It all began in the year 1844 with some frustrated Jesuit seminarians and their wise but slightly exasperated spiritual director. These seminarians in Vals, France were eager to join the missions in India and America. After hearing the seminarians grumbling about their studies and wondering how their dull boring studies would make them better missionaries their spiritual director challenged them.
Fr. Francis X. Gautrelet, S.J., urged his young Jesuit brothers: “Be apostles now, apostles of prayer! Offer everything you are doing each day in union with the Heart of our Lord for what He wishes, the spread of the Kingdom for the salvation of souls.”
With these words the seed was planted for what would become the Apostleship of Prayer. Fr. Gautrelet taught the seminarians to offer each day to God. Their prayer, study, work, recreation, joy and struggle when united with Christ’s sacrifice would advance the work of the missions as much as their direct work in the field. Soon this practice of daily offering spread through the surrounding French countryside. This practice was soon formalized into what we know today as the Morning (or Daily) Offering to help people unite their daily lives to Christ’s sacrifice for the intentions of His Heart.
What soon followed in 1861 was the publication of the first Messenger of the Sacred Heart. This magazine tried to develop an awareness of the needs of the universal church.
In the 1880’s Pope Leo XIII noticed the spread of this devotion and announced a prayer intention for each month to go with the Morning Offering. The intent of the prayer was to unite the Catholic Church bringing members closer to each other and closer to Christ.
In 1929 Pope Pius XI added a specific missionary intention for each month. To this day the Holy Father announces two monthly prayer intentions.
The Apostleship of Prayer has been called the Pope’s own “prayer group.” For the Pope’s prayer intentions for 2011 click here.
On the Occasion of the Apostleship of Prayer’s 100th anniversary in 1944, Pope Pius XII called the Apostleship, “one of the most efficacious means for the salvation of souls, since it concerns prayer and prayer in common.”
John Paul II called the Apostleship ofPrayer in 1985, “a precious treasure from the Pope’s heart and the Heart of Christ.”