Just Gospel: Pope Prayer Intention Praises Dignity and Value of Women

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

April 23, 2024

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ April Prayer Intention “that the dignity and immense value of women be recognized in every culture, and for the end of discrimination that they experience in different parts of the world.” ‘ 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.

As we continue to celebrate these joyous days of the Easter season, the resurrection stories call to mind the role of the faithful women who followed Jesus throughout His ministry and beyond. Pope Francis keeps such recollections before us as he invites us to join him in praying that the dignity and immense value of women be recognized in every culture, and for the end of discrimination that they experience in different parts of the world.

Our reflections on this intention could follow many paths, but it seems it would be hard to find a better resource for thoughts on this theme than the words of Pope Francis himself. The following is a summary of the Holy Father’s homily at the Mass celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica on January 1, 2024—the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The selected thoughts were edited by Justin McLellan in an article for the Catholic News Service.

The world and the Catholic Church must respect and defend women and foster a motherly care for others to end dehumanizing cycles of violence, Pope Francis said. “The church needs Mary in order to recover her own feminine face, to resemble more fully the woman, virgin and mother, who is her model and perfect image, to make space for women and to be ‘generative’ through a pastoral ministry marked by concern and care,” the Pope said during Mass on the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Peace Day Jan. 1.

The world too, he said, “needs to look to mothers and to women in order to find peace, to emerge from the spiral of violence and hatred, and once more see things with genuinely human eyes and hearts.”
In his homily, Pope Francis called on all societies to “accept the gift that is woman, every woman” and to “respect, defend and esteem woman in the knowledge that whoever harms a single woman profanes God, who was born of a woman.

Pope Francis recalled how just as Mary knew the wine had run out at the wedding at Cana and asked Jesus to intervene, she “knows our needs” and “intercedes to make grace overflow in our lives and to guide them to authentic fulfillment.”

“Brothers and sisters, all of us have our shortcomings, our times of loneliness, our inner emptiness that cries out to be filled,” he said. “Who can do that if not Mary the mother of fullness?”
“Whenever we are tempted to retreat into ourselves, let us run to her; whenever we are no longer able to untie the knots in our lives, let us seek refuge in her,” the Pope said.

He added that the current times, “bereft of peace, need a mother who can reunite the human family.” The Pope encouraged people to look to Mary “in order to become artisans of unity” and to do so “with her maternal creativity and concern for her children.”

Pope Francis noted that since God chose Mary to “turn history around” by bringing Jesus into the world, “it is fitting, then, that the year should open by invoking her,” and that God’s faithful should acclaim her as the “Holy Mother of God.”

In that spirit, the pope ended his homily by asking the 24 cardinals, more than 200 concelebrating priests and the thousands present in the basilica to proclaim, “out loud, three times, together: Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God!”

Overlooking St. Peter’s Square after Mass, Pope Francis asked people at the outset of the new year to notice the often-overlooked gestures of love of Mary, and all mothers, “to learn that love that is cultivated above all in silence.”

The love of a mother, the pope said, “knows how to make room for the other, respecting their dignity, leaving the freedom to express themselves and rejecting every form of possession, oppression and violence.” (End of quoted material)
This might be a good month to follow the Pope’s request to invoke and acclaim Mary often using the words, “Holy Mother of God”. Photos: Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.


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