Praying with the Pope in June
The Monthly Intentions of the Holy Father are our way of sharing his concerns and taking these into our own hearts and prayer. Sometimes these concerns can be uncomfortable, even challenging. That is because they must be about real-life issues and these can often be complex and awkward. Our Christian faith is no better than superstition if we restrict it to safe topics or only with a restricted range of concerns, deemed appropriate. This month’s First Intention of the Holy Father is one such – That national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade, which victimises so many innocent people. Pope Francis, using direct and clear language, invites us to consider this.
I ask, in this month’s reflection in our Living Prayer 2017 booklet, if we can imagine a world without this trade. Its turnover is not far short of $100bn annually and the United Kingdom is one of the top arms manufacturers and exporters. There are those who say that, without it, jobs would be lost, families would suffer and security would be risked. The follower of Christ will appreciate that yet will still remember those words of Scripture that invite us to “beat our swords into ploughshares”.
As in so many other areas of concern in our time, it is the innocent and the poor who are likely to suffer most. Globally, armed violence, whether in war situations or in criminal activity, kills up to 508,000 people each year, not all of them combatants. Part of uniting with the Pope’s Intention this month must include prayer for the deceased and their families but the central focus is those leaders who could, if their hearts were changed, eliminate this killer trade. Is it completely impossible to imagine that the resources and ingenuity that go into creating ever-more complex and sophisticated weaponry could not be turned instead to solutions to world poverty, such as environmental degradation?
In Britain, the matter of the vast sums to be spent on nuclear missiles – the so-called independent deterrent – were briefly aired during the General Election campaign but did not become a major debating issue. Catholic thought on nuclear arms has been clear for a long time but few major politicians seem sufficiently concerned to raise the subject. Part of our consideration of this month’s First Intention should be about what our stance could and should be, about these weapons of mass destruction and their cost; because of the destruction and suffering they threaten as well as the resources their production eats up.
June is, by long tradition, the month of particular devotion to the Heart of Christ, the Sacred Heart. It’s a devotion among the people of God that has long been associated with the Apostleship of Prayer, which is now known as the Pope’s Prayer Network. We can unite our own hearts to the heart of Christ together with the concerns of the Holy Father for the world. And, at the start of each day, as apostles of prayer have done for well over a century, we can offer our day to that Heart, the beating heart of the Trinity, so that our own hearts will become ever more like Christ’s. One example of how to do this is our suggested Morning Offering for June 10th: Merciful Father, I begin this day in silence. As I go about my day, help me to keep your mission always in my mind and heart. May the Holy Spirit open my heart to the many challenges of humanity, especially the Pope’s monthly intentions, for which I now pray”. This comes from our new Click-to-Pray app where you will find a new Morning Offering each day, together with a brief noon reflection and an evening meditation.
We have always loved to speak of devotion to the Heart of Christ and many of our Saints and Blessed have known this devotion, and encouraged it. Since the Apostleship of Prayer came into being, late In the nineteenth century, we’ve always felt drawn to the examples of some of those saints, notably St.Margaret Mary and St.Claude de la Colombiere SJ, who was her spiritual director. There are many others too. Devotion to Christ’s heart, as a symbol of the immensity of love that is possible for us to experience if only we open our own hearts, is very Ignatian too, which is one key reason why promotion of this devotion was a task entrusted to the Jesuits, and remains so. We can actually speak of it the other way around too – it’s a great symbol of God’s devotion to us! That divine devotion” can change our hearts and, this month especially, we are praying that it might change the hearts of our national leaders.
Scripture Moment: Jer.22:3, “do not shed innocent blood”; Ps.72, “he will rescue from violence”; Micah 4:3, “Swords and ploughshares”.
Personal Reflection Moment: Have I thought through my own views on the arms trade in the light of the clear bias towards non-violence that I part of my Christian faith? If I find that the arms trade is a regrettable necessity, despite the misery it causes, especially to innocent people, on what do I base this view? Is there any possibility that the massive resources committed to this industry and trade could be used instead for something peaceful and life-sustaining, instead of life-destroying? What is your view, in the light of the Gospel, on nuclear weapons? Is true power seen only at the point of a gun or the threat of mass incineration?
Praying each day: our website and App www.clicktopray.org gives you suggested prayers and reflections per day, together with further reflections on the Pope’s Intentions for the month and several other features.
We can now take orders for the 2018 editions of the Prayer Network’s wall calendar and the 2018 Living Prayer booklet, available for delivery in late July. Next year’s items include evocative pictures of churches around the world that are dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Prices remain unchanged form this year: Calendars £2.20 and booklets £1.70, (plus £2 P&P, UK only).