Pope Francis Missionary Intention for April
"That persecuted Christians may feel the consoling presence of the Risen Lord and the solidarity of all the Church." Let us pray.
In the last part of his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites us to reflect on how the Risen Jesus came to the apostles to comfort and strengthen them. He writes: "Consider the office of consoler that Christ our Lord exercises, and compare it with the way in which friends are wont to console each other."
This month Pope Francis asks us to pray that our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted may feel the consoling presence of the Risen Lord. Though physically distant from us, they are spiritually close.
Persecution is increasing. Last November Prince Charles presented to the British Parliament the Religious Freedom in the World Report 2014, a survey conducted by journalists and scholars and published by Aid to the Church in Need. The report stated that religious freedom was curtailed to some degree in 115 of the world's 196 nations. Active persecution was taking place in 20 countries. In 14 of those countries, Muslim extremists were responsible, while in 6 of them Christians suffered at the hands of authoritarian and atheistic regimes.
Pope Francis believes persecution should bring Christians of all denominations together. "The blood of Jesus," he said, "poured out by many Christian martyrs in various parts of the world, calls us and compels us towards the goal of unity. For persecutors, we are not divided. We are one in their eyes! For persecutors we are Christians! This is the ecumenism of blood that we experience today."
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.
Pope Francis General Intention for April
"That people may learn to respect creation and care for it as a gift of God." Let us pray.
Speaking to the Italian Catholic Adult Scout Movement, Pope Francis said: "Our time cannot neglect the ecological question, which is vital for man's survival, or reduce it to merely political questions: it is, in fact, a moral dimension that touches all, so that no one can be indifferent to it."
Then he told them: "To live in closer contact with nature as you do implies not only respect for it, but also the commitment to contribute concretely to eliminate the wastefulness of a society that tends increasingly to dispose of goods that are still usable and which can be given to those who are in need."
Pope Francis is concerned that our misuse of creation is contributing to the devastation of the earth and jeopardizing the well-being of future generations.
On All Saints Day he said: "We destroy creation, we devastate lives. Destroying what God has given us, the most beautiful things that he has done for us. Man takes possession of everything, believes he is god, believes he is the king."
Human beings are not gods. We are stewards, care-takers, of creation and must use it according to the will of the Creator. We may feel that what we do or don't do is so small that it doesn't make a difference. But Pope Francis reminds us in The Joy of the Gospel: "Small yet strong in the love of God, like St. Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples."
Scripture: Isaiah 45: 8-13 It is I who made the earth.
Prayer Intention of the Institute for April
"That the celebration of Easter may strengthen and unite in the faith all who in one way or another contribute to the missionary endeavour of the Church. Lord hear us."
Fleeing Boko Haram
They flee, leaving everything behind them. They find shelter with relatives and friends. Only a few of them prefer to go to the official centres administered by the government. Director of Caritas Nigeria urges: "Camps with adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities are urgently needed."
Only ten months ago, Mohammed Bashiru was an entrepreneur living a comfortable life in Gwoza, a town in northeastern Nigeria. He has now become homeless and jobless. His life was turned upside down the night when the Boko Haram militiamen attacked the city, which is now the capital of the "Caliphate".
More than half a million people are estimated to have been displaced from their homes due to Boko Haram terrorist attacks. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 90% of displaced people prefer to stay with relatives and friends rather than in the camps administrated by the government. A fact which shows how values such as hospitality and autonomy are typical of Nigerian society.
The state's capital Maiduguri is the first city where civilians seek shelter. The city, which was once a gateway for trade with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, has been attacked twice by Boko Haram militiamen in recent weeks. Now soldiers, not only Nigerians, are everywhere in Maiduguri. Thousands of civilians flee as refugees to the middle belt of Nigeria.
Halima Rahama ran away from Yajiwa, a town located 40 kilometers from Maiduguri. She says: "The militiamen arrived in the afternoon and camped at our village. They robbed animals and food. While they were there, an airstrike took place, the bombing destroyed our homes but missed our attackers. The day after, Boko Haram militiamen came back and ordered people to gather in the central square of the village, ostensibly to listen to preaching, the militiamen, instead, opened fire on people and killed 50 of them."
Prayer of the Month
Lord help us and give us the grace of hope. Give us the grace of courage to emerge from all this destruction, devastation, relativism of life, the exclusion of others, exclusion of values, exclusion of all that the Lord has given us, the exclusion of peace. Deliver us from this and give us the grace to walk in the hope of finding ourselves one day face-to-face with you, Lord. Amen.
--from Pope Francis' 2014 All Saints Day homily