By Fr David Stewart SJ
Each new calendar year begins, for the Holy Father and for all Catholic Christians, with a heartfelt plea for peace. Pope Paul VI proposed that January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, the mother of God, be dedicated to the cause of universal peace, and so this Day of Prayer was first observed on New Year’s Day, 1968. Each year since, the Pontiffs have issued important statements and messages for this day. Pope Francis has continued this custom with his first prayer intention of 2020: ‘We pray that Christians, followers of other religions and all people of good will may promote peace and justice in the world’. He has given his intention to his prayer network, the largest prayer group in the Church, so that we might make it widely known in our parishes, communities and friendship circles.
The prophets called for peace. Jeremiah saw how many people cry, ‘“Peace, peace,” while there is no peace.’ (Jeremiah 8:11). Ezekiel and Micah could see this too. We build and renew expensive weapons of war, which threaten total human annihilation, while claiming that they keep the peace, but we refuse to commit resources to end evils such as homelessness, racism and the climate emergency. We would rather hold onto thermonuclear weapons than seek peaceful ways to resolve conflict. We put our trust in that which is evil, ignoring what is good.
Pope Francis constantly draws our attention to the need for dialogue and has exemplified it himself on many occasions. To adopt an attitude of preparedness to dialogue, especially with those who are in any way different from us, is to counter identity politics and nastiness. We have remained in our own echo-chambers, our own ‘silos’, hearing views similar to our own. Opinions harden into attitudes and soon become prejudices. But if we decide to commit ourselves to a readiness to dialogue, all that will crumble. We will have begun to be peacemakers. Another Francis, the saint of Assisi, reputedly advised, ‘Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible’.
Here in Britain we have recently undergone a General Election. Pope Francis, in his 2019 message on peace, spoke of the need for politics to be at the service of peace, not fear. He described peace as, ‘the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings’. Let these words remind us that this is a responsibility for all of us. The peace we now need to work for is with ourselves, with others and with all of creation.
Look for an external place or interior space of silence, or at least rather less noise. Become aware, as St Ignatius always suggested, of the gaze of the Trinity on you and in this world, and on this new year of 2020. Prayer is God’s gift to us and, as St Paul noted, it is God’s Holy Spirit who prays within us, if we are open to that gift. Let God look at you now and let God’s Spirit pray within you.
Prayer changes us and makes us more ready to act. Prayer mobilises us. A faith-filled life is the best answer to that prayer the Spirit makes in us. Most of us, quite often, make the understandable mistake of thinking that we say prayers to change a situation or to change another person. But we must pray to be changed and then to work for change, for the sake of the Gospel and of humanity. A Morning Offering prayer, such as the Apostleship of Prayer (now the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network) has proposed for 175 years, can focus the rest of our day. Here is one possible morning prayer for January, from our ‘Living Prayer 2020’ booklet:
‘Heavenly Father, I begin this new day in gratitude for all that you have given me. May I seek to live with joy this day and to let that joy spread to all those I meet. I offer you my thoughts, words, deeds and all that I am for the intention of Pope Francis this month. Our Father…’
The Morning Offering is part of the Daily Prayer Pathway, practised by countless Christians in the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. You can then say a brief prayer around noon and pray an Ignatian-style review of the day in the evening. Please ask for our Daily Prayer Pathway and Review of the Day cards; we’ll post them to you free of charge. Also available is our popular Click-to-Pray App and website, with its new set of prayers each day, direct to your phone or tablet.
A New Year’s resolution?
There were many wonderful developments at Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in 2019. The Holy Father has shown much support for our network, opening his personal Click-to-Pray account, and making Click-to-Pray the official prayer app of World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama this time last year. The Pope Video was prominent at WYD as well. In addition, Click-to-Pray was the number four free app on the Apple store in December. Why not resolve, beginning this January, not only to pray daily with the Pope and his network but also to make the daily prayer offering, or even the whole Prayer Pathway? And tell others in your parish or community about it too!
Where we are
The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, legally based in the Vatican City State, has its UK base at St. Ignatius Jesuit Church, Stamford Hill, London N15. Our Daily Prayer Pathway, includes the traditional Morning Offering, united with the Holy Father’s intention. See the Holy Father personally present his prayer intention each month on www.thepopevideo.org. Our app, Click-to-Pray (www.clicktopray.org), gives you a new set of brief prayers every day.
- Living Prayer 2020: booklet now available to order at £1.75 + £1 P&P (UK only). Place order on our direct voicemail 020 8442 5232 or by email to email@example.com with full delivery address.
- Sacred Heart Messenger: a modern message in a much-loved tradition. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 00353 1 676 7491.
- Click-to-Pray eRosary: to order, see www.clicktoprayerosary.org
- Websites: clicktopray.org, thepopevideo.org and popesglobalprayer.net