Apostleship of Prayer
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The Apostleship of Prayer is a worldwide association of Catholics and other Christians who strive to make their ordinary, everyday lives apostolically effective. Through the Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope gives his monthly prayer intentions to the entire Church. For this reason, the Apostleship came to be known as "the Pope's own prayer group."
Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 1994, wrote: "As the dawn of the third millennium approaches a world in which many sectors have become quite pagan, it is obvious how urgent it is for members of the Apostleship of Prayer to be involved in the service of the new evangelization. For Christ has come to preach the Good News to the poor, and the Apostleship of Prayer has always considered itself a form of popular piety for the masses. As such it has performed an important service during the past hundred and fifty years by giving new life to people's awareness of how valuable their lives are to God for the building up of His Kingdom."
The Apostleship of Prayer was set up in 1844 by a group of Jesuit seminarians at Vals, France. Because they knew missionary work lay before them, they were frustrated and impatient. Eager to join the missions in India and America, they failed to see how their dull study routines would make them better missionaries. In response, their spiritual director, Father Francois Xavier Gautrelet, S.J., held a conference. He emphasized that the salvation of souls was a supernatural goal and could therefore be achieved most effectively through supernatural means. Addressing his younger Jesuit brothers, he said, "Be apostles now, apostles of prayer! Offer everything you are doing each day in union with the Heart of our Lord for what he wishes: the spread of the Kingdom for the salvation of souls."
Gautrelet taught these seminarians to offer each day to God. Thus, their prayer, study, work, recreation, headaches would advance the work of the missions as much as their direct work in the field. The seminarians took this idea of a Daily Offering to the surrounding villages. This soon was formalized into what is now known as the Morning, or Daily, Offering.
In 1861 the first Messenger of the Sacred Heart was published.
In 1861, the Reverend Henry Ramière, S.J. adapted the organization for parishes and various Catholic institutions, and made it known by his book "The Apostleship of Prayer", which has been translated into many languages. In 1879 the association received its first statutes, approved by Pius IX, and in 1896 these were revised and approved by Leo XIII.
The Apostleship of Prayer has always operated under the auspices of the Society of Jesus. The morning offering and prayers are the basic membership requirements, and in many countries the apostleship has no registration, no groups, no fees, and no special meetings.
The Popes' intentions
By the 1880s Pope Leo XIII could see that this simple, profound way of life was spreading so he announced prayer intentions for every month to go with the Daily Offering. They would bring members closer to each other and closer to Christ. Pope Pius XI added a specific missionary intention for each month in 1929. These intentions are prayed specifically for those who make a commitment to spreading the Gospel around the world. Today, the Pope still announces two monthly intentions.
On its 100th anniversary in 1944 Pope Pius XII gave thanks to God for the Apostleship of Prayer, calling it "one of the most efficacious means for the salvation of souls, since it concerns prayer and prayer in common." He commended the organization for its goal: "to pray assiduously for the needs of the Church and to try to satisfy them through daily offering."
In 1985 Pope John Paul II called the Apostleship of Prayer "a precious treasure from the Pope's heart and the Heart of Christ."
By the year 2000 the Apostleship of Prayer had over 40 million members, 50 different Messengers of the Sacred Heart, and 40 other periodicals.
Adherents of the Apostleship consider that it has given singular importance to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Each Sunday, the celebrant leads the people in what is described as offering themselves, with Christ, to God the Father. The Apostleship say that they should extend this self-offering throughout the week embracing all their day-to-day activity – their prayer, their work in the office or home, their joys and recreation, their tensions, headaches, and sacrifices.
The Apostleship of Prayer says that it is a form of spirituality that helps them do this in a simple, concrete way. It gives them a motive – love for Christ, and it gives them a technique – the Daily Offering. It presents them with a practical way of living life in union with Christ and making him truly present to the world.
For this reason, Pope Pius XII called the Apostleship of Prayer "the sum total of Christian perfection."