Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ Monthly Intention for children who are suffering.
We gather to give thanks for all that we have during these November days. During this time of celebration, Pope Francis calls us to pray for the little ones who may have little to celebrate. Our prayer is: For children who are suffering, especially those who are homeless, orphans, and victims of war; may they be guaranteed access to education and the opportunity to experience family affection.
Perhaps you have seen ads on TV or in magazines for organizations whose mission is to help poor children around the world. These inspire our compassion. We do well to pray for the continuing work of organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Cross-cultural Services whose particular focus is on children abroad who are victimized by poverty or violence. You may want to explore their websites. Much of their information regarding children focuses on the movement to help families avoid consigning their children to orphanages, which often leave children scarred for life. They are finding many creative ways to help families and communities meet the needs of children in ways that are more nurturing for them.
It is good to also consider the work of Catholic Charities which works to reduce poverty here at home. The story of one client, a single parent, explains how Catholic Charities approaches children and families that struggle. The process used includes meeting to discuss the parent’s goals and getting a better understanding of the best way to help. The assigned mentor arranges for financial assistance (monthly stipend, gift cards for Thanksgiving and Christmas) and links her to community resources such as referrals for childcare. The mentor and parent meet regularly to discuss healthy boundaries, parenting skills and ways to manage a schedule. When the mother’s car broke down and she was unable to get to class, Catholic Charities arranged to gift her with a new car through the generous donor base. Ultimately, this parent graduated with her Nursing Degree. She went on to become licensed and gain employment making a living wage at a local hospital.
Organizations such as these are truly a blessing to the Church, doing work that perhaps we cannot personally do. As a Community, we offer financial assistance to such groups, but as individuals the Holy Father is calling us to support them with our prayers as well.
This month’s intention lends itself well to a phrase from Thomas Aquinas’ prayer with which we open our day. The words, you gave them bread from heaven to be their food certainly encourage us to be mindful of the gift of the Eucharist with which we are fed at each Mass. However, let these words also remind us of so many little ones sharing our planet who not only lack physical food and nourishment of all sorts, but also struggle without the faith, without supportive Christian communities to offer them example in generosity and care, without the joy of knowing their identity as children of a loving God. Each time we pray these words, let us lift up these beloved children of God and ask that they will be nourished and enriched in body, mind and soul by those responding to God’s call to service.