Address of John Paul II on the Apostleship of Prayer

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Address of April 13, 1985

Dear Brothers in Christ,

1. The World Congress of National Secretaries of the Apostleship of Prayer gives me the happy opportunity to greet you; you who have come to Rome from the five continents, and in particular the Very Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus and Director General of the Apostleship of Prayer, to whom goes my sincere thanks for this initiative.

In this Congress, you propose to study the way to proceed with this Work which for more than a century has rendered such great service in the apostolate of the Church, as a particularly well adapted and efficacious instrument.

The Apostleship of Prayer—which I have known and appreciated for many years—wants to highlight the apostolic value of prayer in the Church. This is based on St. Paul's exhortation who recommended prayers for all men as something "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour'' (1 Tim 2:3); on the efficaciousness of prayer in the name of Jesus (Jn 16:23ff.), in common (Mt 18:19ff.), with Mary Most Holy (Acts 1:14). By instilling the spirituality of the "offering'' in union with Christ's oblation in the Mass, the Apostolate of Prayer is right in the line of Conciliar teaching which presents the Eucharistic Sacrifice as the foundation, centre and culmination of all Christian life (cf. <Lumen Gentium, 11; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5; Ad gentes, 9>), and puts a just value on "the Prayer of the faithful'' that the Church has given back to the Eucharistic Celebration and the Liturgy of the Hours (cf. <Sacrosanctum Concilium, 53>).

2. The Apostleship of Prayer has always distinguished itself by its commitment to spread the devotion and the spirituality to the Heart of the Redeemer. In this you have followed the teachings and exhortations of my predecessors: Leo XIII who, in the Encyclical <Annum Sacrum> (25 May 1899), consecrated the whole human race to the Sacred Heart; Pius XI who, in the Encyclical <Miserentissimus Redemptor> (8 May 1928), inculcated consecration to the Heart of Jesus and the duty of reparation; Pius XII who wrote in the Encyclical <Haurietis Aquas> (15 May 1956) "The Heart of Jesus is the heart of a Divine Person, that is, of the Word Incarnate, and continues to put before our eyes all the love that he had and continues to have for us. For this very reason, the cult of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus must be held in such high esteem as to be considered as the most complete expression of the Christian religion (...) Therefore, it is easy to conclude that, in substance, the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the cult of love with which God has loved us through Jesus, and is the practice of our love for God and for others'' (<AAS> 48 (1956), 344ff.).

I wish also to recall my great predecessor, Paul VI who, in the Apostolic Letter <Investigabiles Divitias>, stressed the centrality of the devotion to the Heart of Jesus; "Since the Ecumenical council strongly recommends the pious exercises of the Christian people ... especially when they are accomplished in accordance with the Apostolic See, this form of devotion seems to be above all other devotions. In fact ... it is a cult that consists essentially in the adoration and reparation due to Christ Our Lord and it is founded principally on the august Eucharistic Mystery from which—as from the other liturgical actions—derive the sanctification of people and the glorification of God in Christ, to which converge, as to their end, all the Church's activities.'' (<AAS> 57 (1956), 300ff.).

Continue, therefore, to be evangelizers of him who is rich in mercy, because "the Church professes, in a particular manner, God's mercy and venerates it by turning to the Heart of Christ'' (<Dives in Misericordia, 13>).

3. Today I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Society of Jesus throughout the world for its great effort to spread and keep alive in all the faithful the "spirit of the redemption'', that sacred fire that must inflame the hearts of all Christians. The vitality of the spirit of offering, of immolation of Christian life, the awareness of collaborating in the work of redemption are attributed in large part to the Apostleship of Prayer. So also are the strength of the spirituality centered in the Heart of Jesus, the consecration of families, cities and nations to the Heart of Christ. The various editions of the "Sacred Heart Messengers'', the organ of the Apostleship of Prayer, have been and are a great and precious instrument for the diffusion in all languages of the spirituality of "consecration'' and "reparation'', essential for an authentic living of the mystery of the Heart of Christ.

This Congress of the National Secretaries of the Apostleship of Prayer occurs at a significant moment in the life of the Church, twenty years after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

From the beginning of my Pontificate, I have urged the faithful to adhere totally to Christ, Redeemer of man and of the world (Encyclical <Redemptor Hominis>); to live the merciful love of God for sinful humanity (enc. <Dives in Misericordia>). It is in this spirit that I wished to celebrate the extraordinary Holy Year of the Redemption, presenting the Crucified Christ as the definitive answer to the mystery of our humanity (Apostolic Letter <Salvifici Doloris>) to obtain the fruits of the Redemption and to collaborate in the work of this same Redemption.

4. The Apostleship of Prayer can bring a meaningful and concrete contribution to the diffusion, at all levels, of the great and consoling truth that all Christians can be intimately united to Christ the Redeemer by offering their own life to the Heart of Christ. I do not doubt that the Society of Jesus will continue to put its strength, its talents, its organization and its obedience at the service of such a high spiritual end. Again today, I entrust this commitment to the zeal of the Superior General, urging him to seek, in fidelity to the spirit of the Association, for more efficacious means adapted to our times to spread among all the faithful this awareness of collaborating with Christ the Redeemer through the offering of their own lives united and lived with the Heart of Christ in total consecration to his love and in reparation for the sins of the world. All this through the Immaculate Heart of Mary Most Holy, that heart which "is met spiritually in the heart of the Son opened by the soldier's lance'', that heart which "was opened by the same love for man and for the world, with which Christ has loved man and the world, offering himself on the Cross even unto that stroke of the soldier's lance''. (<Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II>, V, 2 (1982), pp. 1573-1582).

The promotion and vivification of this essential spirit must constitute the <raison d'&ecirc;tre> of the whole organization, structure and activity of the Apostleship of Prayer at this time. Special attention must be given to children and the young who constitute the "Youth Eucharistic Movement'', formerly known as the "Eucharistic Crusade'', and also the sick who, by their willingness to unite their sufferings to the Passion of Christ (cf. Ap. Letter <Salvifici Doloris>, 23-27) are powerful and privileged elements of the Association.

Moreover, you must strive to form Christians that are shaped by the Eucharist which gives them the strength to commit themselves generously to embrace all the dimensions of their own life in service of their brothers as the offered body of Christ and his blood which was shed (cf. Lk 22:19ff.).

In this perspective, continue, with ever renewed commitment, to recommend and spread the pious practice of the First Friday. Reconciled with God, the Church and his brothers through the Sacrament of Penance, the Christian is united and nourished in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, by the Heart of Jesus and participates in his work of offering and reparation.

5. You feel particularly bound to the Vicar of Christ and pray for him every day as the mother Church of Jerusalem did for Peter (Acts 12:4); and you wish to deepen and make known to Christians the concrete problems that trouble the Universal Church, especially those of the Missions. They are the object of attentive reflection which inspires knowledgeable and responsible prayer in the People of God. The prayer that you promote does not consist in the mere recitation of a formula but must rise from the hearts of the faithful, in awareness of their own situation as creatures, but also as beloved children of God, and in the consciousness of their own participation in the priestly, prophetic and royal function of Christ, by virtue of their union with him (cf. <Lumen Gentium>, 30-38). May your members be conscious of the sanctifying and apostolic value of their daily work which is seen as a collaboration in the work of God, Creator and Redeemer (Enc. <Laborem Exercens>, 25-27), as is also their suffering through which they are called to complete in their bodies what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ (Col 1:24; Apostolic Letter <Salvifici Doloris>, 24).

I urge you, therefore, to insist, with ever greater commitment, on the continuous spiritual, doctrinal and catechetical formation of your members as your statutes demand (III, 1)—a formation which is firmly rooted in the Word of God, faithful to the teaching of the Church, in accord with Conciliar directives (<Apostolicam Actuositatem>, 22-32), which communicates not only the knowledge, but also the meaning of the ever living love of Christ the Redeemer for all men and the meaning of their apostolic vocation and universal solidarity.

For these spiritual ends, I do not doubt that you will put at the service of the local and particular Churches, all the means of social communication that are available to you, in order to transmit to all the experience of an authentic prayer, adapted to different cultures and incarnated in their historical context; in particular, prayer in families which I myself have recommended so many times (cf. Apostolic Exhortation <Familiaris Consortio>, 59-62).

6. Thus will be accomplished Pius XII's hope that "the Apostleship of Prayer ... be so united to the other pious Associations that it penetrates them like a breath of fresh air through which supernatural life and apostolic activity are ever renewed and strengthened (Address to the participants of the International Congress of the Apostleship of Prayer, 17 September 1956: <AAS> 48 (1956), 676ff.).

With these wishes I put this world-wide Pious Association into your hands as a precious treasure from the Pope's heart and the Heart of Christ. Put all your talents and all your strength in the accomplishment of this mission that I entrust to you today.

May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church, be with you in these days in the Cenacle and may she follow you in your ministry throughout the world and I invoke her maternal intercession on the work of the Congress and impart the Apostolic Blessing to you here present, to your collaborators and to all the members of the Apostleship of Prayer.

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