by Fr David Stewart SJ
The Morning Offering, to the Heart of Christ, has been at the heart of the spirituality of the Prayer Network for all of its existence of nearly 175 years. Generations of Catholic Christians, and many other followers of Jesus, have made this daily offering, faithfully. From the earliest moment of the Apostleship of Prayer, in 1844, this prayer was missionary; oriented to the mission of all Christians. When we now make that Morning Offering, we are expressing a 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.
The deeper, larger meaning is that we want to pray with the whole Church, all of us invited to consider and pray for a particular Intention by the Holy Father. The mission of this Network, the world’s largest, is to spread the word 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. In this month of December, he asks us to turn to the service of the transmission of faith; that people who are involved in the service and transmission of faith, may find, in their dialogue with culture, a language suited to the conditions of the present time.
In this Intention, the Holy Father recognises the need to adapt our language and all of our means of communicating the message, the Good News, which itself will never change. This is not only an invitation to enter into dialogue with the culture but to think about the language we use to do so. This is why the Pope’s Prayer Network now presents various ways of participation in its mission, such as our Click-to-Pray digital platform and the Pope Video monthly broadcasts. The traditional Morning Offering prayer is still used by many and so too are the newer forms, such as the daily morning offering on Click-to-Pray.
It is unhelpful to use language that the culture, the world does not understand because so many people in our times are not hearing the proclamation of the Word. There are many for whom the language and idioms of Christian spirituality, to say nothing of our liturgy, are meaningless. That is not their fault; it does not make them bad people. We need to be honest, asking ourselves if we have made the necessary changes to how we transmit what we believe so that others may hear. Again, we can do so without tarnishing the truth that we have received; but that takes great care and sensitivity. This month’s intention invites us all to think about these things.
Jesuit retreat director Philip Fogarty SJ reminds us, in this month’s Living Prayer booklet, that faith is much more than proclaimed doctrines and dogmas. If it is not a lived experience it can’t be transmitted. Fr Philip suggests that the ‘language of the Church and of the Bible can often seem foreign and so has to be “translated” in a way that speaks to the heart as well as the mind’. The language we use needs to be ‘suited to the conditions of the present time’. For we are certain, in faith, that the message it communicates is suited to all time, to all of humanity across all of history.
THREE INVITATIONS, or CHALLENGES, FOR DECEMBER
1: Reflect: during this month, dedicate a time to reflect on the ways in which faith is transmitted in your community, the language and methods used and in particular how it is received by younger people.
2: Accept the challenge of helping others in your family, and parish community, to prepare for Christmas, meditating on the Word of God, devoting time to prayer and to the central theme of this liturgical time; how can you adapt your language to touch them with the good news that does not change?
3: Make a point of spending time with family and friends to talk and reflect about the meaning of Christmas, the meaning of the manger and the presence of Jesus in everyone’s life, especially at home. It can so easily get lost in the rush of these December weeks.
PRAYER MOMENT FOR DECEMBER
A suggested daily offering prayer for this month, for yourself or your family, or prayer-group:
you sent your disciples to announce the Good News to all the places of the world,
in different languages, in different times and to different cultures.
Through your Spirit, you inspired many people to transmit the faith so that everyone can understand it and embrace it.
Today, Lord, I/we pray, with the Holy Father, for all those who are given the task and mission of proclaiming the Gospel in their own communities.
May they, through their words and gestures, be witnesses of your love.
IGNATIAN REFLECTION MOMENT
As St Ignatius suggested, let’s take a few moments to try to be silent, or at least a little more calm in our hearts. Imagine the Trinity gazing on you now, and gazing on the whole world. See what the Three Divine Persons see: so much anger, so much violence, yet good souls too, trying to bring peace to a troubled world. God’s messenger approaches one good person with a unique mission: she is asked to bear the Son of God, as the Trinity is moved by compassion and love for the troubled world. Speak to Mary in your own heart; let her tell you of these things. And be with her nine months or so later, shut out in the cold as a refugee with Joseph and her infant Son. Let her ask you if you would like to hold this little baby, as mothers do. Let whatever prayer arises in your heart to come freely and with passion.
Log on to our website www.click-to-pray.org and download the app. (on App Store, iTunes and Google Play) to pray with the Pope, and hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world. This app connects you with all who pray with the Pope in a quick, easy and creative way. Each day, the app offers a different set of short and accessible prayers. The first is to start off the day, as we pray to make ourselves available for Christ’s mission; a second one, very brief and focused, is for at least once during the day, to help us recall the offering we made. And in the evening, following the advice we get from St Ignatius of Loyola, the Ignatian review of the day helps you to notice God’s presence in your day, to recognise where the Good Spirit has been prompting you and offering you opportunities to practice the language of dialogue and love. It involves a moment of repentance if we realise we have followed a less loving path and invites us to begin to pray for the next day, that we offer ourselves anew and become more open the Giver of all good gifts.
Our Living Prayer 2019 booklets are now in-stock and available to order (UK nations only) for £1.75 + £1.20 P&P from our London office. A special twin-pack, including the 2019 Sacred Heart wall calendar (A4), usually £2.20, and a selection of prayer-cards, are available for only £3 plus £1.50 P&P while stocks last: a lovely Christmas present, perhaps? Order with your delivery details from firstname.lastname@example.org or by text to 074 3259 1117.