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July 2014

Editor's Note: Apostleship of Prayer receives monthly prayer intentions from the pope and urges Christians throughout the world to unite in prayer for those intentions. The reflections below seek to illuminate the Holy Father's concerns.

Universal Intention - Sports

That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.

Pope Francis is a great sports fan. He appreciates the value of sports. He even called sports a “most noble vocation.” Why would he say that? Pope Francis with Carlos Tevez

Several reasons. The Pope said, “engaging in sports rouses us to go beyond ourselves and our own self interests in a healthy way; it trains the spirit in sacrifice.” Sporting events, ideally, “display beauty, generosity, and camaraderie.” He said that “the language of sports is universal; it extends across borders, language, race, religion, and ideology. It possesses the capacity to unite people.”

But Pope Francis is concerned that sports lose something when they become “big business.” Big business sports seek “victory at any cost” and “runs the risk of reducing athletes to mere merchandise for the increasing of profit.” When winning becomes everything and players are seen as objects, “harmony is broken.”

The Pope has a message for athletes too. Addressing players from the national football (soccer) teams of Italy and Argentina, Pope Francis challenged them: “You are very popular: people follow you very closely and not only on the field but also off it. This is a social responsibility!” He went on to say: “You are a role model for better or for worse. Be aware of this and be an example of loyalty, respect, and altruism. You are also builders of concord and social peace of which all are in such great need. You are a reference point for many young people and a living model of real values.”

We join Pope Francis in praying this month that all those involved in sports.

In what ways am I challenged to keep sports in their proper perspective?

1 Corinthians 9: 24-26 Run so as to win.

Evangelization Intention - Lay Missionaries

That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.

In The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis wrote: “In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization.” Thus, “all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples” and “whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.”

Very often, in the past, the work of evangelization—of spreading the Gospel—was seen as something that priests, sisters, and brothers did. Now it is more clear than ever that everyone is called to witness to the faith so that society will be transformed. Pope Francis pointed out that the laity, in particular, must work for “a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political, and economic sectors.”

This task is urgent and involves a focus on those who are most victimized by sinful structures in society—the poor. As Pope Francis wrote, “God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself ‘became poor’ (2 Cor. 8: 9).” “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them.”

Moved with pity, we reach out in prayer to lay missionaries working in the poorest countries. May their proclamation of the Gospel bear fruit.

How is my conscience “troubled” as I reflect on the material and spiritual needs of people in the poorest countries?

Matthew 9: 35-38 At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity.

Prayer of the Month

Lord God, in sports and in life we seek a goal. This search—the search for the goal—is strenuous, it demands a struggle, a commitment. And it is important not to run alone! In order to arrive we must run together. We move forward together until we reach the goal. Then we celebrate! Help me live with the discipline necessary to attain my goal—eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

--from Pope Francis’ address to Italian and Argentine rugby teams


Links for July, 2014 Universal Intention

Links for July, 2014 Evangelization Intention

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