May 2016

UNIVERSAL INTENTION

Respect for Women. That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed. In the words of Pope Francis, Mary is “the true and sublime example of woman.”  

It’s inconceivable to think of the apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit at Pentecost without Mary praying with them. For it was she who conceived by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus, the one who called and sent the apostles to continue his work. 

Women have, in Pope Francis’ words, an “irreplaceable role.” Speaking to the Pontifical Council for Culture, he said: “I encourage the contribution of so many women who work within the family, in the areas of teaching the faith, pastoral work, schooling, but also in social, cultural, and economic structures. You women know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated into a willingness to give time rather than to occupy space, to welcome rather than to exclude.”

Throughout the world, unfortunately, women are not only excluded but under attack. The pope went on: “The many forms of slavery, of prostitution, of mutilation of the female body, require us to set to work to defeat these forms of degradation which reduce it to purely an object to be sold on the various markets. I would like to call attention, in this context, to the plight of so many poor women, forced to live in dangerous conditions, exploited, relegated to the margins of society, and rendered victims of a throwaway culture.”

Perhaps the most common degradation of women is pornography, which the U.S. bishops have said “is so pervasive in sectors of our society that it is difficult to avoid, challenging to remove, and has negative effects that go beyond any one person’s actions.”

And so we pray with Pope Francis that women may not only be respected, but that their contribution to the good of the family and society may be recognized and esteemed.

Reflect
What qualities and actions of Mary made her “the true and sublime example of woman”?

Scripture
1 Timothy 5: 1-2 Treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters with complete purity. 


EVANGELIZATION INTENTION

Holy Rosary. That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace. 

The rosary is a powerful prayer which is very important to Pope Francis. He said he was inspired by Pope St. John Paul II to pray it faithfully.

He said: “If I remember well, it was 1985. One evening I went to recite the Holy Rosary that was being led by the Holy Father. He was in front of everybody, on his knees. The group was numerous; I saw the Holy Father from the back and, little by little, I got lost in prayer. I was not alone: I was praying in the middle of the people of God to which I and all those there belonged, led by our Pastor.

“In the middle of the prayer I became distracted, looking at the figure of the Pope: his piety, his devotion was a witness. I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Don’t be afraid, am I not perhaps your mother?’ I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope. From that time on
I recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day.”

Throughout history popes have asked the faithful to pray the rosary when Christianity and civilization were threatened.  Pope Francis asks us to do the same.  He said: “Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this ‘suffering’ dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.”  

In this month dedicated to Mary, we honor her by following in the great tradition of using the non-violent weapon of the rosary, praying for peace and the spread of the Gospel of Mercy.

Reflect
What role has the rosary played in my own spiritual life?

Scripture
Luke 2: 15-20 Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

April 2016

UNIVERSAL INTENTION
Small Farmers: That small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor.

Seventy-two percent of the world’s farms are less than 2.5 acres in size.  In the U.S., 90 percent of the 2.1 million farms are considered small, family farms, and many of them are struggling.

Though prices have gone up in supermarkets, the income of farmers has not. As a result, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the largest job loss of any occupation is farmers. When the small farms go out of business, often large agri-businesses acquire the land and create greater potential for ecological damage and health risks. For example, a single fast food hamburger may contain meat from more than a hundred different cattle.

For Pope Francis small farmers are essential to caring for the earth and safeguarding it for future generations. He said that “in the work of farmers there is the acceptance of the precious gift of the land which comes to us from God, but there is also its appreciation in the equally precious work of men and women, called to respond to the mandate of tilling and safeguarding the land (Genesis 2: 15).” 

Agricultural workers should receive a just wage. As the pope said, “The labor of those who cultivate the earth, generously dedicating time and energy to it, appears as a genuine vocation. It deserves to be recognized and appropriately appreciated, also in concrete economic policies.”

With the coming of spring, we pray for those on small farms who are busy planting. May they not only have an abundant harvest this year but also “receive a just reward for their precious labor.” 

Reflection
Besides a greater concern for the land, what other values do family farms contribute to the good of society?

Scripture
 2 Timothy 2: 6  “The hardworking farmer ought to have the first share of the crop.”


EVANGELIZATION INTENTION
African Christians: That Christians in Africa may give witness to love and faith in Jesus Christ amid political-religious conflicts.

With over 420 million Christians (38.3 percent of the population), Africa is the fastest growing continent for Christianity. It is also a place where many Christians are threatened with violence.  In 2013 in Kenya, where 60 percent of the population is Christian, a terrorist group attacked a shopping mall and killed 67 people. Last April the same group killed 148 mostly Christian students at Garissa University College.

In November Pope Francis visited African countries beset by violence with a message of reconciliation.

He told the bishops of Kenya that the Church “must always be true to her mission as an instrument of reconciliation, justice, and peace. May you strengthen your commitment to working with Christian and non-Christian leaders alike, in promoting peace and justice in your country through dialogue, fraternity, and friendship. In this way you will be able to offer a more unified and courageous denunciation of all violence, especially that committed in the name of God.”

He went on to say that “the united and selfless efforts of many Catholics in Kenya are a beautiful witness and example for the country. In so many ways, the Church is called to offer hope to the broader culture, a hope based on her unstinting witness to the newness of life promised by Christ in the Gospel.”

We have just celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus, recalling that the hatred that killed him was infinitely less powerful than his love. Convinced of that love, we pray that our African brothers and sisters may give witness to it amidst their struggles.

Reflection
How have I experienced the fact that love is the only force capable of changing the world for good?

Scripture
Romans 12: 9-21  “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”