Pope Benedict's General Prayer Intention for August 2012:
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for August 2012 is "That prisoners may be treated with justice and respect for their human dignity." Punishment for crimes committed against fellow human beings or in violation of the common good is a necessary activity that is properly the province of government. But such punishment cannot be arbitrary—in other words, it must fit the crime, in terms of severity—or it will itself be a violation of the proper order and an abuse of the authority of government.
Respect for the human dignity of prisoners, however, extends beyond the responsibilities of government and imposes an obligation on each one of us, as Christ Himself makes clear in His account of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:31-45:
Then [the king] shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.
Caring for prisoners is placed by Christ on par with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick. And He is not speaking here just of prisoners who may have been wrongly accused. We are called to care for all of the imprisoned, no matter what they did to get there and how fully they deserve their punishment.
Of course, for many of us, physically visiting prisoners may not be an option. But we can support, with both donations and prayers, those who run prison ministries, especially those aimed at the salvation and sustenance of prisoners' souls. And beyond that, we can pray directly for prisoners, for their spiritual and physical health, and join our prayers to those of Pope Benedict this month. One way to bring ourselves to the point of such prayers is by meditating on Christ's account of the Last Judgment.
Pope Benedict's Mission Prayer Intention for August 2012:
The Holy Father's mission prayer intention for August 2012 is "That young people, called to follow Christ, may be willing to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel to the ends of the earth." It seems likely that Pope Benedict was thinking at least in part of the next World Youth Day, to be held July 23-28, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The theme for World Youth Day 2013 is "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). While we are all called to spread the Gospel, missionary activity is, by its very nature, heavily dependent upon the efforts of youth. But for youth properly to evangelize others, they must not only be willing but able "to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel." And that requires being properly catechized themselves.
For those of us who are no longer young, we can join our efforts to the Holy Father's mission prayer intention for August by doing our part to catechize the young—both our children and the children in our parishes. And, of course, we can and should pray for the young—using, for instance, this Prayer to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron of Youth, in which we ask Saint Aloysius to protect the young people of today from the moral, spiritual, and intellectual dangers of the modern world.