Praying with the Pope in October
October is the Extraordinary Mission Month. David Stewart SJ reflects on the “new missionary spring in the church” and how we can play our part in it, put our faith into action.
October’s Prayer Intention of the Holy Father coincides with the church’s Extraordinary Mission Month. At its heart there is the fervent prayer intention for a “Missionary Spring – that the breath of the Holy Spirit engender a new missionary 'spring' in the church”. Pope Francis invites us all to pray this intention with him and, from that prayer, to be mobilised to whatever missionary action that we might discern, each in our own situation and circumstances. Our prayer should always include a readiness to be mobilised for action, or at least an openness to receiving that grace.
We pray for the Holy Spirit’s action, the same Spirit who “hovered over the chaos” in the first book of the Bible. That was one of the very earliest glimmers of human understanding of God, a long time before we were ready to realise that God is Trinity, the eternal reality of relationship and community. For St Ignatius of Loyola, whose spiritual legacy informs a lot of what is done in the Prayer Network, the activity of asking and identifying our own desires was always paramount in the spiritual life. But that’s a subtle art. It is very easy to kid ourselves, mistaking our own desires for those placed in our hearts by God’s Spirit, which usually happens when we forget to factor in the Common Good. If we’re asking the Holy Spirit once again to breathe on the church and the world, we are making a commitment to be open and receptive to that breath and to all it might engender. We’re preparing ourselves, as St Ignatius recommends, to ask God to give us good desires!
Time and space
What might a “new missionary spring in the church” look like? That is for each of us to discern, as an adult responsibility. It can’t be read off a page or a website; the pages of Scripture and church teaching certainly give us the orientations but we must articulate the answers, according to, as St Ignatius loved to say, “times, people and places”. It’s in our concrete history, our reality that this newness must come forth. As Pope Francis has written several times, “time is greater than space”. Because time always moves forward, fullness beckons in hope whereas thinking only about space can mean that we remain static, looking only at short-term solutions and risking robbing ourselves of progress. As Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei, “ …[S]pace hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope”. Spring means growth, which occurs in time but sometimes, maybe through fear, we want to freeze time in a kind of static winter. Mission implies and brings hope – let’s embrace it!
Care for our world
When we ponder what we might be called to, we might remember last month’s Intention, too, and the Day of Prayer for Creation at the beginning of September, for we can no longer avoid our shared responsibility for our common home, the earth and its resources. This grave challenge that faces humanity does not end on the 4th of this month, the feast-day of St Francis of Assisi, when the Season of Creation ends. Everyone, with each person’s own abilities, is an architect of the future. Each of us will hear this question: what are you doing to take care of the oceans and seas? Which actions of yours inspire others to protect the planet? We are learning, more and more, that individuals as well as social and political institutions, need to be involved.
Praying the extraordinary month of mission
Each of us has a mission, of course, by virtue of our baptism, which is when we or those charged with our Christian growth first hear that call to mission. This month’s Intention takes us directly to that missionary call, as does the special Month of Mission. Pope Francis declared, early in his pontificate, in his letter Evangelii Gaudium, that “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples … Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.’ Praying with the Pope this month could include pondering this quotation. Have I encountered the love of God, and how, where and when has this set me on a path of missionary discipleship? Can I ask the Holy Spirit to give me, or renew in me, this experience?
Something for everyone
Our missionary discipleship can take many forms, engendered by that encounter with divine love, from a simple act of kindness to a big involvement in a campaign for justice, such as is called forth by the environmental emergency. The prayer and action of the Missionary Month, and the Pope’s Intention for October, call us all to renew our missionary commitment. More details are in various websites and publications about how to embrace this Mission Month. The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is working in partnership with the Pontifical Missionary Societies (Missio) for this Extraordinary Month, also with Vatican Media.
Click-to-Pray is one of our digital platforms, which is now used by many millions each day, including the Holy Father himself! The latest version is packed full of features. Each day, Click-to-Pray gives you a new set of brief prayers for morning, noon and evening. You can receive these on your smartphone or your computer screen. You can share your prayer, if you wish, with thousands of others and pray for their intentions, too. The themes of the Extraordinary Mission Month will be reflected in these prayers daily throughout October. They will be also the major feature of The Pope Video for this month.
2020 prayer booklet
Living Prayer 2020 – available for delivery in late October. Order now from the London office via [email protected] or leave your address details on voicemail 074 3259 1117 or 020 8442 5232. Suggested donation STG£2.70 incl.postage; pay online (we cannot accept cheques).