Praying with the Pope in April

POST BY DStewart

April’s First Intention of the Holy Father, commended to all of the people of God for their prayer, points towards a big topic that will become even more prominent next year, at the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. The preliminary work has already begun towards that next gathering, which will deal with young people’s concerns and vocations. For this month, Pope Francis asks that our prayers be joined to his, that young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously consider offering themselves to God in the priesthood or consecrated life.

It’s been an unhelpful tradition for some time to suggest that we should talk about vocation only in general terms, rightly recognising that everyone is called to “some definite service”, as Blessed John Henry Newman put it, but running the risk of de-emphasising the particular call to ministerial service among God’s people, our Church. Some indeed do hear such a vocation, be it to ordained ministry or a life lived in a religious order. It is equally true that many others do sense a divine call to serve in other ways and that includes both the vocation to marry and bring up a wonderful family and to work with God’s people, the Church, as so many amazing people do, as lay persons. Others are destined to live a single life. So many extraordinary people generously contribute their time, treasure and talent for the good of all – theirs is a wonderful answer to a vocation, too. We have always believed in the universal call to holiness! Pope Francis’s invitation to prayer this month will help us to rediscover that it is alright to talk about the particular calling to consecrated life – be that priesthood or in a religious order, or both for some. Indeed, it is necessary, and urgent.

Sr.Lynne fcJ shows us, in this month’s “Living Prayer 2017” booklet from the Pope’s Prayer Network, that “when we discover what gives us joy, what we are passionate about, we begin to discover where we are called to place our energies, out talents and ultimately our lives”. This means that vocation decisions are so much more than just a lifestyle-choice, as is sometimes said. And importantly, it’s not just about us! Fundamentally it is a call to service of others – for the follower of Christ, how could it be any other way? The writer William Buechner captured this reality by noting that “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

The fundamental vocation that all of us hear was never belter captured than by St.Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire”. When we discover who we really are, we’ll simultaneously begin to realise what we’re deeply called to do in response. A few people over the years found out remarkably who they really were and what they were called to. Think of St.Paul, for example, and the other Apostles before him; and so many great saints as well as so many ordinary people who’ve done extraordinary things. Others of us have to take time to discern our calling, both by considering the practicalities and by careful attention to our inner movements, in our hearts and souls, noting what brings us joy and creativity. Perhaps there are some who have not found out what God meant them to be? Perhaps some of us suspect that we have not yet discovered all that we are meant to be, all that we can be? Take it into prayer this month, as we pray with the Pope!

Prayer Moment: Ask the Spirit to show you how God is gazing on you now. Allow God to look at you, now, for a quiet moment. As you do so, ask the Spirit of God to lead you to an inner place of calm, and ask the Good Spirit to show you your own being as God sees you; who is this person, really, on whom God gazes at this moment? To accept who you really are, in God’s eyes, and therefore who you are called to be, requires generosity and fearlessness; if you feel fearful, ask God to take away whatever blocks your big-hearted response.  Stay with whatever emerges and offer it to God, for healing, for purification, for the good of all.

Reflection Moment: Who are the young people I know who are responding generously to their vocations? Who of them are not yet doing so, because they are unsure or because nobody has suggested the possibility to them? Who are the young people whom I know who are leading unfulfilled, even unhappy lives because they do not really know who they are? I can reflect on such questions and bring each individual person, in my prayer, to God’s loving gaze. I can reflect too, when I have understood that the deep needs of the whole people of God, and the whole world’s, will be met and blessed by a generous response from more young people. What have I done to encourage such particular vocations? What more could I do?

Scripture Moment: Ponder how the first disciples were called in the Gospels and how nobody who encountered Jesus remained unchanged. See, for example, Mark 1:17-20; Luke 4:18; John 1:35-39; Matthew 19:16-30; and as a reminder about the importance of discernment, 1 John 4:1-3 and Ephesians 4:1-13. Let us not forget Samuel’s story! In 1 Sam.3:3-8.

A suggested Daily Offering: (from the Living Prayer booklet of the Pope’s Prayer Network 2017):
Merciful ather, you have brought us to the light of a new day. Keep us safe from every sinful inclination. Grant me the grace to do what is pleasing in your sight through all my thoughts, words and deeds. I offer you this day for th intention of Pope Francis for this month. . Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be … .

We still have a few copies of the 2017 Living Prayer booklet; order on dstewart@jesuit.org.uk or 074 3259 1117