Praying with the pope in October
Apostleship of Prayer the Pope's worldwide network of prayer. We pray with the Holy Father, from our hearts and united in the heart of Christ, to grow as missionary disciples.
Each month, Pope Francis entrusts two particular prayer intentions to the Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s Prayer Network and asks the AoP to spread these intentions to Christians everywhere. Successive Popes have given this mission to the AoP, which is looked after by the Jesuits, for many years. It is for this reason that the AoP is known as the Prayer Network of the Pope; the Holy Father Francis takes a keen personal interest in this ministry.
Each month, one of the intentions concerns a situation or matter that concerns all of humanity and is an objective that any person of good will could support. This month of October, we pray with Pope Francis “that human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated”.
Reflection moment: There can be nobody who has not become aware of the plight of so many refugees in southern and eastern Europe and of those who have suffered so awfully on their migrant journeys. We have all seen the media reports and been horrified by the cruel deaths of so many at sea, culminating in those desperately moving pictures of little 3-year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, held lifeless and tenderly in the arms of a young Turkish policeman. This was a scene that, in its own way, is a contemporary Deposition from the Cross.
The desperate people who made these journeys have often paid large amounts of money to unscrupulous traffickers. We must make no mistake that these are modern-day slave-owners, as the Pope’s intention reminds us. The people, often whole families, who are fleeing violence and war, persecution and injustice did become slaves in the hands of the traffickers but as soon as the voyage has been completed, these traffickers vanish with their cash. And we well know that not every European country has extended a welcome to them; governments dither and bicker while, very often, good ordinary people respond in a Christ-like way to ease the suffering of the refugees.
There have been so many statistics, each number larger than the previous one, that our sensibilities can be dulled. When we pray this intention, this month, with the Pope we could be asking that we revive our Christian compassion. But we need also to pray, in the words of this intention, that “human trafficking … might be eradicated”. Prayer without action risks being merely empty words. What is this intention, prayed sincerely, inviting us to do about it? Let’s pray together, in the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, that the Spirit of God will show us each our way of eradicating human trafficking, just as those followers of Christ in the 19th century followed the Spirit’s leading and brought about the eradication of slavery then. For each form of slavery was and is not only a challenge that faces humanity, but a dreadful affront to our God-given human dignity.
The second intention of the Pope’s Prayer Network is now known as the Evangelisation Intention
For October the Evangelisation, intention directs our attention to Asia: “That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it”.
Once again Pope Francis returns to his frequently-voiced missionary theme; so often he invites us to be “missionary disciples”. In some parishes, communities and dioceses, there are currently major efforts and campaigns to develop missionary parishes. That is happening in our own country here but also elsewhere; we’re praying in this intention for Asia but it will surely remind us to make the same prayer for our own context here, where the loving gaze of the Trinity is so often obscured, or even ignored, in our time.
It is that loving gaze, that St.Ignatius of Loyola foregrounded in his great “Incarnation Meditation” in the Spiritual Exercises, that draws us all in, if we have the generosity to allow ourselves to be so led by the Spirit. The meditation invites us to see the whole world as the Trinity might see us, universally and transhistorically. “In their goodness”, suggests Ignatius, “the Divine Persons, responding to all they see happening in human history, much of it awful, decide to ‘work the redemption of the whole human race’”. It’s a work, a labour, that continues to this day; in Asia, in our own continent of Europe, everywhere. The Trinity still gazes, in love and in pain.
This is our response. We can and should announce the Gospel. Christian communities in Asia should; we in Europe should, indeed must. We cannot impose it. We cannot force anyone to accept the gospel or to become a follower of Christ. Violent conversion is not conversion at all; it is coercion, and should be no part of our missionary discipleship. Proselytism is not our way; indeed, not long ago Pope Francis declared that proselytising is just “solemn nonsense”. Instead, we announce the Gospel by living as if we had heard it! In Asia, Gandhi was once asked why he had never become a Christian. “Because I have never met one”, he replied.
For your own or your group’s reflection: be still, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring you to an interior place of stillness and prayer.
What might the Holy Spirit want to give you to help you make these prayers? What would you want to happen, as you pay attention to whatever desires you notice coming from the best part of yourself?
Pondering the stories of the European refugees, these modern slaves, what feelings do we experience? Do we feel powerless in the face of such suffering? Or can we allow a creative response to arise in us? How might we tackle, as individuals or as groups or communities, the eradication of human trafficking, this modern slavery? Listen to the Spirit’s promptings as well as acknowledging any powerlessness we feel; the refugees in the hands of these wicked and unscrupulous men are also powerless, but it is out of powerlessness that Christian hope arises.
Notice whatever feelings and desires arise in your reflection and present them to God in your prayer.
Scriptural moment: Psalm 8. Pray it gently and slowly, and let its wonderful message of the God-given dignity of each created person sink deeply into your mind and your heart. Notice any prayers that arise as you do so; present these to God to infuse with hope.
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