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Pope’s prayer intention for July: For families

By Fr David Stewart SJ

As we passed the year’s longest day last month, many families felt that this was the longest year ever as so many suffered at various levels from the effects of the pandemic. Families grieved the loss of beloved elders and loved ones while enduring job losses and economic uncertaintyAt the invitation of the Pope, in June wcontemplated the wounded side of the Saviour and took solace and strength from the blood and water that flowed from his Sacred Heart. We prayed with Pope Francis that many hearts would be touched by that Heart. Now, in July, the Pope invites us to pray with him for families: ‘that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance’.

When Pope Francis decided, in consultation with the leaders of his worldwide prayer group, on the intentions that would be presented to us each month this year, none of us had heard of COVID. Now, halfway through the calendar year, it is the backdrop to everything we pray, say and do. There are signs of hope in some places that it might be ending and signs of magnificent great love in the efforts of healthcare professionals in particular and essential workers everywhere. At every time of prayer in these days, we must pray for them and in thanks for their magnificent service of others.

As we pray with the Pope this month, we might note that we are not only praying for familiesalthough goodness knows we would want tofor our own families, for those who have no family, for shattered refugee families and, at this time, for families devastated by the effects of the contagion. We make that prayer but recognise that the Holy Father invites to a specific intention, that families may be accompanied. Who is to accompany them?

Who is responsible?

The answer must surely include a recognition that the human family and each individual family is under threat and therefore that those who have power must act in response. They must be urged to act. ‘Love, respect and guidance should be at the heart of how society accompanies families. It is for good people with the common good at heart to act, to put pressure on those who have power and those with a vested interest in keeping people poor and fragmenting families. The oldest generation are fully part of our family and society life, or should be. Pope Francis has said that:

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that our societies are not organised well enough to make room for the elderly, with proper respect for their dignity and frailty. When the elderly are not cared for, there is no future for the young.

Praying with the Pope each month for the challenges that face human society must of necessity involve a willingness to act, to mobilise ourselves according to whatever abilities and talents we’ve been given. These acts can be sacramental embodiments of our faith-filled prayer. The New Testament reminds us that, faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).

Speaking at a General Audience on 17th June 2020, Pope Francis taught that, to pray means to intercede for the world, to remember that despite all its frailties, it always belongs to God. This is the opposite of the temptation, that comes from the Bad Spirit, to shun the world and to keep your faith private, whatever that might mean. The pandemic presents many possibilities for action, especially this month for families. Let us not forget the very young, especially those whose schooling is interrupted by the pandemic, but also the elderly, who have made us who we are and have sacrificed a great deal for us.

Prayer moment

Let the Spirit of God lead you to a place of interior stillness and then allow yourself to become aware of God’s gaze on you, full of love and hope for you and for all of creation. That gaze is sustaining and life-giving. Ask, in your heart, for a deepening, interior awareness of that divine presence and compassionAsk for the grace of knowing how the Trinity is shared love and of how the human family reflects that love, making it present in each family member and in the world. Hold before the Lord in prayer families and particularly people who have been deprived of family life, who are not accompanied with love, respect and guidance. Conclude with an intimate conversation with the Lord about his own family life, as one of the Holy Family of Nazareth, as one of the Blessed Trinity. Speak to him about whatever presents itself to your mind and heart at this moment.

A morning offering for a time of great danger

Eternal Father,

I thank you for this day that allows me to increase my love of you.

Help me to be more available today to your mission

and to be a good example to others.

I offer my day, uniting myself to Pope Francis and his own prayer-group, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

Our Father …

Proposals for prayer and action this month

  1. Last month a young, unassuming footballer grabbed the headlines from the politicians by writing a cogent, urgent letter about a government policy that threatened to damage family life and poor children in Britain. Marcus Rashford refused to make any political capital out of his campaign for justice, thanking the government for its embarrassing change of policy when others might have gloated. It was the poor families that were his only concern, and he used his talent and his prominence to advocate for them. He showed how it can be done, with graciousness, but determination. Consider ways in which you might be able to act similarly; alone, in your family, or in your parish or worshipping community.
  2. As you pray the Daily Prayer Pathway, consisting of the Morning Offering, the Midday Moment and the Evening Prayer of Daily Awareness (Examen), ask for the grace to be humbler and more ready to listen to others before judging them. Ponder, gently, any temptation to treat others as less worthy if they do not appear to contribute so much materially or financially. Ask that your heart may be opened to any healing that is needed.
  3. Discuss, as far as is possible while our movements are still restricted, in your own friendship circles or your parish, where there might be possibilities in your own neighbourhood of supporting and accompanying families with ‘love, respect and guidance’. Remember the Pope’s words: ‘To the pandemic of the virus we want to respond with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness’. Resolve to act!

Resources

  • 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)
  • To order the Living Prayer 2020 booklet or prayer cards for the Daily Prayer Pathway, email: prayernetwork@jesuit.org.uk