September 20, 2013

Catholic Education Outreach / Peg McEvoy

Is ‘I’ll pray for you …’ enough?

You have probably seen pictures of Pope Francis hugging a disabled young man or kissing a baby. He is a man of many beautiful qualities, tenderness among them.

“Tenderness” has also been a theme in the Holy Father’s homilies and reflections. Our Blessed Mother has often been held up as a model of tenderness. It is significant that at his inaugural Mass on March 19, Pope Francis’ homily focused on the tenderness of Joseph, a father:

“Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, St. Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”

Men, with St. Joseph as their model, should strive for tenderness. In other reflections, Pope Francis challenges us further when he reminds us of the need for mercy and tenderness in the Church.

Today, there are so many people hungry for the mercy and tenderness of our Lord. How can they find it? They will find it through Jesus’ disciples, both men and women, sharing his tenderness with them. Tenderness is central to evangelization.

In our everyday lives, it can be difficult to identify who is actively seeking God’s mercy and tenderness. Sometimes they don’t even know it themselves. Do you know someone whose loved one has died, or someone who has just lost a relationship they thought would last a lifetime? Maybe your neighbor recently lost a job, or maybe your friend just found out that her or his child suffers from an addiction.

I find myself sometimes saying, “I’ll pray for you.” This is good, and I really do pray for the person and the situation. However, there is an even greater challenge: How do we, as disciples, extend Jesus’ own mercy and tenderness through our response? I don’t recall Jesus ever telling anyone who came to him for help, “I’ll pray for you later.” He would pray with them and for them and heal them.

You and I certainly can’t heal as Jesus did. However, we do have the ability to pray with the person as a part of our conversation—if at all possible—placing the healing in Jesus’ hands right then and there.

It takes courage. Sometimes that offer to pray will be met with resistance. Respect that. Praying together can open up a conversation about faith. We should be ready to invite the person into deeper faith if the opportunity arises. Open the door, but don’t force it.

How might this work on a practical level? If you have a friend or family member who is hurting:

  • Step into conversation with that person and really listen;
  • Ask if you can pray with him or her about it;
  • In your prayer, ask Jesus to be present to the person and situation—to heal what is broken;
  • Be prepared for a conversation about faith to follow, but don’t push it;
  • Remember the Holy Spirit is at work—and trust.

If the person seems open to more prayer, invite them to Mass, adoration, Bible study or another Catholic small faith-sharing group with you. This is up-close evangelization.

Through prayer for and with others, we will be opening doors to faith everywhere! And remember, as Pope Francis said, “We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”

(Peg McEvoy is the archdiocesan associate director for Evangelization and Family Catechesis. For questions and/or help starting a parish evangelization team, contact Peg at

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