[Editor’s Note: This post is in response to Real Presences: Catholic Prayer as Intersubjectivity, Robert Orsi’s portal into Reverberations’ unfolding compendium of resources related to the study of prayer.]

When I was a doctoral student many years ago, Bob Orsi insisted I pay attention to sacred presences in the Pagan rituals I was studying. As a student trained in a field still coming to terms with its theological past, I had not been looking for real presence. Practices and gestures, social relationships and structures: I thought these were the important elements of ritual worthy of my consideration. But Bob has consistently made us aware of what historians of religion and other religious studies scholars have so pointedly ignored. His prayer portal, “Real Presences: Catholic Prayer as Intersubjectivity,” helped me to reconsider the ways in which prayer is transposed from religious traditions like Catholicism into the unexpected places that I study: backyards where Neopagans raised Catholic pray to statues of the Madonna, who is nestled next to images of Pan and Gaia; a protest site sprinkled with holy water by agnostic radical environmentalists; a temple for the dead at the Burning Man festival decorated with prayer flags by recent converts to Buddhism; and a New Age dance church where former Protestant evangelicals “sweat their prayers.”

I am curious about how presence adapts to and changes in unexpected places, the fluidity with which practices like prayer move across religious boundaries and identities and take on new meanings in new contexts. (Of course this happens within older traditions as well, as Bob’s work on religion in the streets and cities has taught us.)