By Fr David Stewart SJ
This most extraordinary year of pain and suffering continues into the late summer. The pandemic is affecting, almost certainly, every single human on the face of the earth. It makes you think of the powerful contemplation of St Ignatius of Loyola, in the Spiritual Exercises. St Ignatius invites us to imagine how the Blessed Trinity gazes timelessly down on the whole globe, seeing all the good and the bad, all the human suffering and all the noble, selfless work that is being done; and then, moved by divine creativity and love, resolves to enter human history and reality to be one with us in it all.
One possible trap is to tell ourselves that, in such pain and devastation, there are no others who need our prayers. This is not true; other human difficulties have not gone away. We can pray for these as well as praying about the pandemic; what matters is training our hearts to be more like Christ’s heart, full of compassion for all of creation. That is why the August intention of the Holy Father, selected many months ago, is still presented to us through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. We’re invited to pray, with the Pope, ‘for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishermen and their families’.
The price paid by those who work and live from the sea
Not just this month but every month, most of us rely on those who work on the seas, in so many ways, from providing transport and freight to harvesting food from the sea. Seafarers are often forgotten and overlooked. Crews of long-distance freight shipping, in particular, often face periods of many months away from home and families. They typically live in cramped accommodation and work long hours, with little opportunity for off-duty recreation or access to the sacraments. The cost of our seafood is often high in terms of human life and suffering. Inhabitants of fishing ports know very well how many tragedies have affected communities and families as brave fishermen are lost at sea. We should remember them all in our prayer this month, particularly invoking the intercession of the Apostles such as St Peter, who were themselves fishermen.
In the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network ‘Living Prayer 2020’ booklet, Sr Siobhan SHJM writes:
‘Inclement weather, poor quality boats and ever changing legislation cripples the fishing industry, plunging the families of these good men into poverty and distress … our abuse of creation pollutes the oceans – the seabed is poisoned, fish die … fishing trawlers are captured by human traffickers … the God of creation fills the seas with his tears.
‘Our world cries out for healing and renewal. May we place our hand into the hand of the God who calmed the seas, that his beautiful gift of creation may be restored and all whose lives depend on the fruits of the ocean be protected, this day and always. As one, may we rejoice and give thanks, Amen.’
These loving thoughts can accompany our prayers this month as we pray with the Pope, for all those who work and live from the sea.
A suggested morning offering prayer for this month
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your goodness to me as I start a new day. May your Holy Spirit strengthen my resolve to be a light to others in all that I say and do today. I offer all my works, joys and sufferings this day for the intention of Pope Francis for this month. With your grace, assist me to be mindful of those who live and work from the sea. Hail, Mary …
Heavenly Father, I begin this day anew in your presence. May your Holy Spirit be my constant guide and companion, filling me with life to spread the Gospel through my deeds and words. I offer you this day my prayers, works, joys and suffering, for the Church, all the Apostles of Prayer and for the intentions of Pope Francis for this month, especially for seafarers, as the Holy Father requests. Our Father …
Proposals and challenges
- Research the work of the Apostleship of the Sea. Learn more about its wonderful ministry of support for seafarers and about the work of a Port Chaplain. When the situation allows, discuss with your parish leaders inviting an AoS representative to come to your parish or worshipping community to showcase their work.
- Spend some prayer time, alone or in a prayer group, bringing to mind the suffering and great cost so often paid by those who work and live from the sea. This is an excellent and practical way of praying with the Pope this month in his intention.
- Think about beginning your day with a Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, using the prayers given above, those on the Click to Pray website and App or the traditional form of the Morning Offering. If you do this already, resolve to renew your commitment to this important ministry in the Church. Offer yourself in the morning for the mission of Christ that day and don’t worry about how that will work out, for the Lord will use your offering of yourself in ways that will surprise and delight you!
The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network websites: www.popesglobalprayer.net and www.popesprayer.va
Prayer platform: www.clicktopray.org
The Pope’s video: www.thepopevideo.org (new video released on the first Friday of each month)