Praying for the Holy Father’s intentions when those intentions are… odd

ASK FATHER: Praying for the Holy Father’s intentions when those intentions are… odd

Posted on 30 August 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

It doesn’t hurt to remind people that when we pray “for the intentions of the Holy Father” (as we do when we pray the Rosary), we are not praying for the Holy Father. Rather, we are to pray for the intentions the Holy Father designates for our prayers that month.

We don’t have to know what they are explicitly. It is enough to desire to pray for, to have the moral intention to pray for, what he wishes. That said, it is pretty easy in the age of these interwebs to find out what they are.

The Pope usually assigns two petitions or intentions, one general and one of a more missionary spirit. Coming up in September we are to pray for these intentions which the Holy Father has designated:

Universal: Centrality of the Human Person

That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.

Evangelization: Mission to Evangelize

That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.

In regard to the first, I had to scratch my head a little…. “the building of a society that places the human person at the center”? The human person and not God? I am reminded of the way the prayers for the Feast of Christ the King were altered. In the older Missale Romanum the orations see Christ as being, now, King of all earthly things. In the newer Missale, Christ is seen more as an eschatological King.

I had a note from a priest about the September 2016 intentions:

I practice the First Saturday devotion and try to pray for the pope’s intentions often for indulgences, but have found this increasingly difficult.

This month, for example, it seemed a little strange that the pope is asking for us to pray that “sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounter,” but I just shrugged my shoulders and went along with it. [In August, the Summer Olympics were going on in Rio.]

But now I am troubled to see the September intention, namely, that we build a society that “places the human person at the center.” This seems so contrary to what we should hope for – and exactly what the enemy wants. How can I pray for the Holy Father’s intentions when I believe them to be contrary to the Faith? Or, more specifically, how can I fulfill the obligations to gain plenary indulgences without directly supporting intentions contrary to the Faith?

Thank you, and I understand of course if you are unable to get to my question. I will offer up my Mass for you today. [Thanks!]

The indulgence is conceded according to the way it is conceded. If the indulgence says that the work to be performed includes praying for the Holy Father’s intentions, then that is what we do. He, being Pope, gets to designate his intentions, silly or solemn, frivolous or fervid, humdrum or heavenly.

Perhaps this will help. If there are monthly intentions which cause you to scratch your head, you might add when you pray for the Pope’s intentions the words…

“in the manner in which the Holy Father’s intention fulfills Thy Will O, Lord.”


A reader sent:

Father: When the Pope is saying “human person at center”, I think this article might explain the thinking. [The serendipitous article in question is from today’s page at Crisis (see or ).]

Person as opposed to power and goods (at center) and other Marxist ideals.

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One comment on “Praying for the Holy Father’s intentions when those intentions are… odd

  1. howticklediam on August 31, 2016 at 1:31 PM said:

    The traditional intentions of the Pope one prays for the gaining of an indulgence are;
    1. Exaltatio S. Matris Ecclesiæ (The triumph/growth of holy mother the Church),
    2. Extirpatio hæresum (The rooting out of heresy),
    3. Propagatio fidei (The propagation of the Faith)
    4. Conversio peccatorum (The conversion of sinners),
    5. Pax inter principes christianos (Peace among christian rulers).

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