REFLECTIONS ON THE POPE'S MONTHLY INTENTIONS
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.
There are about 2.2 million people in 4,575 U.S. prisons. Each one is a person made in the image and likeness of God, someone for whom Jesus suffered and died. They and prisoners around the world need our prayers to learn to live a life of dignity in often dehumanizing circumstances.
One of our early members, St. Therese of Lisieux, began praying for a prisoner named Henri Pranzini when she was 13. He had murdered two women and a girl and was sentenced to death. She was afraid that he was going to die unrepentant and alienated from God. She joined various sacrifices to her prayers, skipping dessert and offering up unpleasant tasks—all for his conversion.
The day of his execution came and went, and Therese wanted to find out if he had gone to confession before he died. But her father had forbidden his children from reading the papers. Therese wrote in her autobiography: “I didn’t think I was disobeying when reading the passages pertaining to Pranzini.” In doing so she discovered that he had not gone to confession, but that, at the very last second, he lifted his head from the guillotine and kissed the cross that the priest was holding out to him three times. Then, Therese wrote, “his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of Him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance.”
Therese was convinced that her prayers and sacrifices had played a role in that last-second conversion. She called Pranzini “my first child.”
In a world that Pope Francis calls a “disposable culture,” it’s easy to forget those who are locked away from society. This month we want to remember them in a special way. We believe that our prayers, like those of a 13-year-old member of the Apostleship of Prayer, can work miracles of conversion and healing.
What is my attitude toward those in prison? How can I see God’s image in them?
Acts 16: 16-34 Paul and Silas sing hymns in prison while others listen.
In the last few months there has been a lot of turmoil in the Church over the Extraordinary Synod and next fall’s Regular Synod of Bishops. The focus is on the family “as the essential agent in the work of evangelization.” It’s within the family that the future generations will hear the Gospel and grow in the faith.
The family itself is a witness to the world of God’s love. The marriage of a man and a woman is a sign to the world of the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church. Since the relationship between Christ and the Church is permanent, faithful, and fruitful, married couples are called to witness to those same qualities.
The final document of the Extraordinary Synod said that “separation and divorce are always wounds which cause deep suffering to the married couple and to their children.” They also have “serious consequences for society as a whole.”
“In accordance with Christ’s mercy, the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and lost love, by restoring in them hope and confidence…. Merciful love, as it attracts and unites, transforms and elevates. It is an invitation to conversion.”
Pope Francis has called the Church a “field hospital.” We share his concern for the wounded of our world, while at the same time we never forget the obligation to address the root causes of their brokenness. As we pray for separated spouses, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us find ways, in the words of the final document, “to accompany these people with solicitude” and “great respect.”
How am I and my community reaching out to and supporting spouses who are separated?
Ephesians 5: 31-33 The two shall become one flesh. I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.
Jesus, crucified as victim and convict, remember us who turn to you. Remember us with the healing and peace that only you can give to lives that are broken and lost. Remember us this day and everyday that we may be one with you in paradise. Amen .
--from the Dismas Ministry’s Union of Prayer which unites people on both sides of prison walls: www.dismasministry.org
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