The Apostleship of Prayer is a group of Catholic adherents, through the Daily Offering, unite themselves with the Eucharistic Sacrifice in which the work of our redemption is continuously accomplished. By this vital bond with Christ, they cooperate in the salvation of the world itself. Through the Apostleship of Prayer, the Holy Father gives his monthly prayer intentions to the entire Church. For this reason, the Apostleship came to be known as "the Pope's own prayer group."
Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 1994, wrote: "As the dawn of the third millennium approaches a world in which many sectors have become quite pagan, it is obvious how urgent it is for members of the Apostleship of Prayer to be involved in the service of the new evangelization. For Christ has come to preach the Good News to the poor, and the Apostleship of Prayer has always considered itself a form of popular piety for the masses. As such it has performed an important service during the past hundred and fifty years by giving new life to people's awareness of how valuable their lives are to God for the building up of His Kingdom."
The Apostleship of Prayer was born in 1844 out of the apostolic restlessness of a group of Jesuit seminarians at Vals, France. Because they knew missionary work lay before them, they were frustrated and impatient. Eager to join the missions in India and America, they failed to see how their dull study routines would make them better missionaries.
In response, their spiritual director, Father Francois Xavier Gautrelet, S.J., held a conference. He emphasized that the salvation of souls was a supernatural goal and could therefore be achieved most effectively through supernatural means. Addressing his younger Jesuit brothers, he said, "Be apostles now, apostles of prayer! Offer everything you are doing each day in union with the Heart of our Lord for what he wishes: the spread of the Kingdom for the salvation of souls."
Father Gautrelet taught these seminarians to offer each day to God. Thus, their prayer, study, work, recreation, headaches – offered in union with Christ’s sacrifice as renewed in the Mass – would advance the work of the missions as much as their direct work in the field.
The seminarians took this idea of a Daily Offering to the surrounding villages. As a result, an apostolic spirituality of prayer and activity was born. This soon was formalized into what is now known as the Morning (or Daily) Offering to help people unite their daily lives to the oblation of Christ for the intentions close to his Heart.
In 1861 the first Messenger of the Sacred Heart was published. Besides promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this periodical also tried to develop in its readers an awareness of the needs of the Universal Church.
The Holy Father's Intentions
By the 1880’s, Pope Leo XIII could see that this simple, profound way of life was spreading. So, he announced prayer intentions for every month to go with the Daily Offering. These prayer intentions would unite the entire Catholic Church. They would bring members closer to each other and closer to Christ. Pope Pius XI added a specific missionary intention for each month back in 1929. These intentions are prayed specifically for those who make a commitment to spreading the Gospel around the world. Today, the Holy Father still announces two monthly intentions.
On its 100th anniversary in 1944, Pope Pius XII gave thanks to God for the Apostleship of Prayer, calling it "one of the most efficacious means for the salvation of souls, since it concerns prayer and prayer in common." He commended the organization for its goal: "to pray assiduously for the needs of the Church and to try to satisfy them through daily offering."
In 1985, Pope John Paul II called the Apostleship of Prayer "a precious treasure from the Pope's heart and the Heart of Christ."
By the year 2000, the Apostleship of Prayer had over 40 million members, 50 different Messengers of the Sacred Heart, and 40 other periodicals.
A bond with Christ the High Priest necessarily requires an intimate bond with him through personal love. Therefore, the Apostleship has given singular importance to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Each Sunday, the celebrant leads the people in offering themselves, with Christ, to God the Father. It is important that they extend this self-offering throughout the week embracing all their day-to-day activity – their prayer, their work in the office or home, their joys and recreation, their tensions, headaches, and sacrifices. This is how the laity “consecrate their world to God.”
The Apostleship of Prayer is a form of spirituality that helps them do this in a simple, concrete way. It gives them a motive – love for Christ, and it gives them a technique – the Daily Offering. It presents them with a practical way of living life in union with Christ and making him truly present to the world. And they will adopt this way of life readily because of the compelling need they feel to respond to God’s love; a love he has revealed in a visible, human fashion in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
For this reason, Pope Pius XII called the Apostleship of Prayer “the sum total of Christian perfection.”
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