General: That prisoners may be treated with justice and respect for their human dignity.
Criminals disrespect the human dignity of their victims when they steal, hurt, or kill. So do criminals lose their own dignity in prison? No. Church teaching respects the human dignity of all people, including criminals. In an Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "Prisoners are human persons who, despite their crime, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They need our care. With this in mind, the Church must provide for pastoral care in prisons, for the material and spiritual welfare of the prisoners."
Part of that pastoral care involves praying for the conversion of prisoners. Rehabilitation is possible only when human dignity is respected. That's why Pope Benedict asks us to join him in praying this month that prisoners may be treated, not only with justice, but also with respect for their human dignity. The Pope said: "Pastoral workers have the task of studying and recommending restorative justice as a means and a process for promoting reconciliation, justice, and peace, and the return of victims and offenders to the community." Restorative justice is a process in which offenders, victims, and the community come together to repair the damage caused by a crime. Justice must be accompanied by reconciliation that leads to healing. Without reconciliation, prisons will be places that make people worse, not better.
Some members of the Apostleship of Prayer are prisoners. Our simple and profound life, in which every moment of the day is offered to God, helps them find purpose in their often difficult life behind bars. Some Apostles of Prayer distribute our leaflets to prisoners. It's a small but significant way that they practice Christ’s exhortation to visit those in prison.
Missionary: That young people, called to follow Christ, may be willing to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
This year Pope Benedict has challenged young people to be "missionaries of joy." One cannot give what one does not have. One cannot witness to what one has not seen. Thus, in calling them to this great mission of the Church, Pope Benedict urged them also to stay close to Jesus, to know him and his love in a deeper way so that they may be filled with a joy that is, in the Pope’s words, "contagious." The Holy Father also said: "We cannot be happy if others are not. Joy has to be shared. Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away." The best way for young people to hear the Gospel is from their peers. Pope Benedict acknowledged that for many young people "the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring." This impression needs to be countered by joyful witness. The Pope told young people, and really all of us: "You should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the 'good news' that God loves us and that each of us is important to him. Show the world that this is true!" We pray that young people may be willing to proclaim and live the Gospel to the ends of the earth, in other words, wherever they are. And are we, no matter what our age, so filled with the joy of faith that we cannot keep it to ourselves? May we all stay close to the Lord Jesus so that we will be full of his joy. Reflection: When you were young, how did you experience the joy that God alone gives? Reading: 1 John 1:3-4 What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us... We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.