December 2016

Universal Intention

End to Child Soldiers: That the scandal of child soldiers may be eliminated the world over.

Since World War II international law has tried to protect children from military exploitation by declaring that having child soldiers constitutes a war crime. One would think that with such laws the world would become more civilized. But the scandalous reality is far different. There are more child soldiers today than at any other time in history.

One estimate puts the figure at 300,000 children in at least twenty countries, mostly in Africa. In the last fifteen years 10,000 children were kidnapped by the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in northern Uganda and forced to fight. Compared to adults, children are easier to manipulate, they don’t eat much, and do not have a highly developed sense of danger, thus making it easy to send them into the line of fire. Children are prized because they are “pure” and are sometimes believed to have magic powers that protect them.

Last August, Monsignor Simon Kassas, representing the Vatican at the United Nations, told the Security Council: “Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such violent brutality: children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves, and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations. These crimes must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

This month we remember in a special way how the Son of God came to earth as a child. May the Prince of Peace inspire all people of good will to pray and work for the elimination of the scandal of child soldiers.

Reflect
In what ways is the phenomenon of child soldiers a pro-life issue?

Scripture 

Mark 10: 13-16 Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”

Evangelization Intention

Europe: That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.

Last spring, when Pope Francis received the Charlemagne Prize, he provocatively asked the European dignitaries who bestowed the honor: “What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?” He said “that there is a growing impression that Europe is weary, aging, no longer fertile and vital, that the great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their appeal.”

What ideals? Truth, beauty, and goodness. The dignity and value of every human life and a society that strives for the common good of all. In an address to the European Parliament, Pope Francis said these ideals are rooted in “openness to the transcendent—to God—which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe.”
He warned: “A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its soul and that ‘humanistic spirit’ which it still loves and defends.”

He concluded his speech with a challenge: “The time has come for us to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends, and protects man, every man and woman.”

As Christianity was the source of Europe’s “lofty ideals” so it has an essential role to play in their revival. We join Pope Francis in praying that the people of Europe will be open to the joy and hope of the Gospel.

Reflect
What elements of Jesus’ teaching that we find in the Gospels are the foundation of the humanistic spirit and lofty ideals that our world needs?

Scripture
Acts 17: 22-31 Paul said, “God is not far from any one of us.”

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November 2016

Universal Intention

Countries Receiving Refugees: That the countries which take in a great number of displaced persons and refugees may find support for their efforts which show solidarity. 

Every year we pray for refugees, but this month Pope Francis asks us to pray with him for the countries that receive refugees.

Where do most of the world’s refugees come from? It should be easy to guess because 54 percent of the millions of refugees in the world come from three countries embroiled in war and religious persecution—Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Other notable countries from which people are fleeing in the millions are Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.  

Which countries host the most refugees? It’s no surprise that they are the more stable countries that border the areas of conflict—Turkey, Pakistan, and Lebanon. In 2011 there were 8,000 refugees in Lebanon. As a result of the Syrian conflict, the number swelled to 1.15 million in 2014. That’s a ratio of 232 refugees per 1,000 residents. Imagine if our own country was faced with that situation!  

Lebanon is not a wealthy country loaded with the resources necessary to provide for the basic needs of refugees. Its government is limited in what it can do. It and the other countries receiving refugees must rely on the help of outside organizations.

One such organization is Jesuit Refugee Service—Middle East and North Africa (www.jrsmena.org). Besides providing emergency assistance to Syrian refugees, they also meet needs that governments are unable to meet, such as psychosocial support and education. Our faith-filled prayers are powerful, especially when we join acts of charity to them. In this way our solidarity with those most in need will make the biggest difference.

Reflect
What does it mean for me to be in solidarity with refugees in other parts of the world?

Scripture 
Leviticus 19: 33-34 Have the same love for the alien as you have for yourself.


Evangelization Intention

Collaboration of Priests and Laity: That within parishes, priests and lay people may collaborate in service to the community without giving in to the temptation of discouragement.

We often talk about the good old days when things were better.  We even have the idea that in the good old days of the early Church there was only harmony and peace. Not so. A quick reading of the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul reveals many conflicts. Some were due to ethnic and racial differences (Acts 6: 1), different theological views (Acts 15: 1-2; Galatians 2: 11-14), or jealousy (1 Corinthians 1: 10-12).

It’s hard to believe that good people, working together for a good cause, trying to serve God, end up fighting. This can lead to discouragement which in turn leads to people walking away from God’s service.

Doesn’t that sound like something the devil wants? The Holy Spirit—the Paraclete, a word that means the Consoler or Encourager—never uses discouragement to motivate us. The Evil Spirit, enemy of God and of humanity, sows seeds of division and wants to lead us down a path of discouragement and despair.

Pope Francis said: “Let us always remember that the Adversary wants to keep us separated from God and therefore instills disappointment in our hearts. Every day the devil sows the seeds of pessimism and bitterness in our hearts. Let us open ourselves to the breath of the Holy Spirit, who never ceases to sow seeds of hope and confidence.”

We ask the Holy Spirit this month to bless our parish communities with all the graces necessary to overcome those things that lead to division. May priests and lay people recognize one another’s unique gifts and use them to build up the Church and not weaken it.  

Reflect
In my own parish or community, what are some of the things that lead to division and discouragement?

Scripture
Romans 16: 17-20 Be wise as to what is good and simple as to what is evil.


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