Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy offers a ‘Just Gospel’ blog post each month reflecting on Pope Francis Prayer Intention and includes any other specific focus of her religious community for the year. Find in this January article the Pope’s January Prayer Intention for educators and the Eucharistic Sacrum Christi Prayer.
Often the end of this month marks the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. Of course, this month also is a time for evaluating the old and planning for new beginnings. The Holy Father’s prayer intention for this month brings this characteristic work of teachers to our own prayer. His intention is: That educators may be credible witnesses, teaching fraternity rather than competition and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all.
Competitive methods of teaching and learning have long been pitted against a more cooperative approach to education. Countless books and articles hail the pros and cons for each method. As in most things, a balance of the two would seem wise. However, Pope Francis goes beyond this academic argument. He asks us to pray that educators will be credible witnesses that go beyond cooperation to fraternity. What a world we would have if children grew up in a world in which they breathed only the air of charity and friendship. What if we taught our youth to help the vulnerable rather than step over them and mock their mistakes?
It might be a good month to revisit one of Aesop’s Fables, The Bundle of Sticks, and ponder its point.
A certain Father had a family of Sons, who were forever quarreling among themselves. No words he could say did the least good, so he cast about in his mind for some very striking example that should make them see that discord would lead them to misfortune.
One day when the quarreling had been much more violent than usual and each of the Sons was moping in a surly manner, he asked one of them to bring him a bundle of sticks. Then handing the bundle to each of his Sons in turn he told them to try to break it. But although each one tried his best, none was able to do so. The Father then untied the bundle and gave the sticks to his Sons to break one by one. This they did very easily.
“My Sons,” said the Father, “do you not see how certain it is that if you agree with each other and help each other, it will be impossible for your enemies to injure you? But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be no stronger than a single stick in that bundle.”
In unity is strength.
What greater celebration of unity and fraternity is there than the Eucharist? The O sacrum convivium prayer-phrase we will ponder this month is…You live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen. To what greater model of unity and cooperation can we turn than that of the Blessed Trinity? The Three Persons of our God dwell in perfect unity to such an extent that they are One God. This doxology that in included at the end of so many prayers can become a rote recitation rather than a deliberate statement of faith. As we pray for educators this month, asking that they witness to true fraternity and nurture the same in their students, let us mindfully pray this closing part of the prayer and may our Amen echo the faith we have in a God who is close and present to us in countless ways, but especially in the gift of the Eucharist.