Holy Father’s March Prayer Intentions

General Intention

Dignity of Women. That all nations of our world may grow in appreciation of the dignity and value of women and their roles in society.

Pope Benedict XVI asks us to pray that the world may grow in its appreciation of the dignity of women. The Church has much to say on this topic — some question whether the Church has practiced what it has preached.

The Scriptures say: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen.1:27). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that men and women are equal in dignity, both expressing the goodness of God (369). Sadly, in this world both are often subjected t humiliation. Women receive a disproportionate share of humiliation. If we ourselves haven’t experienced it, we have all observed the humiliation of women in some form. Women are abused physically, economically, educationally, psychologically, and socially. Misogyny (disrespect for women) runs deep and long through many cultures all over the world, including our own. Just as the Church opposes racism, it opposes sexism. It wants us all to be aware of the prevailing disrespect for women and to pray, speak, and act to end it.

Many criticize the Church for not going far enough, seeing, for example, its refusal to consider women’s ordination as evidence of hypocrisy. Without time to review specific arguments, we need only to understand that “equal in dignity” does not mean men and women are the same. Each gender expresses the goodness of God in different ways, and each occupies different roles in society. Exactly what those roles are and can be, we are still discovering. For indeed there was a time not long ago that well-meaning Christians believed that a lay woman’s only role is that of homemaker. We are learning that women have gifts for many things.

But it’s a mistake to think that women achieve equality when they do exactly what men do. Women and men complement each other in expressing different aspects of the image of God, equally valuable; so also men and women complement each other in their roles in society. Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II both spoke of the genius of women, recognizing in women, among other admirable traits, a tendency towards holiness, cultural sensitivity, and caring hearts and hands.

Reflection — How may you show respect for a woman today?

Scripture — Matthew 27:55 There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.

Mission Intention

Church Unity in China. That all the bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and laity of the Catholic Church in China may strive to be instruments of unity, communion, and peace, as enjoined by the letter sent to them by Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict wrote a long letter to Chinese Catholics in the summer of 2007, and unity was its theme. He expressed happiness that the Church is emerging in China and, along with the nation itself, entering into a new relationship with the rest of the world.

The Pope asks us to pray for the unity of the Chinese Church because it is now divided. The official Church has its bishops appointed by the state. Meanwhile, an underground Church exists, with bishops appointed by the Vatican. The Pope understands that without unity between these two it will be difficult for the faith to grow in China.

Pope Benedict asked Chinese political leaders to recognize the “unrenounceable principles” of separation between Church and state, at the same time urging Chinese Church leaders to seek unity with the universal Church. Political and spiritual leaders both must act because the Chinese Church cannot achieve full unity with the Holy See as long as the state continues to appoint bishops. The Pope asked Chinese political leaders to recognize that a Church anchored in Rome poses no threat to the state. Although he addressed political problems, the Pope does not see the challenge of China so much as a political struggle as a spiritual duty.

The Chinese Church must introduce people to Jesus Christ, who died to take away the sins of the whole world and to restore all humanity to friendship with God. This relationship with God transcends politics and culture.

In his letter, our Holy Father expressed great respect and admiration for Chinese people, culture, and leaders. He said he hopes China will become a truly modern state, responsive to international agreements that ensure the rights of people and protect the environment.

We pray that the Chinese Church will unite with the whole Church to preach Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He is with the Church always, already establishing the Kingdom of God among all peoples, making us one.

Reflection — Why is unity so important for missionary work?

Scripture — Acts 1:8-9 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

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

Father, I pray that Catholics in China may renew their communion in our Lord Jesus Christ in faithfulness to the Pope. May they receive Your grace to love their enemies and rejoice that, though they may suffer trials, their faith, like gold tested by fire, may redound to praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. May Catholics throughout the world show solidarity with the Chinese Church through their prayers and works.

-Adapted from Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to the Church in China

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