Making a prayer space online
Global Sisters Report has enjoyed a partnership with A Nun’s Life Ministry since our site went live in April 2014. Srs. Maxine Kollasch and Julie Vieira share audio clips every week from their popular podcasts and now take turns writing a monthly column. Drawing on their experiences of online presence and using a lens of Scripture, they each will explore how social media offers new ways of witnessing Gospel values.
When you think of places to pray, what comes first to mind? Maybe your parish church or a quiet place in the park. Maybe a prayer space at home. In the 21st century, the internet has increasingly become a place of prayer. This may seem curious at first. With so many things happening all the time on the internet — email, group chats, ads, carpool karaoke, and so much more — the internet may feel more like a place for business, entertainment, or distraction than for meaningful prayer.
Yet, the internet has proven valuable as a way to share resources for prayer with others. You can find many different kinds of prayers, inspiring images and songs, and spiritual readings. You can also find audio and video recordings of prayer services held by parish communities and spirituality groups. In fact, there are several congregations of women religious who post audio and video recordings of their community prayer on their websites. Some congregations regularly write blog posts with spiritual reflections or post inspirational quotes from their founders on social media.
One of the great features about these types of resources is that they are always available, any time of the day. People can engage as their schedules allow, which is very helpful given the pace and complexity of life in our world today.
With the internet becoming increasingly the "social web," it is now possible to offer more personal engagement around prayer resources. Livestreaming in particular allows people to pray together in real time, no matter where in the world the participants are! For those new to this technology, livestreaming is an audio and/or video internet broadcast of an event as it is actually occurring. People can watch or listen to the event as it is happening.
One of our favorite ways to pray at A Nun's Life Ministry is by combining livestreaming and a chat room which we do for the weekly Praying with the Sisters podcast. This gathering of the online community is scripture-based, reflective, and interactive. People watch and listen on their computers and mobile devices to a reading of the psalm and gospel from the day's liturgy. After a short reflection on the readings, people type their own reflections and prayer intentions in the chat room. We then share those aloud on air, giving voice to the prayers of the faithful.
The prayers are for the needs of one another and for the world. We pray for family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. We pray for the Earth and all of God's good creation. We pray for people suffering the injustices of hunger, homelessness, prejudice, violence, and poverty, and we pray for people who may have no one else to pray for them.
After prayer concludes, people hang out in the chat room for a while. The spirit of prayer spills over into conversations about the ups and downs of everyday life, as people share stories, recipes, information, laughter, encouragement, and support. That they are interacting by typing in the chat room instead of speaking aloud does not detract from the quality of the conversation and, in at times, can even enhance it.
Although the prayer community gathers online — a space sometimes considered "virtual," connoting "not real" — the relationships are actual and extend beyond the internet. We know of many people from around the world who have prayed together during the podcast over the years, have subsequently met each other in person, and continue to grow in relationship with one another and the community. In our experience of over 1,000 livestreaming prayer podcasts, the capacity to interact directly with others is one of the most powerful ways to nurture relationships online.
The experience of Praying with the Sisters has been transformative for me. It has helped me connect in different ways with the needs of the world, through the perspective of a global online community. The conversations about faith have expanded my images of God. And in the prayers of this community, I feel very connected with our ancestors in the faith and their prayers — thanksgiving, petition, blessings, praise and lamentation. Praying together through the internet has a been a way for me to grow in spiritual intimacy with God and others.
At A Nun's Life, we have heard from many others that praying online is helpful for them too. It may be that their words inspire you to find new ways to grow in your life of prayer!
Gwen: I think it's very peaceful and comforting to pray on my computer from home. My prayer life brings me closer to God.
Ann: Praying online helps to bring the joys, sorrows and concerns that are outside of my own parish and neighbouring parishes into my prayer.
Marissa: When I was a youth minister, it was wonderful to be able to ask for prayers online for our teens, especially as they were preparing for retreats, sacraments, proms, exams and any other issues that came up for them such as illness or a death in the family. I believe those prayers allowed many teens to open their hearts in new and big ways to God over the years.
Carol: I am not able to make [it to] many live [prayer] podcasts. That said, I listen to the archived ones. Listening to those podcasts offers me the opportunity to pause and just maybe let the spirit in to help me think otherwise, see beyond myself, and remind me that I do make a difference and that I can offer a hand, even if it's from 1000 miles away!
Margaret: The [prayer] podcasts opened up new ways of praying for me, and it introduced me to so many interesting people. Praying together, we became friends, even if it was unlikely we'd ever meet. We shared the ups and downs of our lives. We supported each other. We held each other in prayer. That Monday evening hour of stillness and centeredness around the Scripture readings and the discussions and prayer requests is precious. I treasure that.
[Maxine Kollasch is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan, and co-founder of A Nun’s Life Ministry, which was founded on the Internet in 2006 and is present at aNunsLife.org and in many social media.]