by Fr David Stewart SJ
In September, we join the Holy Father in prayer for his Universal Intention, that ‘young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries’. His personal Prayer Network shares this Intention with the people of God, the Church, inviting us all to unite our prayer with what is on the Pope’s heart as he reviews the challenges that face humanity and the mission of the Church. Also, it now offers us three challenges, or invitations to concrete action, based on the intention and reviving an old tradition of the Apostleship of Prayer (the previous name for his Network).
Pope Francis, this month, combines at least three of his urgent concerns and commends them to us. The first is that so many young people, in Africa and elsewhere, do not have the dignity of working for a living. This is sadly the case. Owing to the lack of work and sometimes in addition to political violence, many become refugees and victims of people-trafficking. Pope Francis has frequently tried to get us to see that lack of employment for young people is one of the most serious problems facing humanity in many parts of the world including here in Europe; but nowhere is this truer than in African nations. Education, similarly, as a basic human right should never be denied to anyone. Like the chance to work, it sets people free and transforms us. We reflect with the Pope this month on how many Africans are denied these basic rights.
The second concern is the continent of Africa and its people, comprising over 40 countries, and full of natural wonder and just as full of wonderful people. But It is sad that so many of us in the Global North view the continent in wholly negative terms. It is the case that most of its countries have been riven by problems, both political and social; many of those problems are traceable to divisive European colonisation and exploitation. It is a continent of massive potential yet one that knows much suffering. Many African nations are counted among the world’s fastest-growing Catholic Christian regions. So our prayer could include a reflection on how the spread of the Gospel could lead to greater justice, peace and inclusion across this great continent.
Third, the dire threat of climate-change is going to affect the poorest more and more, and they will suffer first and worst. We know this; some still try to deny the reality of what our human actions are doing to our common home but those already suffering as a result will tell you a different story. Most of those live in Africa. They should not be made to suffer or forced to flee their own lands because of our over-consumption.
• Get in touch with African migrant communities and their young people to understand their reality, their dreams, their difficulties and offer your help, or that of your parish or worshipping community, to assist them in growing their educational projects.
• Acquaint yourself with development projects that support education and employment in Africa. Great work has been done for many years by the Jesuit Missions offices and by CAFOD in England and Wales, by SCIAF in Scotland and by Trocaire in Eire. Take some time this month to obtain some of their materials and be inspired by the great work they do.
• Organise in your own community a time of prayer or formation in which the subject of the situations that lead so many young Africans to migrate in a forced way outside their countries is discussed. Include in that prayer-time space for negative views of migrants to be admitted honestly and to consider instances of hostility towards migrants, whether from governments or from local people, and ponder the reasons for this.
Father of All Goodness, who created your sons and daughters in a great diversity of peoples, ethnic groups and cultures, I thank you this month for the rich gift of the youth of Africa.
We pray for all these young people, who live in environments of war, insecurity, and in precarious living and health conditions. Enlighten with your Spirit those who have the responsibility to make decisions on education and work in Africa, so that they can ensure a decent future for the young people of this great continent.
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
It is our great hope, in the Pope’s own worldwide prayer network, that everyone in the church remember this intention during the month, each of us uniting our own daily offering to the Pope’s Intention so that the whole people of God might become united in prayer, and make a difference. By making this Morning Offering, which can be in the traditional form or one of the newer forms such as on our Click-to-Pray website and App, we offer ourselves for Christ’s mission but also offer ourselves for the Pope’s intention, meaning that we dispose ourselves to work for that particular month’s objective.
DAILY PRAYER PATHWAY
Moments of prayer in the morning, around noon and in the evening (using the Prayerful Review of the Day of St Ignatius of Loyola) help us to offer ourselves for Christ’s mission in the world, making our hearts more like Christ’s so that we might become, more and more, missionary disciples of Christ’s mission. Our handy Prayer Pathway cards are available, free, from our London office. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8442 5232.
LIVING PRAYER BOOKLET and 2019 Calendar:
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