Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Shawl-Knitting Ministry

Knitting into the Mystery is the title of a wonderful present I received at Christmas this year. A few years ago I was intrigued when an Oblate of our monastery told me that she was knitting a prayer-shawl for the dying niece of one of our sisters. I remember thinking that it would be something that I would like to do during long winter evenings so at Christmas I dropped a few hints, and behold under the tree wrapped in bright paper and a big red bow were knitting needles, a pattern book and Knitting into the Mystery: A Guide to the Shawl-Knitting Ministry. Yarn was purchased in early January with a gift from a old friend and I began my first shawl. Now, halfway through February, I am on a second shawl. The pattern I used for the first shawl was simple: K every row. Now I am using the pattern of K3, P3. I quickly discovered that staying focused as I knit has been a challenge: if my mind wanders, or I get caught up in watching the olympics, or engage in conversation, I can easily lose count. Isn't this a metaphor for life: having a contemplative presence to another means to give the other our full attention, less than that the connection is interrupted, and as in knitting, repair work is necessary.

How do I use my knitting as a prayer? Each time I begin a new row I intentionally connect in my heart with the person for whom I am knitting the shawl. In the case of my second venture it is the mother of a 12-year old boy who has been very ill all his life. Most of us who know this young boy can do little to help the situation but we can find ways to be supportive and loving; for me at this time knitting a shawl is an easy way to do that.

Since the very first time I heard about knitting prayer shawls, I have had a dream that one day some of our sisters, along with a few oblates, would get together every week to knit their prayer shawls. Stories could be shared about the person for whom the prayer shawl is being knit; I imagine much laughter and perhaps even a few tears. Lasting bonds would be formed between the sisters and the oblates, and community would happen.

If you, Sister, or you, Oblate, are interested in joining others in this ministry of knitting prayer shawls, I would be happy to get you started. Happy knitting!


  1. I have done one of these myself and felt so good about giving it to the church to pass on. Started a 2nd one and haven't touched it in awhile. I'm crocheting mine. I think your idea of getting a group together sounds wonderful for you...Wish I lived closer and could join you. Blessings to all.

  2. Hi Helene,
    very lovely!
    Thanks so much.
    Keep knitting!

  3. lindaleejeffery@hotmail.comFebruary 28, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    I found it very interesting that I decided to "check out" the blog site and saw the shawl knitting article AFTER I had commented to my mother- last week - maybe I should check into making prayer shawls at my church!!
    Can I ask how many stiches you cast on, what size needles and how much yarn do you need?
    Thanks much.

  4. Our parish has a prayer-shawl ministry that is visible once a month, between the morning masses in the place where people gather to tell their stories and enjoy time together.

    I seem to crave shawl making in the late fall and winter time, and there is always someone in need when one is finished. I string beads or ribbons into the shawl as a reminder of the others who are praying for the person who receives the shawl.