Praying with the pope in September
POST BY DStewart
Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 09:40
In this month of September, we get ready to say goodbye to summer for another year. Some of us have to get used to going back to work after a summer break or,to get ready to go back to school or to begin a new course of studies, perhaps in a new place. We need to keep in mind that summer holidays and the possibility of studying are among the opportunities unavailable to many people for whom life is a struggle that has to continue no matter what month or season it is.
A disadvantaged family might only ever dream about taking any kind of holiday, let alone one that involves travel and a spot of sybaritic luxury. They might long to be able to study and learn, or to give the kids those opportunities that the parents never got in education. Two groups of our fellow human beings come particularly to mind; those in prison, for whom the idea of a holiday in the sun is a distant dream; and refugee families, where the children have sometimes been separated from their parents and whose only dream, other than a safe haven where bombs don’t fall, is of being together again as a family.
These are all persons, human persons, but they find themselves on the very edges of human society. Their very humanity somehow seems less important.
Pope Francis invites us, in September’s Universal Intention, to consider with him the Centrality of the Human Person: that each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the centre. The Common Good is a concept that has become more prominent once again in Catholic thinking and this at a time when there is undoubtedly a surge in sentiment around the world that tends against the common good. The centrality of the human person, where each one has an inalienable God-given dignity, is a theme dear to the heart of Pope St. John Paul as well as to both his successors. We could reflect on what else we put at the centre, if it’s not the human person – money, success or fame?
St.Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, asks us to consider the hold that “riches, honour and pride” can have over us; these are what he would always describe as “disordered attachments” and we need to face up to where these might be present in our lives. These attachments will keep us from God, distance us from each other, fragment us and our society and degrade the human person. In this month’s intention, Pope Francis’s invitation to us helps to see a link: if you want to work to build a society that places the human person at the centre, and not one of those disordered attachments, then you are, by doing that, contributing to the Common Good! Or we could think of it the other way round; if each does decide to live in a way that contributes to the Common Good, that society will become one that places the human person – every single one -- at the centre.
Prayer moment: ask the Spirit of God to take us to an inner place of quiet and calm, and to help us let go of at least some of the distractions and noise of the day. Draw your attention to the fact that God is gazing on you now and allow God to look at you for a moment; you will come to see that God was looking at you in love before you turned to look at God! Ask that same spirit to help you to ponder the place the Common Good has in your life or in the life of someone you know and care for. Ask, too, to be shown the moments when you have contributed to the benefit of all, and any moments when you haven’t; in what you have done and what you have failed to do, perhaps. Notice the feelings and inner reactions that might arise. Which give you joy? Which cause sadness to arise in your soul?
Moment for reflection: Can I bring to mind, or ask God’s Spirit to show to me, ways in my own living where I might be able to contribute more to the Common Good? Have I thought much about groups of people, such as those in prisons and refugees, who can’t enjoy some of the things that many of us take for granted? Do I ever see these things as my entitlement? Or even think of this as a sign of God’s favour to me while others don’t get these good things? You could also reflect on the ways in which society does not put the human person at the centre: how does that happen? What is it that degrades the human?
But it is so, so important also to reflect on instances when it does happen, where people are valued above material things, much more than riches, honour and pride. You might well find that there is something here for you to rejoice in, something beautiful and good of which you have been and are part. Then, you could reflect too on how maybe some of these people, human persons like you, with that same dignity as you have, would love the opportunity to contribute to the Common Good if only they could. Reflect on, and give thanks for, whatever is shown in your moment for reflection.
Scriptural moment: Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s Magnificat, the values of the world will be turned upside down; Micah 6:8, the humble person acting justly; Matt.25:31-46, in which we could pray to see who the main characters are – not the “sheep and the goats”, as we might be tempted to think, but the hungry, the imprisoned, the lonely. They, not we, should be the central figures in our broken world!
A Traditional Daily Offering to the Heart of Christ (taken from the Living Prayer 2016 booklet of the Pope’s Prayer Network, copies still available on request):
Lord, Jesus Christ, you always did the will of your Father,
and you were always open to his call, faithful to the end.
Through the power of the Eucharist,
inspire me this day with a heart like yours: ready, open and faithful.
Like Mary, your mother. may I bring your love to everyone I meet today.
The 2017 Living Prayer booklet, and the wall calendar of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, will be available to order during September; suggested donation £3 each, the pair for £5, plus P&P.