Our story begins on December 3, 1844, on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, at the novitiate for Jesuit students in Vals-près-le-Puy (central region of France). Their spiritual father, Father Gautrelet, SJ, held a meeting with the students to express dissatisfaction with an attitude developing among them. The problem was that they were more motivated by the idea of setting off for faraway missions in India than by having to learn theology.
He urged them to concentrate more on their studies. But, when he was commenting on St. Francis Xavier’s missionary adventure in the homily for that feast-day’s Mass, he unintentionally aroused the young students’ enthusiasm by describing how a life entirely given to study could be very effective in the apostolate: “If each one infuses his labours with the spirit of prayer and makes of them an offering; if several jointly direct themselves in the same way, there would be a convergence of power capable of lifting up mountains!” “Be missionaries already through your prayer, by the offering of your daily life. Your mission is here and now, in your studies and the little things of every day. In fulfilling it through being open to the will of God, you are already apostles who are helping the entire Church. Pray for the people you will meet tomorrow,” he told them. Father
Gautrelet suggested a series of simple steps that would help them to give meaning to what they were already experiencing in the service of Christ’s mission, while further deepening in them their apostolic availability. The work of every day is the primary apostolate, thanks to the daily offering of what is being lived. This way of seeing prayer as mission, ‘the spreading of faith by prayer,’ very quickly transformed the community: the Mass, sacramental offering of Christ, became the centre of the day, and the day became an extension of the Mass.
From that moment on, what was called ‘the Apostleship of Prayer’ (AP) spread like wildfire, first in the surrounding country villages where the young Jesuits passed on this way of praying rooted in daily life, then throughout the world. By 1849, the Apostleship of Prayer was recognized by Pope Pius IX, and in 1890, Leo XIII entrusted to it his monthly prayer intentions.
Ever since, popes have entrusted to us their intentions, which we continue to spread throughout the world today.
During the last four years, in the Rome office of this apostolate, we have guided a worldwide effort that has been called the “Re-creation of the AP.” We have made an effort to pinpoint the spiritual axes
present in the foundational insight Father F.X. Gautrelet received in 1844. The renewed AP will strive to put Christ at the center of our lives and live with him an intimate friendship. We will be apostles invited to collaborate with him, available to his mission of compassion on behalf of our brothers and sisters.