In an hour I'll be meeting a Jesuit who is one of the spiritual directors at the North American College, the place where U.S. seminarians live as they study here in Rome. It will be my first visit there and we'll celebrate Vespers with the community and have supper.
My meetings this week with the Advisory Council of the Apostleship of Prayer went well and were clearly guided by the Holy Spirit. From beginning to end I sensed the prayer support of many people from around the world. We basically began working on a strategic plan for the Apostleship. We were able to work on a mission statement, some objectives, and some practical ways that we will work to realize those objectives. One of the things that makes this a difficult task is the diversity of the Apostleship. In Latin America it takes the form of a more traditional membership model, something that is also true in the Philippines where members wear a special Sacred Heart scapular for meetings and when they attend Mass in their parishes. It is also very visible and growing tremendously in Africa. In Europe and the U.S. it seems to have taken on a form that is modeled less on societies with membership lists and more on groups that are connected via the internet. The beginning of the mission statement that we worked on captures both of these realities: "The Apostleship of Prayer, entrusted by the Holy See to the Society of Jesus, is a worldwide network of prayer that helps people find hope and meaning in their lives by leading them to a deep, personal and trusting relationship with the risen Christ."
Last Monday, before our meetings began, I was able to visit St. Peter's Basilica and the tomb of Blessed John Paul II, as well as to buy some souvenirs. I had "Pranzo," the large midday meal, with Cardinal Raymond Burke, a great friend of the Apostleship of Prayer who always includes our annual leaflet in his Christmas cards. Our meetings began on Tuesday and I was busy with those through Saturday when we met with Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, the General of the Jesuits and Director General of the Apostleship. On Saturday night we went to a place that figures into Jesuit history--La Storta--where St. Ignatius had a vision of the Father placing him with the Son who was carrying His cross. He heard the words, "I will be propitious to you in Rome." As we celebrated Mass in this tiny chapel, we offered our work to the Father with the Son, praying that the Holy Spirit would continue to guide us and the Apostleship of Prayer around the world. We were grateful that God had been so "propitious" to us during our meetings.