by Fr J D Stewart SJ, National Promoter, England and Wales
Pope Francis has given an urgent new mission to his personal Prayer Network to share among all the faithful. This task, to begin as soon as possible at the beginning of October, is to promote his intention that we all intensify our prayer during this month. He invites us to pray every day the Holy Rosary with the intention that the Virgin Mary help the Church in these times of crisis, and to pray each day to St Michael the Archangel that he defend us against the attacks of the bad spirit. The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the world’s largest such network, is to make this special, pressing, intention known as widely and as urgently as possible.
During these last years and months, we in the Church have lived through difficult situations, brought about by shocking abuses of sex, power and conscience on the part of clerics, consecrated persons and lay people. Added to these are internal divisions in the Church. Certainly these are abetted by the evil spirit: ‘the mortal enemy of our human nature.’ (Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola 136)
We should be aware, or remind ourselves anew, that evil manifests itself in diverse ways and the Church’s mission of evangelisation is made more difficult, even discredited. The Church is all of us; the people of God and all share this evangelising mission, while those who are called to be leaders have a particular responsibility. Part of this is our own responsibility for having let ourselves be drawn by passions which do not lead us to true life, such as: riches, vanity, and pride.
As St Ignatius saw, these are the stages by which the evil seducer seeks to draw us away, bringing first good thoughts and intentions, little by little drawing persons to his perverse intentions (discord, lies, etc). The ‘father of lies’, or Lucifer, desiring only to sow discord, often presents himself as an angel of light, under a cloak of good, leading into deceit, shame and confusion. Pope Francis sees this happening in and among the people of God at this historical moment.
The Holy Father, therefore, has asked us, since we are his Worldwide Prayer Network, to help all the faithful to pray more for the Church during this month of October. At the end of September, he met in person with our International Director, Fr Fornos SJ, to entrust this prayer intention to us. This is a special request that he now makes to us and he is counting on us to help him.
During this month of October, then, the Holy Father invites us to pray every day the Holy Rosary with the intention that the Virgin Mary help the Church in these times of crisis, and to pray each day to St Michael the Archangel that he defend us against the attacks of the Devil. According to spiritual tradition, Michael is the chief of the celestial armies and the protector of the Church (Revelation 12:7-9). There is a hashtag to make this easier - #prayforthechurch.
Pope Francis invites us at the conclusion of the Rosary with that most ancient invocation to the Holy Mother of God, Sub Tuum Praesidium as well as the traditional prayer to St Michael ascribed to Pope Leo the XIII:
Under your protection
We fly to Thy protection,
O holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
St Michael prayer
St Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defence against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Pope Francis reminded us in his Letter to the People of God of 20th August 2018, citing St Paul (1Cor 12:26), that ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.’ When we experience the desolation which these ecclesial wounds produce in us, it serves us well to be with Mary ‘to insist more on prayer’ (St Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises 319), seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church.’
Therefore, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, here in England and Wales, invites all people of good will to begin this intense month of prayer today, October 1st, the memorial of St Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower and one of the patron saints of the Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer).
Adapted from the worldwide message of International Director Fr Frederic Fornos SJ, with Fr Luis Ramirez SJ, International Assistant, and the international team of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network