On the Pope's Heart: March 2016
Prayer for March 2016: Families in Difficulty and Persecuted Christians
Pope Francis' universal prayer intention for March 2016 is that "families in need may receive the necessary support and that children may grow up in healthy and peaceful environments".
The family has been so central to Pope Francis' teaching ministry. Throughout 2015, Pope Francis dedicated his remarks during each General Audience to family matters. The year 2015 was sandwiched by two General Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops called by the Pope to focus specifically on the family: the first Assembly taking place in October of 2014, and the second taking place in October of 2015. Mere weeks before the second assembly occurred in Rome, Pope Francis traveled to the United States to attend the World Meeting of Families.
Pope Francis' concern for the centrality of the family in the Church and in the world is clear. He sees the family as a a gauge of how the Church is doing, and how the world is doing. Families that suffer spiritually are evidence that the Church is failing to pastor them, and families that suffer materially are evidence of a global economy that disregards the poor.
The Holy Father's attitude is summed up well in this quote from an address he made to Cuban Families in September of 2015:
Amid all the difficulties troubling our families in our world today, please, never forget one thing: families are not a problem, they are first and foremost an opportunity. An opportunity which we have to care for, protect and support.
We join with Pope Francis in praying that we may me recognize the beauty of the family, and see each family as a blessing and not a burden. May we each discern how we are called to serve and support other families, and may we be given the grace and strength to serve and support our own families.
Always with a heart for the vulnerable, Pope Francis prays this month, "that those Christians who, on account of their faith, are discriminated against or are being persecuted, may remain strong and faithful to the Gospel, thanks to the incessant prayer of the Church."
We live in a world where spiritual martyrs in the Middle East are increasingly forced to flee their homes because of persecution. While we enjoy religious freedom at home, others are quite literally killed for their religion. Of particular concern for us as Christians are those fellow Christians who are persecuted for the faith, though we of course remember all religious minorities in our prayers.
A focus of Pope Francis' efforts in forwarding Christian unity is the concept of the "ecumenism of blood". Pope Francis explains it well in this quote:
Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians.
The Holy Father goes on to say that even though Christians are divided by denomination, "we are united in blood." Christians of all demoninations are persecuted for our shared Christian faith. Simply for professing Christ as Lord are people forced from their homes or executed. So it is fitting and important that the Holy Father's evangelization intention for this month is one of prayer for persecuted Christians, without regard for denomination.
Also important is the fact that he emphasizes the role of constant prayer on the part of the whole Church. Prayer works, and by prayer all persecuted Christians will be strengthened in spirit.
Lord, you have made each family a reflection of Your steadfast love. Give us the grace to make our families and homes places of mercy. Give us the grace also to look outside of our own families for opportunities to lift up others. Help us to search out ways for other families to enjoy the same peace we enjoy. In particular, we ask for a heart of concern for those Christian families who are torn apart or made to suffer because of their trust in Your Gospel. May our prayers for persecuted Christians be constant.
To stay in touch with what Pope Francis is praying about, be sure to check in with Apostleship of Prayer, the Holy Father's worldwide prayer network. Thank you for taking a moment for the Pope's intentions this month. God bless.