Benedict XVI has been praying for me

I don't doubt that the Bishop of Rome makes it a regular habit to pray for all Christians, even us Protestants. It's the kind of thing Jesus would (did, does) do. But recently it's been a little more specific than that.

For every month, the Pope issues two prayer intentions, one general and one focused on missions, for which he asks the Church around the world to join him in earnest intercession. The general intention for August was this:

That all those who are going through moments of inner difficulty and trial may find in Christ the light and support which leads them to discover authentic happiness.

Now I don't pretend that my particular inner difficulties and trials are that profound in the grand scheme of things; but then, the Pope didn't specify a degree of difficulty to make one eligible for this prayer; he prayed for all of us to whom this applies. I'm deeply encouraged by the specific prayers of people who know, with various degrees of detail, about my own struggles, but I'm also quite moved by the idea that millions of Catholics who don't even know who I am have been praying for me, too.

I am also encouraged by the form of the prayer intention, which puts into words a hope that I haven't been able to articulate. I'm adopting the prayer as my own, even though August is over. I still have some hang ups about praying for my own happiness, predicated on the shallow view of happiness peddled in our consumer society. That sort of happiness can be the enemy of virtue, rather than its culmination. But the authentic happiness for which the Pope prayed comes precisely through Christ. For such happiness I can pray without the guilt of selfish escapism, in confidence that Christ himself desires it for me.

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