Praying with the Pope in February

POST BY DStewart

Refugees Welcome, printed on concrete
Refugees Welcome by Walterw.a on Flickr

Welcome the needy

Can our world ever have been more divided than now? In the lifetimes of many of us, we have not known such pain and division. An ugly licence to hate and to exclude is in the air; attitudes and behaviours that are usually, by common consent, unacceptable have been unleashed. It has shockingly become quite alright to despise the other, to embrace selfishness and to act with indifference towards those who come, in need, to us and to our countries. Narrow nationalist populism, sometimes accompanied by a grotesquely distorted claim to be Christian, is becoming tolerable in our country, our continent and elsewhere in our world too. We risk no longer recognising as human the brother, the sister who is in need. That means we will no longer recognise Christ in them. We should hardly need reminding that Christ comes to us still, in those who suffer.

So it is an extraordinary and grace-filled opportunity that the Pope has invited us, apostles of prayer, to take up this month. He has asked us to pray with him that all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees and the marginalised, may find welcome and comfort in our communities. It is remarkable because the First Intention of the Holy Father is fixed with us, his Global Prayer Network, some months in advance, for practical reasons. And this month it has turned out to be exactly apposite, given the turmoil that we are living though and the unchristian attitudes that have been released.

As our Jesuit Refugee Service – UK Director, Sarah Teather, reminds us, Pope Francis has consistently drawn our attention to the plight of refugees and displaced people, He has expressed solidarity with them in word and in gesture, even going so far as to bring some families back to Rome with him, to begin to rebuild their shattered lives. That this is a concern deep in the Pope’s heart cannot be in doubt. He shares it with us this month. What he has termed the “globalisation of indifference” is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in our time, in our divided world. So, his First Intention this month is, as Sarah shows (in her reflection in the Network’s Living Prayer 2017 booklet) a call to us to pray “for a conversion of hearts and minds towards those in need of protection” … that political leaders may make laws and policies that promote hospitality rather than hostility …”. We need to replace the culture of indifference with a culture of genuine encounter.

The trinity continues to gaze on this world, as St.Ignatius experienced in his own great vision in the Spiritual Exercises and invited us to replicate in our prayer. There is a spark of compassion in the heart of God at that moment of beholding all that is created. The infinite holy mystery, God, desires deeply to get close to us and our history, and, with us, longs for something better than this divided, angry world. In the Trinity’s gaze is our hope – not a vague optimism that tomorrow will be somehow better but Christian hope which is firmly grounded in the present, in the reality of now and is our pathway to peace.

Prayer Moment: ask the Spirit of God to lead you to a quieter inner place of calm, not to escape from the world’s division and anger but to see it as God sees it. Ask the Spirit to remind you that God is gazing on you now and on this world. Allow God to look at you, now, for a quiet moment. Ask, as Saint Ignatius suggested, that the Spirit might help you to ponder what the Trinity sees as it gazes upon the earth and upon everything that is happening, all the division, bigotry and the culture of indifference. What is the response of the Trinity? What is your response, from your heart? Stay with whatever emerges from that deep part of yourself and offer it to God, for healing, for purification, for the good of all.

Reflection Moment: How have I experienced our world’s recent increase in hatred of people who are different from us or who come to us in need? To what extent might I be part of that globalised culture of indifference against which the Pope has repeatedly warned? Or maybe I have given in to a temptation to join in hateful speech or failed to challenge statements, behaviours and attitudes that degrade the humanity of others? Or have there been moments when I have felt helpless or given in to helplessness, thinking that there is nothing I can do about it? On the other hand, perhaps I have been active in opposing these behaviours and have spoken up for justice, reading the signs of the times, being fearless in opposing such division and hatred? Offer these things to God, to fill with Christian hope.

Scripture Moment: Matt.25: how God will evaluate our lives – how we have encountered Christ in the excluded, how some have contributed to that exclusion and others have confronted it, how our behaviour was actually our response to Christ, welcoming him or rejecting him who is present in all who suffer. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-26 The Body of Christ is all the baptised, joined to him. Pour communities, or societies and our world should be similarly united, in mutual love and exchange. How do I suffer when I see suffering in the world?

A suggested Daily Offering: (taken from the February page in the Living Prayer booklet of the Pope’s Prayer Network 2017):

Gracious Father, as a new day dawns, make us true to your teaching and keep us free from error and sin this day. Grant me the grace to walk in your light and see your light in all whom I meet. I offer this day for the intention of Pope Francis this month. Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be … .

In our Living Prayer booklet for 2017 you will find:

- An explanation of the spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer, the Global Prayer Network

- Suggested forms of the daily Offering Prayer

- The Monthly Intention of the Pope for the needs of the Church and the world

- A brief thought-provoking reflection, written by a specialist, on that month’s Intention

- A calendar with the principal feast-days and the Gospel of each day’s mass.

Each month’s page is perforated so may be easily detached and placed in your diary, missal or prayer-book for easy use.

Copies available from the National Office at a special price of £1.70 while stocks last. We’ve also our annual wall calendar available at £2.20 and, for a very limited time, bumper-packs of a calendar, a booklet and two prayer-cards for only £3.00! Limited stocks; please add £2 P&P (UK only).

PLEASE NOTE:- starting in 2017 the Pope presents only one prepared prayer intention per month, rather than the two presented in previous years. He will add a second “Urgent Action” prayer intention each month related to current events or urgent needs. The urgent prayer request will help mobilise prayer and action related to that urgent situation. We, his Worldwide Prayer Network, will publish these urgent prayer intentions on our websites and social media platforms as soon as we receive them from the Vatican.