Praying with the Pope in August

POST BY DStewart

Each month, Pope Francis entrusts two particular prayer intentions to the Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s Prayer Network and asks the AoP to spread these intentions to Christians everywhere. Successive Popes have given this mission to the AoP, which is looked after by the Jesuits, for many years. It is for this reason that the AoP is known as the Prayer Network of the Pope; the Holy Father Francis takes a keen personal interest in this ministry.

Each month, one of the intentions concerns a situation or matter that concerns all of humanity and is an objective that any person of good will could support. This month, the general intention is about volunteers; That volunteers may give themselves generously to the service of the needy. Volunteers, particularly in the Church, are indispensable but it’s more than just “helping Father”! No matter how small or big a job, it is a way of working out our human and Christian vocation to be “men and women for others”.

Many volunteers generously give themselves in other ways, such as going overseas or, especially in these difficult days, to support refugees and migrant people in the Mediterranean countries. By no means are all of these volunteers Christians and many of them would not think of their voluntary service as Christian discipleship; indeed, some might be horrified to be told that! But what they are doing is deeply human and comes from the best part of ourselves, the generous part of the human that instinctively knows that we discover our best selves when we give of ourselves, of our time, treasure and talent, to others. God sees that, smiles on it and it is good.

The second intention, this month, of the Pope’s Prayer Network is now known as the Evangelisation Intention; it used to be known as the Missionary Intention, which is still is, but it seemed good to help us all to see the clear link to the “New Evangelisation” so beloved of Saint Pope John Paul II. This intention, this month, helps us to think and pray about Outreach to the Marginalized. The prayer is: That setting aside our very selves we may learn to be neighbours to those who find themselves on the margins of human life and society. It’s similar, this month, to the first intention. Pope Francis, a few months ago, was addressing some new cardinals in Rome. He told them, “We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly, dear brothers, the Gospel of the marginalised is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered, and is revealed!”

In a previous assignment from my Jesuit Superiors, I used to support generous young volunteers who went off to distant countries to work, for example, on the mission. Their placements were always tough, very demanding. But almost every one of them returned to tell me that they had received so much more than they had given. Sometimes without realising it, they were experiencing nothing less than the presence of Christ in the marginalised and outcast people they had been serving. The joy of helping others, especially those on the margins of human life and society, draws us closer to the compassion of Christ. In the words of this month’s second intention, they had set aside their very selves and they had learned to be neighbours, indeed friends, to those on the margins. That, as Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have both reminded us, is where the follower of Christ must be.

In the Apostleship of Prayer, we try to unite our own prayer with the Holy Father’s specific intentions each month. In this way we can become apostolic. We can offer our day, each morning, to the Heart of the Risen Christ, committing ourselves and our day to service of His mission. In a few moments of prayer at the end of each day, we can ask him to show us how our offering was accepted and used. And we can ask God’s Holy Spirit to continue to inspire and encourage us the next day, and all the days to come.

For your own or your group’s reflection: be still, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring you to an interior place of stillness and prayer.

Think about any moments when you have gone out of your way to help someone else and have experienced that you receive more than you give. St.Francis of Assisi’s Peace Prayer reminds us that “it is in giving that we receive”. What have been the moments when you have known that yourself? Does that deep knowledge come to you now, as your reflect?

We might also reflect on those on the margins and ask ourselves if there is anyone whom I’d rather not approach, perhaps even whom I’m afraid of. Who might that be – a needy person who is demanding? A refugee in Calais or on the Mediterranean? Can I ask the Lord to help me recognise and overcome whatever is preventing me from approaching this or these persons.

What might the Holy Spirit want to give you to help you make these prayers? What would you want to happen, as you pay attention to whatever desires you notice coming from the best part of yourself?

Notice whatever feelings and desires arise in your reflection and present them to God in your prayer.

Scriptural moment: Mark 1: 40-45.  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and told him, “I want what you want. Be made clean.”