Praying with the Pope in October 2020
The Prayer Intention for October, offered to the whole church by Pope Francis through his worldwide prayer network, concerns “The Laity’s Mission in the Church”. He invites us to pray with him that “by the virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church”.
We know well that each of us, as a baptised person, is empowered for mission through the Sacraments of Initiation - Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Our word, “mission”, derives from a Latin word, “mittere”, which means “to send”; therefore, part of our Christian initiation is to know ourselves as people who are sent. And each sacrament is, as Pope Francis has taught, a moment, an action that “extends throughout history the salvific and life-giving action of Christ”.
Maybe, this month, we could usefully spend a few moments reminding ourselves about what we believe about baptism. A good place to start is the actual Rite. We can remember that this is a sacrament; as we were taught when younger or as catechumens, an “outward sign of inward grace”. Therefore, it is far more, far deeper than a “naming ceremony”, or christening. Looking at the ceremony of baptism, we see how the parents and godparents make important, solemn commitments, in the hearing of everyone, to “keep alive the flame of faith” in the newly baptised person. We symbolise that by lighting a baptismal candle from the Easter Candle and by the ritual clothing with the white baptismal garment. These good people renew the grace of their own baptisms by solemnly and freely renewing their baptismal promises. Then at the heart of the Rite is the threefold baptism with the blessed water at the font; baptism in the name of the Blessed Trinity.
The baptised person, from this point onwards, now has a mission. This is God’s mission, given to them by means of the Rite of the Church, because the Church’s very nature is missionary; it is to continue the work of the risen Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis has suggested several times that we could recall the day and date of our own baptisms, the start of our mission. Many people celebrate their birthdays but probably fewer mark their anniversary of baptism!
In this month’s Intention, the Pope highlights how, for many of us, that baptismal mission should mean taking more responsibility in the church. He reminds us that women particularly have more to offer – in areas of responsibility, in genuine leadership. The whole self-understanding of the Church, renewed so powerfully at the Second Vatican Council, is that it is the People of God – all of them, not just some of them! Are women even allowed to take on areas of responsibility in the Church? If not, why not? Do we all risk of letting women participate in minor, though important, roles while excluding half of the People of God from areas of major responsibility and leadership? The Intention this month invites us to urgent reflection on this.
Our Christian spirituality underlines and feeds our mission yet at the same time our mission shapes our spirituality, or ought to. At the world gathering of directors and co-ordinators of his personal Prayer Network, convened by Pope Francis in 2019 in Rome, he reminded us powerfully that “the heart of the church’s mission is prayer”. Mission without prayer would not really be mission, but activism; often a good and wholesome enterprise but not always sustained by the grace we need. Let’s pray with the Pope this month and continue to pray as we go about our mission, linking our Christian lives to the Heart of Christ, in the Church.
THREE PROPOSALS FOR THE MONTH AHEAD
1: Baptism, and the two other sacraments of initiation, Confirmation, and Eucharist, empower each of us for mission. Resolve to take a few moments of quiet meditation this month to reflect on where you see people in your parish or worshipping community, particularly women, carrying out that mission. Might it surprise you to think of what they are doing as “mission”? Then reflect on what particular mission and area of responsibility God’s inviting you, now, to discern, as a baptised member of the People of God.
2: Make a resolution to get to know those people who have recently been baptised in your parish, adults and children alike, and say a prayer for each of them, their parents, sponsors and god-parents. Send a message, or write a card or letter, to one or more of them, promising your prayers and support as they take up their Christian mission.
3: Follow Pope Francis’s suggestion about marking our own baptismal anniversary, just as we would a birthday. In 2014, at a general audience, he suggested, “Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you can bear in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day”. Why? Because “We are called to live our Baptism every day, as the current reality of our lives”.
Each day, as Apostles of Prayer have done for over 175 years, make a Morning Offering to the Heart of Christ, offering your day, your gifts, your talents for the service of Christ’s mission. Use the words of the traditional Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart, or the prayer given below*. Every few days in this month, try to take a longer time for this prayer. Become aware of God’s gaze upon you, as St.Ignatius Loyola always recommended, and ask for the grace to know yourself invited to serve with Jesus under the banner of the cross, as St,Ignatius himself experienced. In your heart, pray to be open to whatever that call is. End this Spiritual Exercise with a slow, heartfelt “Our Father”.
AN ONLINE MOMENT
Have a look at our hugely popular Click-to-Pray App & website. Download the App; sign up for daily prayer alerts in your Inbox or on your phone, to begin each day with a prayer and Morning Offering. There is also a midday reflection moment and a suggested evening prayerful review of the day. Free downloads are available on all the usual online stores – just search ClicktoPrayApp.
The popular Living Prayer booklets will be available again in 2021, as will the Sacred Heart calendars. Each contains the 2021 Pope’s Intentions and reflections on them, versions of the Morning Offering and many helps & tips for your prayer. Orders should be placed with Messenger Publications, [email protected]; for prices, orders and payment arrangements see www.messenger.ie.
Please note that we cannot take any more orders for the time being for our packs of Prayer Network prayer-cards, owing to pandemic restrictions and some logistical challenges. Normal service will resume as soon as possible.
*A SUGGESTED MORNING OFFERING PRAYER:
Merciful Father, I begin this day in silence before you. In the stillness of the dawn, I recognise the beauty of your creation. Grant me the grace to be faithful and courageous today in all that I do, that I may faithfully carry out my baptismal mission. May the Holy Spirit open my heart to the challenges of humanity, especially the Pope’s Intentions, for which I now pray. Our Father …”.