By Fr David Stewart SJ
As Pope Francis has repeatedly proclaimed, the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer. The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is a pontifical work with the mission of mobilising Catholics through prayer and action. The mission is carried out together; to pray with the Pope is to pray with the whole people of God, world-wide.
In recent months, hundreds of thousands of us have answered the Holy Father’s call for prayers about several enormous challenges that face humanity and the Church’s mission. We’ve reflected on our God-given ‘Common Home’, in the spirit of Laudato Si’. We’ve considered our baptismal call to missionary discipleship, particularly mindful of the peripheries, the places and situations that the Gospel has not yet reached. Now, in November, Pope Francis encourages us to look towards the Middle East, praying with him that ‘a spirit of dialogue, encounter and reconciliation emerge in the Middle East, where diverse religious communities share their lives together’.
Nobody needs reminding of the conflicts and contradictions of that blood-soaked region. It’s a part of our world marked, as the Intention notes, by cultural and religious diversity. Two religious Sisters of Sion Community, Jerusalem, write (in our ‘Living Prayer 2019’ booklet) that ‘Far too many wars, political divisions, conflicts and hostilities between the diverse religious communities… left populations scared and crippled, morally, financially and spiritually…’, while their leaders ‘have manifested attitudes of greed and thirst for power, leading to domination’ that has no concern for their people’s good. Fear dominates. Numerous peace initiatives, over many decades, have foundered. For Christians, this is our Holy Land; Jesus’s native country. HHumanity’s major religions all preach peace, but, to paraphrase the psalmist, there is no peace here. That dominating fear has engendered a violent contradiction.
Is there an answer? ‘The only Christian antidote to fear is faith’, writes David Neuhaus SJ, who has long lived and taught in Jerusalem. Writing in November’s ‘Messenger’ (see below), he talks of Christian institutions in those lands that reach ‘beyond the hold of fear and isolation’; these include schools and hospitals that deliberately respect diversity because they are at the service of all. Faith mobilises them. This echoes the words of the Holy Father in his invitation to us – to pray, and to work for, that ‘spirit of dialogue, encounter and reconciliation’ that faith fosters. This faith is the certainty that, despite the hatred, violence and signs of contradiction, Christ’s victory is already won. Dialogue reveals this reality whereas fear provokes division and insularity. Not for the first time, Pope Francis advocates dialogue. This is a mission; prayer must be its heart.
Ask the Spirit of God to lead you to a place of interior stillness. Try to find a few moments and a place where you can be peaceful and prayerful, even if only for a few minutes. Become conscious of God looking at you, now. Rest in God’s gaze for a few moments. Bring to mind the Intention of this month. Take careful note of what feelings arise in your heart as you do so. Do not judge or analyse them, but ask the Good Spirit to show you the deeper meaning they present.
A prayer of offering with this month’s intention
You came to us in a land you knew well, where you showed everyone who you are,
revealing the love of the Father for all his children.
We ask for all who suffer in war, division and persecution
in the Promised Land and in the countries where your Apostles announced the Gospel for the first time. May your Spirit touch the hearts of those who make the big decisions,
to advance along the path of dialogue and peace. Our Father…
Three proposals for November
- Learn about the political and social situation in this region but also about efforts and initiatives that promote reconciliation and peace.
- Find out about institutions that support victims of war and religious persecution in these countries.
- In your parish or community, promote a moment of prayer about the spiritual richness of the many Middle Eastern religious traditions, to grow more aware of the fraternity that unites us.
Where we are
The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is legally based in the Vatican City State and, for the UK, at St Ignatius Jesuit Church, Stamford Hill, London N15. Our Daily Prayer Pathway is a way of the heart that incorporates the traditional Morning Offering to the Heart of Christ, united with the Holy Father’s intention (ask us to send you some prayer-cards). See the Holy Father personally present his Intention each month on www.thepopevideo.org. We offer our App., Click-to-Pray (www.clicktopray.org), that gives you a new set of brief prayers every day – together, we can make each day different!
- Living Prayer 2020: booklet now available to order at £1.75 + £1 P&P. 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.
- eRosary: to order, see clicktoprayerrosary.org.
- All our websites and apps: org, thepopevideo.org and popesglobalprayer.net.
Published: 29th October 2019