Pope Benedict's timely general prayer intention reminds us of our responsibility to elect officials who have three qualities: honesty, integrity, and love for the truth. Honest leaders do not say only what people want to hear just to get elected, but speak their hearts no matter how unpopular it may be to some. Leaders with integrity match actions to their words. Leaders who love the truth act on it for the common good.
We will deserve such leaders only when we ourselves strive to live with honesty, integrity, and love for the truth.
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the duty of the laity to participate in political life. He enjoins them to participate "in accordance with the Church’s teaching, bringing their well-founded reasons and high ideals into the democratic debate and into the search for a broad consensus among all those who care about the defense of life and freedom,the safeguarding of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy and the crucial search for the common good." The Pope calls this duty a "demanding challenge" necessitated by the "large and complex problems" of our time. (May 21, 2010, Message to Pontifical Council for the Laity).
Many Christians live in poverty. The Pope asks us to join him in praying for the "poorest Churches." Where are they? Of the world's 20 poorest nations, 18 are in Africa, Catholicism's fastest growing continent. The other two are Haiti (80 percent Catholic) and Afghanistan, where the Christian population is tiny.
And there are "poorest Churches" near to us too. Four of the five poorest counties in the U.S. are in South Dakota and home to the Lakota Sioux. The Church is present there with missions that help provide for the needs of the people through such organizations as St. Francis Mission Among the Lakota (www.sfmission.org).
The poorest Churches need personnel—missionary priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people—and concrete resources. Our service to these needs begins with prayer. The mission of the Apostleship of Prayer has always been to support the missions through prayer, fasting, and the sacrificial offering of one's day with all its prayers and works, joys and sufferings. As Pope Benedict wrote: "May prayer be intensified ever more in the Christian people, the essential spiritual means for spreading among all peoples the light of Christ" (2008 Message for World Mission Day).
But prayer leads to action. We cannot pray for something and then ignore opportunities to meet the needs for which we are praying. And so also the Holy Father hopes that our prayer will move us to support the poorest Churches. In his 2010 Message he said: "I renew to everyone the invitation to pray and, despite financial difficulties, to offer fraternal and concrete help to support the young Churches."