These monthly intentions can focus and enliven our prayer, as individuals and as worshipping communities. We will find ourselves motivated and mobilised for action and further reflection, leading to discipleship and personal consolation.
Culture of indifference
All too often, the victims of trafficking are forgotten or, if remembered, they are viewed as a problem. This is also true of refugees and displaced people more generally. Pope Francis described the matter as an ‘open wound on the body of contemporary society’. He has said that, ‘They are among the most dehumanised and discarded of people in the modern world and all over the world.’ Our world, so often, treats people as mere objects. There is sometimes indifference and at other times enormous hostility in receiving countries, yet there is also, often, humane hospitality and a warm welcome.
Serve the dispossessed
It is so important that we remember that refugees and displaced people are individual persons, each of infinite value. They are families, although all too often these families have been shattered and scattered. If we pray, as the Pope asks this month, that their cry be heard, we are making ourselves more available to criminally trafficked people, even if we might not be aware of ever having met one. We are opening our hearts to them as we pray; we are hearing and considering their cries. We will have stopped ignoring the reality, in our towns and in our cities, of criminally trafficked people. Praying for another person, even one whom we’ve never met, marks the beginning of solidarity with that person. We begin to share their suffering and we begin to ask why they are suffering.
The Church’s response
The matter of human trafficking is not a new or recent one, nor is the church’s concern for its victims. We have become more aware of the issue in recent times thanks to several significant initiatives of the Church. Pope Francis has intensified this concern before now. At the beginning of 2015, Pope Francis dedicated his annual Message for the World Day of Peace to Human Trafficking.
‘We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.’
That mobilisation began in early 2017, when the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery on Integral Human Development in Rome began its work of assisting and orienting the bishops and all who are serving the victims of human trafficking. Among other examples of good work in this area has been an innovative partnership in London between the Metropolitan Police and the RC Diocese of Westminster. JRS, the Jesuit Refugee Service, based in east London, is another agency deeply involved in tackling this issue and supporting its victims.
In our Living Prayer 2020 booklet (details below), the reflection for this month reminds us of an important point made by Pope Francis in his beautiful exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (‘Rejoice and be Glad’). There, he touched on the unfashionable topic of heresy, showing that its modern-day forms include placing our human knowledge above God and placing our human will before God or God’s will; either way, we mock God’s grace. The Pope then went on to propose placing two faces before us when we pray. These are the face of God and the face of someone in need. Sometimes we look only at the face of God; that mistake can lead us into heresy, forgetting God’s grace. The invitation to serve the one in need ‘roots us in the compassion and mercy of God which draws us away from our own insular ideas and culs-de-sac cultivated by our own will’. Let the faces we view in prayer this month be those of our trafficked brothers and sisters so that we will remain open to God’s grace and become channels of God’s justice and mercy for them and their predicament.
Three ways of putting your prayer into action this month:
- Investigate and learn about the work of the Santa Marta group, an international partnership between the church and law-enforcement agencies, that works to combat human trafficking and modern slavery.
- Think and pray about ways in which you or your parish, or worshipping community, might be able to support the work of JRS, the Jesuit Refugee Service, whose mission is to serve, accompany and advocate for refugees and displaced people (including those held in detention). They offer several fundraising and volunteering opportunities.
- In a parish prayer group or activity group, take the Pope’s intention for this month for your prayer, reflecting on it together, considering how the rest of your parish might join in praying for the Pope’s intention. Be open to hearing a call to action.
(A prayer offered by the Holy See’s Migrant & Refugee Section in Rome) Loving God, pour your merciful light into our troubled world. Let it flood into the darkest shadows. Bring salvation to the innocents who suffer under sinful abuse. Bring conversion to the utterly lost souls who hold them captive and exploit them. Give us all the strength to grow in the true freedom of love for you, for each other and for our common home. Amen.
(A daily offering prayer from our Living Prayer 2020 booklet) Father, at the beginning of this new day, I pause for a few moments to enjoy the beauty of your creation. May your Holy Spirit guide me along the path of truth and strengthen me as I strive to be charitable to those around me. I offer you every beat of my heart, my every thought and my simplest works this day for the intention of Pope Francis this month. Our Father …
The Morning Offering is part of the Daily Prayer Pathway, practised by countless Christians in the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the Pope’s personal prayer group and the largest in the Church. You can then say a brief prayer around noon and pray an Ignatian-style review of the day in the evening. Please ask for our Daily Prayer Pathway and Review of the Day cards; we’ll post them to you free of charge. Our popular Click-to-Pray app and website provide a new set of prayers each day, direct to your phone or tablet.
- Living Prayer 2020: booklet now available to order at £1.75 + £1 P&P (UK only). Place order on our direct voicemail 020 8442 5232 or by email to email@example.com with full delivery address.
- Sacred Heart Messenger: a modern message in a much-loved tradition. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 00353 1 676 7491.
- Click-to-Pray eRosary: to order, see http://www.clicktoprayerosary.org.
- Websites and apps: search clicktopray.org, thepopevideo.org and popesglobalprayer.net.
By Fr David Stewart SJ