April Prayer Intention
On the final day of March, we heard in the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, that well-known parable of the Prodigal Son. This parable carries the most beautiful and profound message of the immense and limitless love of God and we are reminded once more as we prepare for Easter that God’s love for us is not dependent upon our love for him, it is a gift freely given.
Easter is a joyful celebration, and yet, each year as Catholic families fill our churches during on Easter Day eager to celebrate the resurrection, many will note with sadness those children, parents, spouses, or siblings who are absent because they have broken with the faith. During the month of April, we are praying together for all those, known and unknown to us, who have stopped practising their faith.
How many Catholics have drifted away from the Church at some point during their lifetime? Let's be honest now, God knows all. It is very, very common and many people who are currently in our churches every Sunday have, at some point in their lives, stopped practising their faith. So it is something that we understand. We are not shocked by it or ‘disappointed’ in those who stop coming, we only are saddened by it. Saddened for them and for us. Saddened only out of love, as a family bereaved at the loss of a member. The Church is here for all: the fervent and the lukewarm, those confident in their faith and those who are unsure, the weekly Mass attenders and those who only come at Christmas and Easter. God loves us all equally. When it comes to God’s love, the playing field is entirely level and He knows, loves and calls each of us by name. This is the abundant wonder and the beauty of God’s love. The practice of our Catholic faith opens our eyes to that love, it warms our hearts as we feel his presence in our lives and it brings us closer not only to him but to our fellow human beings. It is a heartfelt desire to share the joy of knowing Jesus that leads us to pray for the return of those who have wandered from the Church.
Do we just do the minimum required of us?
If we take time to pray, if we try to attend an extra Mass or service in a week, if we perform good works for the Church or a charity then not only are we improving our faith, but we are also setting a silent example to our neighbours, friends and family.
We pray that the grace we receive will be shared with tthose who no longer attend and open their hearts once again to Jesus Christ.
Do our children go to Catholic school? If so, do we play our full part in their faith education? If our children are not at Catholic school, are we careful to ensure that they receive a good faith education from home and by interaction with the parish and all it has to offer?
To try and avoid our children growing up and drifting away from the Church they need the foundation of a good Catholic Education.
Catholic schools, with Religious Education at their core, exist in order to help parents, priests and teachers to hand on the faith in its fullness to a new generation of young people so that they may come to understand the richness of the Catholic faith, and thereby be drawn into a deeper communion with Christ in his Church.
As parents, we are bound by the most serious obligation to educate our offspring and therefore must be recognised as the primary and principal educators.
Here our Church can and does help through programmes such as First Holy Communion and Confirmation. We also have several youth groups for all ages where the young are exposed to the teachings of the Bible and prayer in a relaxed environment.
If used correctly, the internet and social media can be used to communicate our faith both within our practising community and to the non-churchgoer. Care must be taken that our message is up to date, always based on our faith and does not preach to or offend our audience.
Pope Francis observes:
The internet, text messages and social networks are ‘a gift from God’, Pope Francis has said.
Francis made his comments in a message, entitled Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter, for the 50th World Day of Social Communications released by the Vatican.
The release of the message came as Pope Francis welcomed Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, to the Vatican. A week earlier, the Pontiff held a meeting with Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet.
In his message, Pope Francis said that “emails, text messages, social networks and chats” can be “fully human forms of communication”.
“It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal,” the Pope said.
He added: “Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as ‘closeness’.”
However, Francis also warned of “unfair attacks” that can take place online: “Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarisation and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks,” the pope said.
The internet can, the Pope said, “help us to be better citizens”, but “access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbour whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected.”
“The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing,” Francis added.
Welcoming at Mass is not just for the Welcomers at the door of the Church, it is also down to each of us. Whether the person or family coming through the door and joining us in the pews is a regular, a visitor, or a returning Catholic. The more they feel welcome in our community the more it will enhance the possibility that they will return.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the ability of a first-time visitor to have a meaningful experience of Christ in the liturgy is directly impacted by the warmth of the welcome extended by the local worshipping community. When people say hello, the worship experience is enhanced. A warm welcome is part of evangelisation, work necessary in the church’s mission to help people discover or renew faith in Christ.
How do we treat the unknown person who walks by us in church, or who sits next to us at Mass? Do we ignore them? Talk around them? Look at them and say nothing? Do we take the initiative to greet them, smile, extend a warm handshake?
Many of us have family and/or friends who have stopped coming to Church. Let us pray that Jesus Christ may awaken the desire in them to return, and perhaps a gentle word of encouragement from us would also help.
May the solemnities of Passtiontide and Easter open the door for all to return to the arms of our loving God. Amen.
During this month, we encourage you to light a candle and say a prayer for each of your loved ones who have fallen away from the faith. Please also remember in your prayers those who have lost all connection with the Church and have no one to pray for them.
Saint John Paul II was a great supporter of the Christian family and a faithful shepherd who sought the return of fallen away Catholics.
Prayer to Saint John Paul II for the Return of Lapsed Catholics
Saint John Paul II, you worked tirelessly for the return of those separated from God and cut off from His Church. We ask you to intercede for all who have fallen away from the practice of their faith. May God’s grace bring them back and remove all obstacles that prevent them from receiving His abundant mercy, which flows sacramentally through the heart of His holy Church. May we all receive pardon for our sins and freedom from whatever hinders our return to the arms of the Forgiving Father. Amen.
Mary, Mother of the Holy Family,
Obtain for us from Jesus the light we need to keep our children in the Catholic faith.
Ask your Son to give us the strength we need to bring our families to heaven, to the arms of the loving God from whom they came.