From a reader…
With the pope not being what I would call a friend to the traditional mass, my wife has asked how do we pray for his intentions? Can we as lay people be critical of the pope? Where is the line to be drawn?
First, let’s clarify something. That phrase, “pray for [the Pope’s] intentions” does not mean praying for the Pope. It means praying for the intentions that the Pope designates.
In modern times Popes designate a couple of intentions each month. You don’t have to know what they are explicitly in order to pray for them. Simply make the intention to pray for whatever it is that he designated. For some years now Popes have designated a “General” and a “Mission” intention. In the past, it was a little more complicated, as I shall explain down the line.
There are a couple more issues here.
It is remarkable how often these days I get questions about praying for the Pope’s intentions. I’ve answered questions about this before. What seems to be at the core of the question is an implicit, “We don’t like the Pope or the intentions he designates, so we don’t want to pray for the intention he designates. How do we get around this?”
May I remind the readership that, in this age when the concept of “love” is being treacherously and demonically distorted – not just banalized now, but distorted (as sexually active and activist homosexuals do), we who hold to our Catholic Faith know that “love” isn’t a matter of “liking”.
Love is an act of will.
This is something that spouses know all too well: over time “feelings” can change, but when we choose to love we overcome all obstacles if that choice is for the kind of love that Christ exemplified on the Cross: charity.
You are “traditional”, right? Traditional Catholics love their Popes.
All Catholics love their Popes. They want to like them, too, but they do love them. That means desiring for them what is truly for their good. In the case of this Pope, as for every Pope, that must also include desiring what is truly good also for the Church, since the Pope is the Church’s visible reference point of unity.
I think that traditionalists should distinguish themselves in charity, and not be like … others, who seek their own agendas.
If you don’t “like” the Holy Father, or what he does, you can, and should, make an act of will to love him, which means desiring for him what is truly good for him. Furthermore, it means respecting his authority in those things over which he has authority. In the matter of the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints and the indulgences that Holy Church concedes, the Holy Father has the authority.
So, Catholics recognize the Pope’s authority in those things that pertain to his office, and we pray that God give them, and the Church, that which is truly good according to His will.
The Church, through the Holy Father, assigns as part of most indulgenced works also praying for the intentions that the Holy Father designates. And that’s that.
A tangential issue might be helpful. What happens if there is no Holy Father, as in the case between pontificates, sede vacante? How do we pray for his intentions when “he” is no more? First, Popes generally issue their intentions for a whole year way ahead of time. There is going to be already published some intention that the last Pope had designated.
To deepen out knowledge of the Pope’s intentions, there are also the traditional intentions that were perennially designated.
Because we are Unreconstructed Ossified Manualists, and we love our old dependable compendia of theology with its sober and thorough analyses, we can turn to the manual by Prümmer.
Prümmer says that the intentions of the Holy Father for which we are to pray have a tradition of five basic categories which were fixed:
1. Exaltatio S. Matris Ecclesiae (Triumph/elevation/stablity/growth of Holy Mother Church)
2. Extirpatio haeresum (Extirpation/rooting out of heresies),
3. Propagatio fidei (Propagation/expansion/spreading of the Faith)
4. Conversio peccatorum (Conversion of sinners),
5. Pax inter principes christianos (Peace between christian rulers).
These five categories were also listed in the older, 1917 Code of Canon Law, which is now superseded by the 1983 Code.
However, they remain good intentions all.
If you don’t happen to know what Pope Francis’ intentions are for November 2017 – or even if you do – you can always join these intentions to your prayers for “whatever it was that the Pope designated”, always in accord with God’s will.