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Finding community

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, January 18, 2007

Having trouble with spam, viruses and untimely hard-drive crashes? More seriously, have you felt guilty lately about how much time you’re spending on the Internet (or about what sites you’re visiting)? You might consider praying for guidance to St. Isidore of Seville, the patron saint of computer users and the Internet.

A patron saint of the Internet – who knew? Well, about eight years ago, a group of Internet and computer experts who work for one of the pontifical councils of the Vatican did some research to figure out which saint might be an appropriate patron of the (then) new frontier of cyberspace, and they decided on Isidore, a 6th-century scholar from Seville, Spain.

Now before you snicker and turn to the back page to see who won the ND-Villanova game, think about this: don’t we often say to family members or friends, “Pray for me, please”? In a time of need, sorrow or fear, we pick up the phone; we turn to our roommate; we send an email; we ask for help. Put this together with our Christian belief in the resurrection, that believers who have died now live in communion with God, and it makes a lot of sense that we could also ask the dead (especially those whom the Church recognizes as particularly holy) to pray for us as well.

Community, for Christian believers, stretches not only across geography, but across time. We form a community of faith with believers around the world today, but also with people who lived, died, struggled and found joy hundreds of years ago or a thousand years ago. And people who aren’t even born yet will become a part of our community hundreds of years into the future. As ill-suited a match as a saint born in 556 might seem with YouTube, Google and blogs about blogs, the pairing of St. Isidore with contemporary computer users could give each of us a wonderful chance to think more clearly and carefully about just how we use the time and resources available to us every day.

If you want to learn more about particular patron saints, they are certainly easy to find with a Web search. The wider lesson about asking anyone to pray for us, however, whether it’s the friend in the room next door or the ancient saint who nonetheless knows our modern doubts and fears, is not that we’re gathering the troops to lobby God for a particular outcome. We absolutely have to recognize how much we need each other, and how much our lives on earth will look more like heaven – not because God’s going to change the course of events for us, but because we’ve found God in our connections to one another.

I had the privilege of attending the funeral Monday of one of the newest members of the communion of saints. Jody Schrage was new to the Notre Dame community as well as the local St. Joseph parish and school community, but her life of faith, energy and joy had already made an impact in both places. Anyone who had the privilege of meeting her before she died after a short, valiant battle with cancer knew how important it was to gather in the Basilica with her husband and daughters to celebrate her life. Father John DeRiso, who presided and preached at her funeral, spoke of how lucky we are to have the Schrage family in our midst, to have had even a brief taste of Jody’s boundless enthusiasm for life, her ability to reach out and make friends wherever she went, her love of children of all ages.

Perhaps if St. Isidore were alive today, he would urge us to take the time to remember what real community means – the strengthening of our invisible bonds of shared life and death; the attempt to bring our lives on earth a little closer to a glimpse of the Kingdom of God; the joy and gratitude found with others that we will never find alone. Never underestimate the power of asking another person to pray for you – or of offering to do so for someone else.

This week’s FaithPoint is written by Kate Barrett, director of resources and special projects in the Office of Campus Ministry. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.