Praying with the pope in June

Published on 31 May 2016

If we feel drawn, this June, to praying with Pope Francis for the concerns that lie in his heart, we can definitely make our prayer richer and more consoling if we unite them to Christ’s heart, too.

This month has traditionally been devoted to the heart of Christ, the Sacred Heart, and it’s at the beginning of the month, when the church – you and I – mark the feast-day properly known as the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics "to renew, in this month of June, their devotion to the Heart of Jesus.”  He explained in one of his weekly audiences that the Heart of Christ is a particularly effective symbol “to ordinary people as well as to mystics and theologians”, because it expresses the faith in a simple and authentic way. In June, then, starting with the feast of the Sacred Heart, we might find it helpful to recover that simplicity and rediscover that authenticity. We can train our hearts to be more like Christ’s.

One particular concern in Pope Francis’s heart this month is expressed in his Universal Intention, for Human Solidarity: that the aged, marginalised and those who have no-one may find – even within the huge cities of the world – opportunities for encounter and solidarity.

Solidarity among humans, among all children of God, is an ideal that most reasonable people would sign up to but it’s clearly lacking in so many ways and places. This month’s intention helps us to understand this absence, this need, more clearly by naming examples for us. We are invited to think of the aged first. In the Global North life-expectancy extends long beyond working years and there’s a problem: when we’re no longer producing wealth, our culture can label us as useless, a burden on the rest of us. This horrid outlook even extrudes, for some people, to a legitimisation of euthanasia. If we thought of the aged in terms of human solidarity, not of usefulness or economic potential, we might find our hearts converted rather than hardened.

This intention invites us also to think of others who are marginalised and we can all think of examples; we might well be marginalised ourselves and know full well the heartfelt pain that brings. It hurts even more to have no-one. One particular group of people, who should not be far from our thoughts and prayers at this time, are the European refugees, condemned by some selfish hearts as migrants and scroungers, but our world today produces many others – and we must not forget what we can sometimes do to exclude and ostracise each other within our Church.

This intention names the context of this pain as the huge cities of the world. More and more of us are living in cities and these cities will become more enormous.  We have already several “megacities”. L oneliness and marginalisation abound, paradoxically, in crowded city streets and overcrowded housing. There is an old saying that Saint Ignatius “loved the big cities”.

Pray, in the month of June, to know in our hearts that the Heart of Christ sees all the marginalisation, sorrow and loneliness in our cities – and loves it. For it is this love, compassion for all of creation, that sums up the devotion to the Heart of Christ which is, in fact, a symbol of God’s devotion to us.

Pray our Novena to the Sacred Heart this June.