Praying with the Pope in January

POST BY DStewart

Here we are at the beginning of a new calendar year, 2016, which everyone enters with a tangle of hopes and fears, plans and qualms, strategies and anxieties. Catholics, indeed all people of good will, enter it knowing that they have already crossed the threshold, gone through that Holy Door with Pope Francis, of not just another calendar year but also of a special Jubilee Year, the Year of Mercy. Every month the Holy Father gives us two specific concerns and invites us to join him in praying about these challenges that face humanity. The Apostleship of Prayer is the Pope’s Global Prayer Network and this its purpose; to receive these intentions each month and to spread them, encouraging all Christians and people of good will to adopt them, offering themselves to God in this Way of the Heart. Here could be a New Year Resolution for you; to take up this invitation. This January, then, we have these two intentions while we hear also the Pope’s invitation to make our prayers for this Year of Mercy. And, for the first time, this month the Pope’s Intentions appear on social media, presented by the Holy Father himself.

The, first one, the UNIVERSAL INTENTION this January concerns Interreligious Dialogue. The Pope asks us to pray that “sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice”. This is, of course, a timely intention for here is a particular concern that touches everyone, one way or another. We are invited not just to pray about inter-religious dialogue but for a specific outcome from that dialogue – peace and justice, no less. Dialogue, of course, means a two-way conversation; that is, listening as well as speaking and ideally doing more listening that speaking! To take this intention into our prayer will mean committing ourselves to that “sincere dialogue”, remembering to listen and not just wishing piously that someone else will do this! And so it follows that if we listen, sincerely, to people whose beliefs are not ours, and experience that they are listening sincerely to us, then we will find ourselves becoming more peaceful, more just. It will mean that this “way of the heart” is becoming a school of the heart, changing our hearts to be more like Christ’s, which is a heart for justice and for peace.

January’s other prayer request, the EVANGELISATION INTENTION, concerns a related area: “Christian Unity, that by means of dialogue and fraternal charity and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians may overcome divisions”. By presenting this concern as an Evangelisation Intention, the Holy Father reminds us that this is a missionary matter and, as we are all meant to be missionary disciples by virtue of our baptism, we cannot avoid this call to us. In January, Christians are invited to observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme of 2016’s Week is the “proclamation by all the baptised of the mighty acts of God”, thus linking our baptism with our proclamation of the Good News. At the close of last year’s Week, the Pope noted that “we are all journeying together, fraternally, on the road towards unity, bringing about unity even as we walk; that unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path of unity.” What greater proclamation to the world could there be than to show that we can overcome our divisions through dialogue and fraternal charity? The Holy Spirit will work this mighty deed in and among us if we allow that work to begin in us.
The Calendar for the Pope's prayer network

New Year’s resolutions usually begin to get broken by the middle of January, perhaps earlier for some of us, perhaps a bit later on for the more resolute among us. How about adding one, even now, although perhaps you’ve already thought of this and are doing it? Make a resolution, now, to offer each new day to the Lord, offering yourself for the service of His mission in the world and uniting your prayer, with Apostles of Prayer everywhere, to the Holy Father’s intentions. You can find those intentions in many places including our website and on our leaflets, booklets and calendars (which you can order) but also on new social media platforms. Towards the end of the day, look over your day quietly, thanking God for accepting that offer and admitting if you didn’t take any opportunities that God offered you in return. Ask the Lord to lead you to greater generous service in the day to come. With a little moment of awareness of God’s gaze on your during the day, your whole day can become a prayer. All this need take only a few moments in each day but this simple pathway of prayer has immense power to change our hearts, to make them more like His – hearts of mercy. Does that sound to you like an attractive New Year’s Resolution? 

Prayer Moment: early in the morning, allow the Spirit to take you to a place of interior silence in which you become aware that God is looking at you, smiling. Spend a few moments soon after waking up to make the Morning Offering of the Pope’s Global Prayer Network, uniting your prayer to the Pope’s and that of Christians all round the world. Before logging on to your email or social media messages, make a point of going to the new video channel to hear Pope Francis himself presenting his concerns for our prayers this month. Make an offering of your day, in these or similar words; as God’s help to commit yourself to doing every morning. “Dear Jesus, I offer you all the prayers and works, joys and sufferings of the day ahead, together with the intercession of Mary our mother. I offer them all for the intentions of your heart, united with every holy Mass offered around the world today. I offer my prayers especially for the Pope’s Intentions for this month”.

Later in the day, recall that gaze of the Trinity on you; recall, too, the offering that you made in the morning.

Finally, later in the evening and before you get too tired, look over the day and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how God has been close to you. Ask also to see in what ways I made my Morning Offering real, making myself available for his mission. If needed, I say sorry if I now see that I was an obstacle to God’s work in me and I ask that, in his mercy, he will continue to make my heart like his. I experience again God’s gaze on me and how that is now a gaze of blessing at the end of another day and for the day to come.

Scriptural Moment:
1 Peter 2:9-10, about how we once were not a people but now, having received mercy, we are one chosen people.
1 Cor.3 1-9, open jealousy and division are not God’s way but is how unconverted humans might behave.

David Stewart SJLiving Prayer 2016

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