The Prayers of the Laity: Vital Support for Any Pope’s Holiness

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What if a large group of friends—maybe a hundred people or so—supported you daily with their prayers and sacrifices?

What if each of those hundred forgave you your trespasses as they wanted God to forgive theirs, let you have a second chance ten times over when necessary (and begged the Lord to help you improve), gave up cream and sugar (or more) for you on a regular basis, and offered frequent Holy Hours, Communions, and extra Rosaries on your behalf?

I think we might each be something like an uncut gemstone. To start with, we just look like ordinary rocks in a field full of billions of other similar ones. But God loves us, so He draws us to the Sacraments and moves people’s hearts to pray, and when He hears those prayers, He, the Master Jeweler, answers them by shaping, cutting, and polishing each of us with Grace until we’re more like what He means us to be–jewels, uniquely shaped, formed, and polished by His Hand. We’re no more important than we were when we just looked like rocks in a field, but now we’re better able to reflect His light in the way He had in mind all along. This isn’t our doing; it’s His, and we didn’t earn it. Maybe caring peoples’ petitions are just as much a cause of our life with Him–and our service to Him–as our own efforts at holiness are, and we might never know how much we owe to their prayers.

Most of us are very blessed; people pray for us faithfully! God understands how much it helps us to have friends. And when He designed the Church—a full expression of Catholic charity—He built this into Her structure.

One of the beauties of Catholicism is that each person in the Church, from the Pope down to the youngest child in the laity, has more friends than he or she can count, and no one is without influence.[1]  The people at the lower levels of the hierarchy have a great opportunity to influence what happens at the higher ones. We can even say the laity are a vital part of the hierarchy’s support.

This statement is rooted in an understanding expressed by Servant of God Elizabeth Leseur:

“Prayer is the higher form of activity; through it we act directly upon God, while the outward act is directed solely to our fellow human beings…”[2]

So nothing is as powerful as prayer. And the lower we go down the hierarchical ladder, the more the potential effect of prayer is multiplied. Why?  Let’s listen to St. Louis Marie de Montfort, speaking about group Rosaries:

“When the Rosary is said in common, it is far more formidable to the devil, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him. He can often overcome the prayer of an individual, but if it is joined to that of others, the devil has much more trouble getting the best of it.”

In any age, the Pope needs the prayers of the faithful so that he can become the saint God wants to make him. There’s a whole worldful of lay Catholics (today, around 1.3 billion), each entrusted with the duty of praying fervently for one Holy Father.

The Catholic laity are a broad network charged with a great role in the Church.[3] And our Faith is unique in that Baptism doesn’t just make fellow churchgoers; it makes family. Any Holy Father, in any age, is also a brother and a father of every other Catholic worldwide, which adds another dimension to our responsibility to pray for him.

For each of us, holiness takes conversion, and quite often, we can’t see our own need for that. We tend to not know which graces we need for ourselves until God opens our eyes or drops them in, so we have to pray for those for each other. We need others praying for our sanctification, and so does (or did, or will) every priest, Bishop, Cardinal, and Holy Father who has ever lived.

Mother Angelica used to say, “You are all called to be great saints. Don’t miss the opportunity.” This is the calling for every Baptized Catholic, from the laity to the top of the hierarchy. But we have to help each other along. In all times, and in all generations, the Catholic laity have to pray earnestly for the Holy Father and his sanctification, just as we pray for our own.

[1] Because of the Church’s three realms (earth, Heaven, and Purgatory), and because Catholic friendships and prayers extend across the realms, even if a person were completely abandoned on earth, he or she would never really be alone or without influence.

[2] The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest. Sophia Institute Press, 2002.

[3] “In the context of Church mission, then, the Lord entrusts a great part of the responsibility to the lay faithful, in communion with all other members of the People of God. This fact, fully understood by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, recurred with renewed clarity and increased vigor in all the works of the Synod: “Indeed, Pastors know how much the lay faithful contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they themselves were not established by Christ to undertake alone the entire saving mission of the Church towards the world, but they understand that it is their exalted office to be shepherds of the lay faithful and also to recognize the latter’s services and charisms that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart”[121].” Saint John Paul II, Christifidelis Laici, para. 32

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