The devotion of the Holy Father to the Most Blessed Virgin is already very well-established – he honours Her images wherever he goes and on each return to Rome, he prays before Her image in one of the Basilicas, thanking Her for the trip he has made and commending all his intentions to Her safekeeping.
Recently, it was reported widely that one of the Pope’s great desires during his trip to Mexico was to spend time alone praying before the miraculous image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. And indeed, he did spend time doing precisely this, just he and the Mother of the Lord.
On the flight back to the Vatican after leaving Mexico, an hour-long interview took place, with Pope Francis answering a selection of questions from some of the journalists accompanying him on the plane. Amongst them was Caroline Pigozzi, of ‘Paris Match’ magazine; she asked the Holy Father what he prayed for before the image of the Madonna. This was the reply given by the Pope –
“I asked for the world, for peace, so many things. The poor thing ended up with her head like this (raises arms around head). I asked forgiveness, I asked that the Church grows healthy, I asked for the Mexican people. And another thing I asked a lot for: that priests be true priests, and sisters true sisters, and bishops true bishops. As the Lord wants. This I asked a lot for, but then, the things a child tells his mother are a bit of a secret.”
This is a good reminder that the Pope belongs, in a sense, to the entire world – his flock encompasses the whole of the earth and the concerns of all people are important to him.
Of course, he has particular responsibility for the Church which is entrusted to him – and that Church is always in need of healing and renewal, of the continuous action of the Holy Spirit to keep it steadfast and secure, as are all of us who make up that Church. It is good to know that he prayed so hard for the Bishops, Priests and Religious of the Church – they are always in need of our prayer, as much as we all benefit from their own prayers. The Church on earth is a militant one (in the true sense of the word), constantly in need, constantly supporting each member by the prayers of all, as the Gospels command us.
The response of the Holy Father gives a little insight into what is important to him – in short, everyone – and of what he is doing about it; namely, praying, probably far more than any of us know.
It is also a timely reminder of the need to pray for peace in the world – that “true peace which surpasses all human understanding”, and something the Mother of God specifically asked us to do, when She appeared at Fatima in 1917.
Perhaps the next time we find ourselves before an image of the Most Blessed Virgin, we might take a moment to pray for Pope Francis and all his needs and intentions, as he does for us. And for peace in the world.