Just Gospel: Pope Francis’ Prayer for Those on Margins of Society

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

September 15, 2023

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ September Prayer Intention “for those people on the margins of society in subhuman living conditions, that they may not be neglected by institutions and never be cast out.” The ‘Just Gospel’ blog post each month reflects on Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention and includes any other specific focus of our religious community for the year.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phil 4:6-7).

The Catechism reminds us that, every need can become the object of petition (No. 2633). We should not be afraid to approach God to entrust him with our needs. Pope Francis leads us in tapping into prayers of petition that not only express needs of the Church and the world, but also reflect our faith in our God who provides. There is a story that paints a word-picture of this reality in faith. It goes like this.

A poorly dressed woman walked into a grocery store. She approached the owner humbly, asking if she might get a few groceries on credit, for her husband was very ill and they had seven children to feed. The grocer scoffed and asked her to leave.

Persistently she begged, ‘Please, sir! I will pay just as soon as I can.’ The owner refused. A customer overheard and offered to cover the cost for whatever she needed. Reluctantly the grocer agreed and asked for the woman’s list. ‘Put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries,” the owner slyly promised.

Bowing her head, the woman silently reached into her purse, took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then gently laid the paper on the scale.

The scale went down and stayed down. The waiting customer smiled as the befuddled grocer added more and more items on the other side of the scale. It would not balance, so he continued to put still more groceries on until the scale would hold no more.

The grocer stood there in utter disgust. Finally, he grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and saw not a grocery list, but a prayer, which said: ‘Dear Lord, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands.’

Receiving her groceries gratefully the woman left while the other customer handed a fifty-dollar bill to the grocer saying; ‘Only God knows the weight of a prayer.’

So, as we unite ourselves with the Holy Father in prayer each day and each month, let us also be a bridge that joins the many needs of our world with our generous God.

This month’s intention reads, Let us pray for those people on the margins of society in subhuman living conditions, that they may not be neglected by institutions and never be cast out.

Many of Pope Francis’ intentions, like this one, relate directly to the area of social justice. Attention to and the care of the marginalized is certainly relative to life in a healthy society and also calls us to weigh the demands of justice which should apply equally to all. Yet, as the story above illustrates, social justice and particularly care of those in need also relates directly to our life of prayer.

Perhaps we are not on the front lines of actively caring for the poor and neglected, yet we still bear responsibility to do what our capabilities allow. We can seek out information to keep our minds informed as to the plight of those living in subhuman conditions, those on the margins. We can seek information about organizations whose mission is to gather in such poor ones and tend to their lack. We can bring the fruit of our explorations into our conversations in Community and beyond. We need not preach, but we can inspire and enlighten.

Resources that are frequently endorsed for information on the marginalized and Church response to them include Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Campaign for Human Development. These continue to be excellent places to seek information. As we continue participating in the synodal process, you may also wish to check this link: Three Ways to Listen on the Margins.pdf (usccb.org)

Herein you will find a discussion of three questions to consider. 1.) Ask “who is not around the table”? Whose voice is not present or might be left out? 2.) How can we go out to such groups to ensure their participation in the living Church? 3.) What are some groups that we can partner with in reaching out to those that are forgotten? In the same vein, what are groups that I can support by my prayer?

Let us close with a promise to reflect on the words of Pope Francis in a homily from February, 2015: There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking.

Let us stand at that intersection and pray that the saved will serve and the lost will rejoice in the invitation to be heard.

Photos: PEO ACWA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons;Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; U.P. World Youth Day Pilgrims


Article Comments:

Jeanne Conant 09/17/2023 @ 10:45 pm

S. Kathleen Murphy always has such poignant reflections on peace and social justice issues. Thank you!


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