Last Updated:

By Deacon Roger Carr-Jones, Marriage & Family Life Coordinator, Diocese of Westminster

When I was a child part of the structure of the holidays was to select and spend time writing postcards. The gentle art of the postcard has now been overtaken by the immediacy of the internet, which often affords the writer the opportunity to share images (often of themselves rather than of the place), or to turn the correspondence into a travelogue. The increase in detail is offset by a loss of intimacy. The primary difference though is that writing a postcard requires greater thought, as we want to draw the recipient into the magic of the place where we are staying. A suitable postcard is selected and then the contents are hand-written, which means we need to be succinct and clear about what we want to share. Writing a postcard suggests a desire to invite the recipient into the world that we are inhabiting and so enthuse their imagination.

For me, the giving and receiving of a postcard remains a great source of joy, as on the one hand it brings into my mind the person I am writing to and on the other hand, I feel affirmed that someone has taken the time to write to me. The picture and the words capture the imagination. In addition, crafting and receiving thoughtful words is powerful. With a postcard there is no danger of being carried away by verbosity, as we must confine our words to the space available and so we write with care.

This thought of hand-written communication was the feature of a marriage enrichment weekend my wife and I attended recently. The time involved writing hand-written love letters to each other. Like writing a postcard there was a tremendous freedom in just writing from the heart without the opportunity for edits or corrections. Each session was like a postcard, as we shared our inner landscape with one another, wrote only with affirming words and then savoured the gift of sharing. Although there were moments for relaxation and celebration this was not a holiday weekend, it was very much a pilgrimage in which our shared married love was captured in a series of postcards.

Being on pilgrimage is something that we do routinely as Christians and at times these take the form of travelling. Periodically I return to the church where I was baptised and reflect. At this very moment members of our community are attending the diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week. Being on a pilgrimage is like a series of themed postcards capturing spiritual experiences:  our seeing God and each other differently, building community and mission and most fundamentally changing our life. A pilgrimage makes us more attentive to the action of God in our lives and those around us. It enables us each day to complete a spiritual postcard that we will revisit throughout life.

During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis highlighted that a pilgrimage is not the same as a holiday, it is an eloquent expression of the faith of God’s people: “The reality is that the pilgrim carries within him his own history and faith and the lights and shadows of his own life. Each person carries within his or her heart a special wish and a particular prayer. Those who enter the shrine immediately feel they are at home, welcomed, understood, and supported.” 

In their different ways each of our pilgrims will be writing in their hearts spiritual postcards as they walk in the footsteps of Christ and reflect. Part of the journey is a visit to the Wedding chapel at Cana, where married couples are invited to renew their vows, the widowed prayed for and those discerning matrimony will experience the witness of both. When I come across an old postcard I am reconnected to a moment in time. The past is made present again, just as it is for those renewing their vows and those remembering their shared vocation.

The writing of postcards, like the best of prayers, is short, succinct and imbued with love. Marriage, too, is like a pilgrimage as we set off into a landscape that we must craft together, a place in which we grow in a shared spirituality, and as we grow in prayer and contemplation discover that our footsteps make one not two paths.

We may not get the chance to go to the Holy Land, but every day we are invited to share a postcard of our life with Christ. All we need do is select the card with care, write our thoughts with love and with a prayer post it home to God.