page like yours in German, too.

From Estonia: Thank you for this extraordinary webpage. Many of my troubles have been washed away after praying and reading the Bible text. Thank you very very much and may God bless you all.

From Canada: Sacred Space to me is a comfort and joy. I am 84 years old and “cramming for the finals”. The first trip every morning is to the computer and I think about the daily message it will bring me. Keep up the good work and bless you.

From Australia: I visit Sacred Space almost every day and it works for me. I particularly love the Freedom section because each day it tells me that God is not foreign to my freedom, and that submission to Him actually releases me. Somehow it’s a message I’m slow to catch on to!

From New Zealand: Sacred Space has become my “leveller”, Whether I go to the site during work hours or from home it always seems to provide Inc with the peace, clarity, understanding or support that may be needed at that particular time. I always leave the site calmer and more focused.

From India: I am very proud that our Jesuit Priests have put in so much effort to help people. Thank you. I have alreay informed a couple of people regarding this site. May God bless this site and the people behind it, and give you all the resources to continue to have this site.

From Hong Kong: Congratulations on reaching the five million mark. This is no mean achievement, particularly when it is achieved in such a short time. This method of evangelizing and helping us to keep or strengthen our faith has proved to be very useful to more than a handful of people. I hope that you will reach ten million in a short time.

From South Africa: What a wonderful mission yours is! You touch the hearts of all who believe and those who want to believe, but experience obstacles. May you continue in the grace of Our Lord.

From the United Kingdom: I love reading the feed back pages. After spending time with God it is so encouraging to know that throughout the world people are doing the same.

If the reader is interested in more up-to-date feedback or feedback from the past, a link will be found at the end of each day’s offering on there is also a link to Latest Space, our newsletter, which will give you the latest developments in Sacred Space.

Gerard J. Bourke, S.J

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