Wednesday, November 6, 2002

In Arizona, they put copies of e-mailed prayer petitions under the head of a statue of St. Francis Xavier

The meticulously carved wooden statue is that of a very short man, much of its quite-dark body covered with a yellow sheet. Traditionally, people make mandas, religious vows involving some personal sacrifice, often in the name of their health or that of a loved one. They make pilgrimages to the church, pinning small pieces of metal or papers with hand-written prayers to the sheet that covers the statue.

San Xavier's pastor, the Rev. David Gaa (a Franciscan friar), says people can now make electronic pilgrimages, sending their pleas for help and prayers of thanks to After gaining access to the site, they click on "The Saint" and fill out the ready-made, e-mail form. The received messages are collected (but not read by Gaa or his staff) and placed under the pillow that supports the icon's head.

Gaa says that people from all over the world have been moved by their visitation with the statue. Over the years, a tradition has developed where visitors, upon returning home, mail prayers and offerings be placed on or near the statue. Gaa says that the e-mail was "an inspiration" that came to him, as just another way for people to reach out to St. Francis.

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