[Editor's Note: Apostleship of Prayer receives monthly prayer intentions from Pope Benedict XVI and urges Christians throughout the world to unite in prayer for those intentions. The reflections below seek to illuminate the Holy Father's concerns.]
Romanian Assembly. That the ecumenical assembly in Romania this month may contribute to the growth of unity among all Christians.
Pope Benedict is concerned about the Church in Europe, a continent that has seen a long decline in all traditional Christian churches. Europe seems to have forgotten its first love, the Crucified and the Risen Jesus Christ, and the darkness of relativism has invaded all the institutions of Europe.
Opposing this darkness, the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly has chosen this theme: "The light of Christ shines upon all. Hope for renewal and unity in Europe." Ironically, the diminished churches bring an opportunity for greater unity as 3,000 delegates gather in Sibiu, Romania, September 4-8.
This meeting culminates a "pilgrimage" of the major Christian traditions of Europe as they listen together to the Word of Christ and seek the essence of what makes us Christian. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed that all his followers might be one in him. He knew how easily divisions set in, even among sincere followers.
With Jesus, we pray that the assembly delegates may grow in understanding, love, and unity through the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray for the light of Christ on them as they discuss many topics, including the visible unity of the Church, the reconciliation between peoples and cultures, the safeguarding of creation, and the dialogue with other religions and philosophical viewpoints, starting with Judaism and Islam.
We pray that they may set in motion a powerful unification of all Christians in Europe and throughout the world.
Do you know someone from a different tradition who follows Jesus? Ignoring all that divides you for a moment, can you think of a way to express your oneness with him or her?
John 17:20-23 — Jesus prays that "they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us."
Missionaries. That, following Christ joyfully, all missionaries may know how to overcome the difficulties they meet in everyday life.
While celebrating Eucharist with fellow bishops in Brazil this past May, Pope Benedict spoke of the missionary nature of the Church. As Jesus was the missionary of the Father, so the Church extends Christ's love throughout the world.
What difficulties face today's missionaries? According to the Holy Father, "secularized culture, the crisis of the family, the drop in vocations, the aging of the clergy, churches closing in on themselves, and lowered hopes" are difficulties more formidable than perilous travel, primitive life, and savage rejection such as have afflicted past missionary efforts.
Some of today's greatest missionary difficulties arise from the need to re-evangelize formerly Christian nations and peoples.
We pray in obedience to the Holy Father that missionaries may be full of Christ's joy. We pray that their joy will give them strength and understanding needed to overcome the serious difficulties they face in their work.
Rather than lose hope ourselves, we ask God to make us passionate about evangelization in all its forms. Let us see new opportunities in new technologies. Let us welcome missionaries into our own midst. And, most of all, let us give ourselves to the missions in our prayers. We Apostles of Prayer seek everyday to "be apostles now." We venture by our prayers into all the difficulties faced by the men and women missionaries we support.
With joy, with hope, we offer ourselves in prayer for missionaries today. We will offer ourselves again tomorrow — and again and again — until God's Kingdom comes.
God has worked against severe difficulties to spread His Kingdom throughout two millennia. As we face new difficulties in our missionary activities, is there any reason for new hope, new joy?
Hebrews 11:32-40 — "…who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises, closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful…"
Daily Offering Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
Prayer of the Month
Merciful Lord Jesus, our Savior,
look down with pity upon the prayers and sighs of your unworthy and sinful servants who humble have recourse to you, and unite us all again in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Shed upon our souls your inextinguishable light.
Cause all religious discord to disappear;
grant us to praise you, with one heart and one voice,
so that all may know we are your faithful followers and beloved children.
Most Merciful Lord,
hasten the fulfillment of your promise that there would be but one flock
and one Shepherd in your Church.
Grant that we may be made worthy to praise your holy name always,
now and forever, unto ages of ages. Amen.
(Blessed Leonid Feodorov, 1879 – 1935, Exarch or Bishop of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church)