This month, so many of us continue our fervent prayer for all of humanity, as the whole world continues to suffer from the pandemic, yet we keep in our prayer another concern that will affect us all, now and in the generations that follow us. Pope Francis asks us to pray with him “that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind”.
When we respond to the Pope’s monthly pleas to pray with him about a specific intention, we commit ourselves to praying with him for the church’s mission as well as for the challenges that face humanity. There are many such challenges; in recent months, in the Pope’s own prayer-group, we have been invited to pray about just sharing of the planet’s resources, also an immediate threat to future generations. In the Worldwide Prayer Network, we are always praying that we will develop clarity about our own mission in whatever state of live we find ourselves. This was a key reason for praying, in October, about accepting our responsibilities in the Church (and facing the fact that women are often prevented from doing so, for no good reason). Now in November, without ignoring the awful pandemic, we prayerfully ponder the implications for humanity of the technological and digital revolution.
THREE PROPOSALS FOR THE MONTH
1: While we must continue to pray for progress in the struggle against the virus pandemic, and keep in our prayer those suffering as a result, medically and economically, we could take some time this month to ponder a few instances of where innovation in robotics and digital technology could be harmful to human dignity. Have you noticed instances of this? Are there examples in your own living and experience where this could become a challenge?
2: In most parishes and worshipping communities, physical meetings and gatherings can’t take place at this time. Think of ways in which technical solutions can and do help; are there ways in which you could make more use of such facilities to touch, virtually, someone who is really suffering? Perhaps first, think simply about the telephone or mobile; is there one more person who’d be helped by a phone call from you? Then consider other resources that you could use – videolinks, online conferencing, instant messaging. Could you make greater use of any of these for the good of another sister or brother?
3: Pray, at least once in the month, for the scientists, engineers and experts whose amazing skills and talents are constantly coming up with new technologies; that they may be always guided by human solidarity and dignity.
TECHNOLOGY AND THE COMMON GOOD
One of the team at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Kevin Hardagen, wrote, in this year’s Pope’s Prayer Network “Living Prayer 2020” booklet, that “we are living through the most astonishing era of technological change. But the prophets of technological utopia proclaim that things are about to accelerate with the emerging possibility of “artificial intelligence”.
He continued, “there is barely a word we speak, a sentence we write, a journey we take or a purchase that we make that is not hoovered up by the vast web of networks that invisibly surround us. But our prayers remain wonderfully low-tech. The are encrypted against all who wish to listen in. We each have a small, still voice within us that serves as a secure hotline to God … available 24 hours a day!” Our prayer, this month, will strengthen our awareness that we can never be reduced to technology and must resist any threats to be mastered by it. The extraordinary and inventive ingenuity of the human mind must always be ordered towards the service of humanity, not domination of people; towards the common good.
OUR PRAYER AND OUR HOPE
Above all, our prayer is our own statement, personally and communally, that there is hope, that nothing is so bleak that it will not be illuminated by the human spirit of God. We would all do well in these times to remind ourselves, and each other, of certain truths on which our hope is built. These truths and this hope are at the heart of why we pray; certainly for those matters that the Pope invites us to consider each month, but also in all of our prayer.
Our “Living Prayer 2020” writer notes how, amid all these technological wonders of our time, “prayer is a counter-cultural declaration that humanity is wonderful made by our creator God who knew us in the womb”. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that not all prayer must be intercessory, praying “for things”. That does matter and must not be dismissed as long as we remember that, at times, we might be praying for this or that which would not actually be good for us or for humanity.
At other times, our intercessory prayer could occasionally risk becoming too self-centred; we must always remember the common good, the good of all people and all of creation. Those truths on which our hope is founded eventually come back to love: love of each other and for all of creation, which the infinite Trinity beholds timelessly and constantly gazes upon, in creative and sustaining love. We contemplate this love every time we turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our prayer is intimately linked to that reality, that inner truth.
And our hope, far from being just a matter of optimism, still less of random chance, becomes the life-pulse of our faith; in other words, our response to that infinite creative and redemptive love.
A SUGGESTED DAILY OFFERING & PRAYER MOMENT
This prayer could be used each morning to begin the day, to offer the day ahead and all our actions and intentions for the service of Christ’s mission in the world.
Every few days in this month, try to take a longer time for this prayer. Become aware of God’s gaze upon you, as St.Ignatius Loyola always recommended, and ask for the grace to know yourself invited to serve with Jesus under the banner of the cross, as St,Ignatius himself experienced. In your heart, pray to be open to whatever that call is. End this Spiritual Exercise with a slow, heartfelt “Our Father”.
Gracious and good Father, I thank you for your goodness to me. May your Holy Spirit strengthen me in this day ahead so that I might be a true agent of your love and mercy towards others. May your Spirit fill me with compassion for those less fortunate, especially those who are not experiencing the human solidarity, that all deserve, in these difficult days. I want to offer this day, and my time, treasure and talents, for the mission of the Church and for the Holy Father’s Intention. May I turn to the Pierced heart of your Son and learn from his compassion for all of creation today.
I pray also this November for all those who have died, gone before us marked with the signs of faith, especially those who have died because of the virus pandemic and those who have died alone. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord …
AN ONLINE MOMENT
Have a look at our hugely popular Click-to-Pray App & website. Download the App; sign up for daily prayer alerts in your Inbox or on your phone, to begin each day with a prayer and Morning Offering. There is also a midday reflection moment and a suggested evening prayerful review of the day. Free downloads are available on all the usual online stores – just search ClicktoPrayApp.
The popular Living Prayer booklets will be available again in 2021, as will the Sacred Heart calendars. Each contains the 2021 Pope’s Intentions and reflections on them, versions of the Morning Offering and many helps & tips for your prayer. Orders should be placed with Messenger Publications, firstname.lastname@example.org; for prices, orders and payment arrangements see www.messenger.ie.
Please note that we cannot take any more orders for the time being for our packs of Prayer Network prayer-cards, owing to pandemic restrictions and some logistical challenges. Normal service will resume as soon as possible.