This month, Pope Francis takes us to a fundamental aspect of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, since its earliest days as the Apostleship of Prayer. Since its beginning, over 175 years ago, this ministry has been rooted in devotion to the Heart of Christ, the Sacred Heart. This month, during which the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart occurs, the Pope asks that: ‘We pray that all those who suffer may find their way in life, allowing themselves to be touched by the Heart of Jesus.’
Our prayer, with the Pope in both his monthly and his new daily intentions, is always oriented towards changing our own hearts, preparing ourselves for mission in whatever life situation we are in. For almost every person on the planet, that situation changed drastically since before Lent this year. We are only just beginning to learn and to reflect on how much of that change is permanent, on how much life has changed forever. Many indeed are suffering, whether through illness or by watching loved ones fall sick. Part of us longs for a return to normal, leading us to examine what we meant by that normal, and to face our fears that it might never return. Therefore, it is important not to let fear control us; the love of the Heart of Christ will be our great strength.
Your presence of love
In the June pages of our Living Prayer 2020 booklet, a priest writes: ‘I picked up scrap of paper that was placed under the statue of the Sacred Heart in the Church. Someone had written a one-line prayer that was invested with a gem-like faith. It read: “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fill the hearts of the new First Communion children with your presence of love always.” This is a prayer of wonder and mystery. It is in keeping with the prayer intention of this month that people, including children, may “find their way of life, allowing themselves to be touched by the Heart of Jesus”. (Fr John Cullen, Roscommon)
This enriching thought carries with it this month even more poignancy than its author imagined, for in many places, children have not yet been able to make their First Communion. Others have had to postpone the sacrament of Confirmation and catechumens have not had the opportunity to celebrate the Easter sacraments. The Heart of Christ is filled with the spirit of compassion for all. This scrap of paper points us towards a marvelous gift that we can let fill our hearts, that ‘presence of love’ that the Heart of Christ wants to impart. Our prayer this month, with the Pope, could extend that petition to all who are suffering, especially because of the epidemic. May that ‘presence of love’ fill their hearts!
Novena to the Sacred Heart
There is a long-standing tradition in the Church of dedicating nine days of prayer to the Heart of Christ, concluding on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart on 19th June. Many parishes already pray this Novena every year and there are many beautiful variations. This year, we present a version, composed by the Pope’s Prayer Network Director in London, which will be available online at www.popesglobalprayer.net and on www.messenger.ie and elsewhere (see below). Each day of the Novena is presented in an Ignatian way, suggesting a Spiritual Exercise each day. Here is the Novena Prayer which you can pray every day, even when you can’t pray the rest of the meditation:
Lord Jesus, you have said, ‘Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you’. I come to you in faith and trust, in love and hope. Let me know your closeness to me and your care of me and for all who are dear to me.
My intention for this Novena is dear to me and I know that what is important to me is important to you. Hear my prayer (mention your intention); grant what I ask, and may I always trust that in all that happens in life, you will be close to me as my friend, guide and saviour. And so, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart
The Morning Offering to the Heart of Christ has been at the heart of the spirituality of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) for all of its 175 years. Generations of Catholic Christians have made this daily offering, faithfully. This prayer was missionary, oriented to the mission of all Christians. When we now make that Morning Offering, we are expressing a missionary desire to unite that offering with the Pope’s intention for the month. We want to train our hearts to be more like Christ’s Heart.
The deeper meaning is that we want to pray with the whole Church, all of us invited to pray by the Holy Father. The mission of this Network, the world’s largest, is to spread the message of the Pope’s intention for the challenges that face humanity and the mission of the Church. By uniting our prayerful self-offering to the concerns that are in the Pope’s heart, we are in fact drawing together in prayer with the whole church, the whole People of God.
Here is a suggested Morning Offering prayer, also taken from our Living Prayer 2020 booklet:
Gracious Father, I contemplate your presence among us. Help me to do all things for the greater good of all people. I offer you my thoughts, words, deeds and all that I am, for the intentions of Pope Francis for this month.
(We could add:) I present this heartfelt desire also to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, asking that she might add her prayers to my intentions, and for all for whom I pray: Hail, Mary …
Meditation moments with Pope Francis
The Holy Father recently suggested, ‘Prayer belongs to everyone: to men and women of every religion, and probably even to those who profess no religion. Prayer is born within the secrecy of our being, in that interior place that spiritual writers often call the “heart”.’ Take a moment to ponder what is in your heart today, especially during these trying times. Could it be a prayer that you didn’t recognise was a prayer? Pope Francis has also spoken of Christian hope as, ‘a sail that catches wind and is therefore able to sail out to sea, and new lands, and fresh discoveries’. If we take his idea into our own prayer, can we feel ourselves borne on the winds of the Holy Spirit, sailing outwards to a new place and new joy?
- 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 receive a selection of prayer-cards, including the Daily Prayer Pathway, email: firstname.lastname@example.org