INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF THE POPE’S WORLDWIDE PRAYER NETWORK (APOSTLESHIP OF PRAYER) ON OCCASION OF ITS 175 ANNIVERSARY
SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE FRANCIS
Paul VI Hall
Friday, 28 June 2019
Dear brothers and sisters,
Thank you for this visit! I take this opportunity to renew my gratitude to you for your commitment to prayer and apostolate in favor of the mission of the Church. I also thank you for the testimonies – that I read beforehand, otherwise I would not have understood the one in Chinese! I will more or less respond to this and I will continue your own reflections. Your service is ever more necessary, for it underlines the primacy of God in the life of people, fostering communion in the Church.
1. Father Matthew, who works in Taiwan, gave us interesting information on the Chinese version of Click to Pray. It is good to know that the Chinese, beyond the difficulties that come about, can feel truly united in prayer. Prayer becomes an important support to better know and witness the Gospel. It always brings forth feelings of brotherhood, breaks down barriers, crosses borders, creates invisible but real and effective bridges, opens horizons of hope.
2. Marie Dominique told us about the mission of the Apostleship of Prayer in France, where this work came about 175 years ago. From her testimony, we understand that our prayer intentions make real for us the mission of Jesus in the world. Through its prayer network and the intentions put out every month, the Church speaks to the hearts of men and women of our time. All of us, pastors, consecrated persons and lay faithful, all are called to commit ourselves in the concrete history of the people around us, especially by praying for them, assuming in prayer their joys and their sufferings. In this way, we will respond to the call of Jesus who asks us to open our hearts to our brothers and sisters, especially to those who are suffering in body and spirit. It is important to talk about others but there are two ways to do this. We can bless them, that is, we can speak well of them, or we can gossip. Gossiping is a bad thing; it does not come from Jesus. Jesus never gossiped. Instead, he did speak well. And prayer is just that: speaking well to Jesus about others, it is like saying: “Lord, I pray for this problem, for this difficulty, for this situation…” Therefore, this is a journey of union, of community. Instead, talking badly of others is a path of destruction.
3. On this day of the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is good to remember the foundations of our mission, as did Bettina (Argentina). It is a mission of compassion for the world. We can say it is a “way of the heart”, meaning a prayerful itinerary that transforms the lives of people. The Heart of Christ is so immense that it wishes to involve us all in his revolution of tenderness. Being close to the Heart of the Lord urges our own heart to approach our brothers and sisters with love, and helps us join this compassion for the world. We are called to be witnesses and messengers of God’s mercy, to offer the world light where there is darkness, hope where despair reigns, salvation where sin abounds. To pray is to enter with my heart into the Heart of Jesus. In this way, I journey into his heart, to feel what he feels, his compassion. I also journey into my own heart to change it accordingly to the Heart of Jesus.
4. The testimony of Sister Selam (Ethiopia) about the members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement helps us contemplate the action of the Holy Spirit in her country. It is important to help the new generations grow in friendship with Jesus through an intimate encounter with him in prayer. They should also listen to his Word and be close to the Eucharist, in order to be a gift of love to their neighbors. Personal or community prayer leads us to dedicate ourselves to evangelization and pushes us to seek the good of others. We must offer young people opportunities for inwardness, moments of spirituality, schools of the Word, so that they can be enthusiastic missionaries in different environments. In this way, they will discover that praying does not separate them from real life, but helps them interpret real-life events in the light of God. Teach children to pray. I feel sad when I see so many children who do not even know how to make the sign of the cross. I tell them: “Do the sign of the cross” and they do like this [a wiggly gesture]… They do not know how. Teach children to pray, because they arrive immediately to the Heart of Jesus. Jesus loves them. And I say to young people, teach others that prayer is a great way to move forward in life. Thank you, Sister, for what you do. Thank you.
5. I was pleased to hear Diego’s enthusiasm (Guatemala) in fostering a meeting between grandparents and grandchildren to pray for world peace and for the big challenges of humanity today. In the Pope’s Prayer Network several generations meet. It is nice to think of how the elderly can be an example to young people, showing them the path of prayer. The wisdom of the elderly shows their experience and ability to “reason” with the heart. Somebody could say: “But, father, one reasons with the head!” No, it is not true: we reason with the head and the heart. We must develop this capacity to reason with the heart. The experience of the elderly is a precious teaching to help us learn a fruitful method for our prayer of intercession. Prayer of intercession is a great prayer: “Lord, I ask you for this, I ask you for that…”. And in fact, interceding is what Jesus does in heaven, because the Bible tells us that Jesus is before the Father and intercedes for us. He is our intercessor, and we must imitate him, we must become intercessors. Throughout history, God’s greatest men and women have been intercessors like Jesus. Let us intercede.
6. Finally, I thank Father Antonio (Portugal) for his testimony. He told us how the Apostleship of Prayer, by entering the digital world, brings together the elderly and the young, giving new vitality to the traditional Apostleship of Prayer. It is necessary that the mission of the Church be adapted to the times and use the modern tools that technology makes available. It is a matter of going to the modern arenas to proclaim God’s mercy and goodness. It is necessary, however, to be alert. We must use these means, especially the Internet, without becoming servants of the means. We must avoid becoming hostages of a web that ends up capturing us, instead of “fishing for fish”, that is, attracting souls to bring them to the Lord.
I renew to each of you my sincere thanks for your precious activity, which springs from a heart truly attentive to others. The Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, in communion with him, recalls that the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer. Be keen on this: the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer. We can do many things, but without prayer, they will not work. The heart of it is prayer. I encourage you to continue with joy, aware of how important and necessary your work is. You help people have a spiritual gaze, a gaze of faith towards the reality that surrounds them, realizing what God Himself is doing in people. This it is a great gaze of hope! Thank you so much!
I would also like to thank the Society of Jesus. People think that Jesuits are intellectuals, those that do the thinking… However, the Jesuits created this Network of prayer. The Jesuits are men who pray, and this is very good. And also, in a special way, I would like to thank the dedication and creativity of Father Fornos: thank you, brother!
Now we will all have a moment of prayer together, to signify the importance of this and to intercede all together looking to Jesus. First of all we will do it in silence, we all pray with the heart.
[Worldwide Prayer Network prayer]
Now let us pray for the intentions that have been proposed by me to the whole Church for the month of July:
(write here the official English translations…)
Let us pray that priests, through the modesty and humility of their lives, commit themselves actively to a solidarity with those who are most poor. All together we say: “Let us pray”. And in silence we pray…
Let us pray that that those who administer justice may work with integrity, and that the injustice which prevails in the world may not have the last word.
[Our Father and Blessing]
Translation – Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network