On June 28, the Vatican Information Service announced Pope Francis's prayer intentions for July 2013. These are the prayer intentions that Catholics should keep in mind this month whenever we pray for the intentions of the Holy Father—as, for instance, when we pray the final prayers of the rosary.
Pope Francis's general prayer intention for July 2013 is "That World Youth Day in Brazil may encourage all young Christians to become disciples and missionaries of the Gospel." World Youth Day 2013 will take place in Rio de Janeiro, July 23-28, 2013. Pope Francis will be in attendance; it will be his first trip abroad as pope, and, of course, the first time that he has returned to his native continent of South America since his election.
In announcing his intention to take part in World Youth Day at his Palm Sunday Mass, Pope Francis urged young Catholics not to be "ashamed of the Cross," and implored those traveling to Brazil to "Prepare well, prepare spiritually above all—in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world." But World Youth Day isn't simply for those who can attend it; it is, as the Pope's general prayer intention makes clear, intended to invigorate the faith of all Catholic youth. And so we can join our prayer to Pope Francis's this month by invoking the patron saint of youth, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, especially through this Prayer to Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron of Youth.
Pope Francis's mission prayer intention for July 2013 is "That throughout Asia doors may open to messengers of the Gospel." His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was likewise concerned with the evangelization of Asia, and especially of China, where faithful Catholics have suffered for decades for their adherence to the Gospel and their unity with Rome. In May 2008, Pope Benedict composed a Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan, invoking Our Lady, Help of Christians, to whom there is a well-known shrine in the city of Sheshan, China. The prayer calls upon Mary, "Mother of China and all Asia," to intercede for those "who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love," that they "May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus." While Pope Benedict asked that this prayer be recited by all Catholics each year on May 24 (the Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians), it is certainly appropriate to pray it this month, as we, like the Pope Emeritus, join our prayers to those of the current Holy Father.
(Pope Francis arrives in St. Peter's Square on June 16, 2013, to celebrate Mass for the anniversary of Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae. Photo by Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images)