Reflection from the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network for England and Wales and Scotland
It’s June, the month of weddings, midsummer and warm sunny days, our intention is for young people who are preparing for the holy sacrament of marriage. The Pope asks: ‘Let us pray for young people who are preparing for marriage with the support of a Christian community: may they grow in love, with generosity, faithfulness and patience’.
In this second year of the pandemic, this intention has an additional resonance for many young couples whose wedding plans have been disrupted and postponed, often for many months, sometimes for the second or third time. A joyous celebration of the big day, with friends and family, has not been possible for a whole year.
Swim against the tide, says the Pope
For many couples, June was the month for their wedding. Christian marriage, a sacrament in our faith, has now become unfashionable. Our prayer this month reminds us of the need to support young people who courageously want to follow this sacramental pathway. Their conscious decision to celebrate marriage, and lifelong dedication to each other, is more than ever a choice to go against the cultural tide that views this, or any commitment, incredulously. Pope Francis spoke directly to this scepticism when he spoke to the young volunteers at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, directly addressing the view that marriage is now ‘out of fashion’.
He asked those young people, ‘Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of “enjoying” the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, “forever”, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide…’ Continuing, he identified our culture’s belief that young people are ‘incapable of responsibility … incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you.’ This month, the Holy Father is inviting all of us, as the Christian community he mentions in the intention, to make that same prayer for young couples.
A celebration of a radical choice
In our popular Living Prayer 2021 booklet, Fr Patrick writes this month that, ‘marriage, and above all Christian marriage, is rightly an occasion for celebration, but it is important not to forget the reason for the celebration. It is a radical choice that is celebrated and endorsed by the community: “I take you … for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”’. The article reflects on how these few simple words express the couple’s astonishing selfless love; ‘like the love of Jesus for his people, the vows of marriage have no conditions attached’. It’s a sacramental moment, which means that this love of Jesus is made present, active and visible once again in the celebration.
The article goes on to point out that such a great commitment needs more serious preparation and accompaniment than is often offered to young couples. ‘A few cursory meetings before the event will not do.’ Newly-married couples are sometimes left unaccompanied once the festivities are over, so the support that this month’s intention suggests would, extended into the early years of marriage, deepen their life together, in God’s loving care.
The month of the Sacred Heart
June was always the month of particular devotion to the Heart of Christ in our churches, schools and homes. This might have been forgotten or lost in many places but the boundless compassion of the pierced heart of the Saviour has not come to an end. This year, the solemnity falls on 11th June. When we pray with the Pope, considering each monthly intention that he offers us through this, his personal prayer network, one of our desires is to place our hearts next to Christ’s own sacred heart and thus learn something of that compassion for the world, for all of creation. That pierced heart overflows with compassion for all of creation.
The morning offering
Praying a Daily Offering each morning, a long-honoured practice since the earliest days of the Apostleship of Prayer, is how we bless the new day, offering it, everything we do, everyone we meet, to Christ. The Morning Offering, for generations, has been explicitly to the Sacred Heart. By remembering in our Morning Offering the challenges facing humanity that the Holy Father presents to us each month, we will begin to see ways that we can turn our faith into action. As Pope Francis told us almost exactly two years ago, ‘the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer’. Here is a contemporary version, one of many available, that you might like to try:
Good Father, I know you’re with me. Here I am on this new day. Put my heart once more next to the heart of your Son Jesus, coming to me in the Eucharist. May your Holy Spirit make me his friend and his apostle, available for your mission. I put this day into your hands; my joys and hopes, my works and sufferings, everything that I am and I have, in communion with my brothers and sisters of this worldwide prayer network. With Mary, I offer my day for the mission of the Church and the intention of the Holy Father for this month. Amen.
Three proposals this June
- Remember to pray for young people preparing to marry, especially if their big day has been delayed. We are praying that their marriage will be marked, in the words of the intention, by ‘generosity, faithfulness and patience’.
- If you live in a parish or other worshipping community, find out what weddings are scheduled for this month; get the couple’s names to pray for them specifically, perhaps sending them a little message of encouragement and congratulation. Ask the Parish Priest or Catechist if there is a specific way you could support a couple, as they prepare and in the days after their celebration of their wedding.
- Refresh your own devotion to the Heart of Christ by making the Morning Offering each day of June. If there is a prayer group in your parish or community, find out if they use this spiritual resource.
Online resources and contact details
- The Pope’s Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) has a new website for England, Wales and Scotland: www.praywiththepope.net. We have a new mailing list that you can join. Click the button on the website.
- Our popular Click-to-Pray website, www.clicktopray.org, offers you a Morning, Noon and Evening prayer pathway each day.
- Find us also on social media.
- Order some of our prayer-cards and materials. Packs including the Daily Prayer Pathway, the Ignatian Examen, the Daily Offering and our 10 Minutes, 10 Prayers cards can be sent for free. (£2 P&P contribution invited, UK nations only.) The Living Prayer 2021 booklet is now sold out.
- Please note our new office address: we’re now at Edinburgh Jesuit Centre, 28 Lauriston St., Edinburgh EH3 9DJ. All contact details are on the website.