From a reader…
To gain an indulgence we are required to “pray for the Pope’s intention”. How are we to understand this – are we asking God to answer the specific prayer intentions of the Holy Father (crudely, asking God to do what the Pope wants)? Or are we praying that God will give inspire and guide the Pope, i.e . that his intentions may be according to God’s will? No doubt this is a bit of a dumb question but I’ve never seen this explained clearly.
Good question. I suspect some people may be a little confused about this.
When you are asked to “pray for the intentions of the Holy Father”, you are not being asked to pray for the Holy Father, though that is good and all Catholics really ought to. Rather, you are asked to pray for the intentions that the Holy Father designates that we pray for. For instance, this month, October 2014 we have these intentions.
- Peace. That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
- World Mission Day. That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.
Next month, it’ll be something else. There is usually a “general” intention and a “mission” intention.
If you don’t happen to know what the Pope’s designated intentions are, you can make a general intention to pray for what he wants. However, in this internet age, you can find quickly what the Pope wants. The intentions for the whole year are posted before each year begins. You might print them out and put them by your wall calendar, or write them on slips of paper for your prayer book or hand missal or your refrigerator. You could tack them up with a new Zed-Head magnet!
We are all in this together. It is good to have intentions designated by the Vicar of Christ, for us to coordinate our prayer for specific issues.