Just Gospel: Pope Francis’ Intention to Reform in Light of the Gospel

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August 27, 2021

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy shares on Pope Francis’s August prayer intention for the Church that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.

As August and our summer days wind down, it is time to consider Pope Francis’ prayer intentions.  As in the recent past, the Pope’s prayer interests cover a broad spectrum of needs and issues.  Perhaps you have wondered how these intentions come to be.  Well, here is the explanation offered on the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network website:  “The faithful from around the world suggest papal prayer intentions in each country to their national office, which selects some of them and sends those to the international office of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in Vatican City. Through prayerful discernment the international office selects a large number of them and submits them to the Pope to help his discernment. After his prayer and discernment he entrusts to the International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network the official set of monthly prayer intentions, which are then translated into the major world languages and published in print and digital formats.”

So there you have it—a concise explanation of how these intentions come to us.  So, let us turn to the intention for the month of August:  Let us pray for the Church, that She may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.

Initially the phrase “reform herself” may seem a bit jarring.  But let’s consider that a bit.  Church History reminds us that the time of the Reformation was by its very name a time of re-forming the Church.  Who did that reforming?  Lay Dominican Shaun McAffee writes: “It may be useful to study the saints of the Counter-Reformation. For sure, our Church is in constant need of courageous believers, and each soul is in need of its own reform.”

He reminds us that the Saints of this era were hugely diverse, but shared the common trait of a desire for personal holiness.  McAffee goes on to say, “Before they set out to reform the Church, and indeed during their reform efforts, they entered into the constant struggle of reforming themselves first.”

An anonymous editorial in The Rhode Island Catholic tells us, “When Saint Augustine shared the now-famous mantra that the Church is always reforming herself — ecclesia semper reformanda est — he presumably had more in mind than patchy institutional change. He was referring to the Body of Christ, the People of God. In a word, he was referring to himself.   No doubt, institutional changes to ecclesial structures are often necessary. But the Church cannot be reformed merely by institutions. Reform begins with the admission of one’s own sinfulness before God.”

So when we join Pope Francis in praying for the Church’s reform of herself, this begins with and always includes our own personal reform for we ARE the Church.

One way to begin and/or support this growth is to consider the Saints who worked tirelessly during the era of the Counter-Reformation.  We can begin to explore what we can do to similarly inspire growth in the Church as the People of God during our own day.  Below you will find a brief sketch of Saints recommended by Shaun McAffee.  Let us pray with the whole Communion of Saints including our own Sister-saints as we implore and hope for the reform of the Church in the light of the Gospel!

St. Philip Neri. Known for his sense of humor, He might make himself look like a fool in order to remind himself to treat others as better than himself. He teaches us to use humor as a means true reform.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal. A mother, a wife, and a sole owner of an estate. She teaches us the simple way of living the spiritual life: letting God be in control, not worrying, and praying simple prayers with simple requests.

St. Pius V. New Catechism. New Divine Office and breviary. New Missal. New Catholic schools. New seminaries. United Europe. Standardized the Rosary and promoted its use on a monumental level. He was pope for only a few years but accomplished a truly astonishing amount of work.

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