Friday, 30 October 2015

Praying for the Holy Father's Intentions

The other day, as we were about to pray #twitterangelus for the intentions of @Pontifex, Dominie Stemp tweeted: 'What if his intentions aren't holy, though?'

I didn't have much time, as we were approaching noon - Angelus time - so I tweeted back: 'All Catholic prayer, finally, is 'Thy will be done!' God will find the good in anyone's intentions and pursue that.'

I think that's fine as an answer, but also think that there is more we could, and perhaps should, say about this.

The first is the general point. I always think that praying for someone's intentions is analagous to praying for the dead. Tradition has it that if we pray for the repose of someone's soul, and that person is already in Heaven, God will apply those prayers to another soul in need. That makes sense to me.  Likewise, I assume that if we pray for someone's intentions, God will apply that prayer in the best way.

The second thing to consider is this: of course, a Pope, like anyone else, may have unholy - or even evil - intentions. It is a very strong ultramontism that regards a Pope as impeccable! 

But I think that it is not our place to judge that. It seems to me that judging someone else's intentions is perilously close to judging the state of their soul, which we are forbidden from doing.

I may think a particular Pontiff's policies are wrong, harmful or even disastrous. I may have the right, and even the duty to judge such policies and share that judgement publicly; even to oppose them. Yet I have no right to judge the person of the Pontiff, any more than I have the right to judge anyone else. We cannot see another's soul. I think judging intentions is, as I say, perilously close to that. 

Moreover, I have a duty to pray for the Holy Father: a filial duty and a duty in charity.  For one thing I do know is that the triple crown is a heavy one; that anyone elevated to that office is ipso facto one of the major targets of Satan and his servants.

So pray for our Holy Father and his intentions, whether you think him wise or foolish; and beware of any temptation to think him a saint or a sinner, for "Judgement is mine, saith the Lord."


Part-time Pilgrim said...

I have always taken the Pope's intentions to mean these: (all of which are more than worthy) but this author takes a broader view: Interestingly the prayers for the Pope concentrate on him obtaining Heaven above making a good job of leading the Church.

According to Sr Catherine Wybourne, the Pope's intentions always include prayers for the souls of those who paid for Chantry Masses which are no longer said. I haven't found this mentioned anywhere else but St Catherine's authority is good enough for me on this one.

So I have never thought that praying for the Pope's intentions meant praying that he gets his own way.

Annie Elizabeth said...

I have had the same qualms: for some time I have mitigated the risk by praying for the Holy Fathers' (plural) intentions. We have two Popes - Deo gratias for that!

Patricius said...

I seem to recall coming across a list of the holy father's intentions some time ago. They changed on a monthly basis and included perfectly laudable concerns- the needs of prisoners, migrants...that sort of thing. So no need to worry. There was nothing about Argentina getting the Falklands or Cardinal Pell getting a tail and horns! Unfortunately I cannot now remember whether it was on the Holy See website or that of the English and Welsh Bishops' Conference site.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for the comments. You are right, I had forgotten the Holy Father's published intentions.

However, they are not what I personally think I intend to pray for when I pray for the Holy Father's intentions (witness the fact I had forgotten about them - a failing of mine, certainly, but a telling one in this context). Indeed, during the pontificate of the Pope Emeritus, I was more inclined to pray for those intentions nearest to his heart, rather than those published (I suspect) by some bureaucratic process - worthy though they be.

And there is the wider point: I often promise to pray for the intentions of other people, without any clear notion what those intentions might be.