Something remarkable took place June 2, although it received scant attention from the news media. Pope Francis brought the entire Church together in a Holy Hour on Corpus Christi Sunday to pray for his special intentions and for the Church. The worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration was held in St. Peter’s Basilica from 5 to 6 p.m. Rome time, and the request from the Vatican was for dioceses all over the world to try to synchronize similar hours of prayer.
The unprecedented event did not receive a great deal of publicity until late May, so don’t feel badly if you missed the news.
According to the Vatican, cathedrals, ecclesial movements, cloistered communities and more joined in this historic event. “From the Cook Islands to Chile, Burkina Faso, Taiwan, Iraq, Bangladesh, the United States, and the Philippines, the dioceses will be synchronized with St. Peter’s and will pray for the intentions proposed by the pope,” it said.
The same impulse that inspires Catholics to defend the unborn should inspire us to remember all those others whose screams also go unheard.
Pope Francis asked that the world’s Catholics pray before the Blessed Sacrament for two intentions: The first was that Catholics unite “in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist” and pray that the Lord make his Church “ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’” The second intention was: “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running and slave labor. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence.”
Both requests reflect the priorities that Pope Francis has made the cornerstone of his pontificate. The first was a call for the purification and unity of the Church itself so that it can act as a true witness of the Gospel and disciple of the Lord. The second was an eloquent reminder that this witness includes caring for the forgotten and the marginalized. In this regard, his use of the phrase “silent scream” is particularly evocative. In our country, “The Silent Scream” was the name of a powerful documentary on abortion and its impact on the unborn. Yet the same impulse that inspires Catholics to defend the unborn should inspire us to remember all those others whose screams also go unheard and whose suffering is just as real.
Pope Francis asked for prayers “for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners and those who experience marginalization.”
The Holy Hour will be followed by a Year of Faith-inspired celebration in Rome June 15-16 of Blessed John Paul II’s great pro-life encyclical “The Gospel of Life” (Evangelium Vitae). Titled “Believing May They Have Life,” the celebration will call attention to the Church’s commitment to the promotion, respect and dignity of human life.
This month it would be fitting for all of us to revisit “The Gospel of Life” in unity with Pope Francis and to continue to pray for the pope’s intentions. This effort, too, naturally coincides with the U.S. bishops’ second Fortnight for Freedom, June 21-July 4. The battle in our own country for our constitutional and God-given rights of religious freedom and freedom of conscience is connected intimately to our commitment to protecting human life and promoting human dignity.