Based on the record of 2016, there are a lot of things to pray about in the coming year. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what we might focus our petitions on to lessen the painful effects of any bad news heading our way?
However, it isn’t hard to see the challenges, the dangers, the illnesses, the risks, the economies and the wars that afflict so many people. We can join with Pope Francis in his daily prayers for an end to war and violence in the world.
The pontiff recited a sad litany of tragedies in both his New Year’s Day messages and Christmas talks. From the recent terrorism in Turkey to the battles in Syria — Pope Francis has prayed for peace for victims of war, for the millions of migrants and refugees in the world, for those enslaved by human traffickers and those amid social and economic unrest.
The pope offered prayers for Iraq, Libya and Yemen, “where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism” as well as in African nations, notably Nigeria, where terrorism “exploits children in order to perpetrate horror and death.”
January brings the 44th March for Life in Washington, D.C. on the 27th. Legalized abortion in the United States is more than two generations old, that’s generations of lives lost. The expanding movement toward legal physician-assisted suicide and even some ivory-tower musings about infanticide reinforce the need for prayers that societies uphold the sacredness and dignity of human life at every stage across the world.
Because the nation’s year is beginning with a new Congress and a new president, let’s pray for all the men and women in public office.
While we remember the elected in prayers, we can also pray that the heated rhetoric and partisan sniping of politicians and their constituents that blighted 2016 campaigns is cooled by a mutual quest for the common good of all.
We should also pray for our families, neighbors and our parish communities. We all need prayers. The sick, the addicted, the mentally ill, the disabled, those in mourning, the impoverished, the lonely, the imprisoned and the poor need our calls to God to bless and help them.
No wonder St. Paul advises that we “pray without ceasing.”
One more thing: Pope Francis raised a new specter that we should pray about in our increasingly social-media society.
Citing the current “fragmented and divided culture,” the pope observed that “the lack of physical and not virtual contact is cauterizing our hearts and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion.”
That’s a powerful insight about 21st century aggression, emptiness and loneliness. Our modern conveniences – iPhones, messaging, emails, tweets and Snapchat posts — aren’t only electronic connections to others, they can become instruments of alienation, dehumanization and incivility.
Pope Francis warned that people are not objects to “consume and be consumed,” we aren’t merchandise to be exchanged or receptacles for information. “We are children, we are family, we are God’s people.” Leave it to Francis to find the Good News amid the challenges of life in any year.
This year, let’s not forget to offer prayers of thanks for being children of God and beneficiaries of his grace.
Ryan is editor/general manager of The Dialog.