This is the period when newspapers publish their round-ups of important events of the year that had passed, and their predictions for the year that is to come. Rather than try something similar, I thought I would recommend things to pray for or about in 2013, which involves some degree of prediction. So here it goes: six things to keep in mind before the Lord in the year of our Lord 2013.
1. The Pro-life cause in Ireland. There is almost certain to be a brutal fight ahead in Ireland in the coming year over abortion. This matters perhaps more than anything else that the Church will face in 2013. The pro-lifers in Ireland will need our prayers, and because of Ireland’s proximity to the UK, and its close ties to this country (and of course America), the outcome of the battle will have a huge impact on us here.
2. Marriage; please note, marriage, not ‘same sex marriage’. Marriage is becoming less and less popular year in, year out, and 2013 is not likely to be any different. We need to pray for engaged couples, and for all those who are living together, with or without children, so that they may discover their vocation to marriage, if indeed God is calling them to it. And we need to pray for adolescents so that they may have marriage as their goal, rather than an aimless emotional life ahead of them.
3. Parliament. This once great institution seems less and less relevant to our lives each year that passes. Few watch the debates on television; the newspapers barely report them. Most important decisions are made, not in Parliament, but on some sofa somewhere in Downing Street. Our legislators need to take back their rightful place in the British constitution, and fast.
4. The Pope. As Catholics, we all love the Holy Father; it is shocking and distressing to see him subjected to abuse in the newspapers, and online. I doubt the Pope reads the infantile and ignorant comments that follow any article on Catholicism on the Guardian’s website, or reads anything by Johan Hari, George Monbiot or Oliver Kamm and other anti-Catholics, but though these things cannot upset him, they sure do upset us. So, let us pray for the Pope, that God may surround him with comfort; and in so doing, let us renew and redouble our love and loyalty for the Throne of Peter.
5. Atheists, not just Richard Dawkins, all of them. May the God who they do not believe in, be good to them in 2013! It is sad that Richard Dawkins believes that a Catholic education is on a level with child abuse; it is sad that he believes that millions of people, including myself, have been subject to such abuse, and without realising it too. We must pray that these atheists get used to the idea that the Catholic Church exists in this country and elsewhere, not as a thing that is tolerated, but by right, and that we are not going away, and that we are proud of our faith. And on that basis we are prepared to enter into dialogue with anyone. But it has to be rational dialogue: so let us pray for the restoration of a shared rationality.
6. And finally: peace and justice in the world; but once more, to have both, we first of all have to have a restoration of rationality. Peace won’t be attained in Syria by the British government supporting Jihadist rebels; and justice won’t be done, in the Jimmy Savile case, for example, unless there is an abandonment of overheated rhetoric. We need to look at things as they are and put aside our anger. This calls for humility all round. So perhaps that might be the best prayer of all for 2013, and for every year. O God, makes us humble, and make us remember that we are weak human beings, who do not know it all!