Our History

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” 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, from the Vatican office of this apostolate, we have guided a worldwide effort that has transformed the Apostleship of Prayer into the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. We have made an effort to pinpoint the spiritual axes present in the foundational insight Father F.X. Gautrelet received in 1844. The renewed Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network 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.

Papal Endorsements

Ever since the late 1800’s the Holy Father has supported the work of the Apostleship of Prayer, now known as the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. It is a service of the Holy See, under the care of the Society of Jesus. Below are a few quotes from several different pontiffs who pointed out the benefits of this international prayer network.

Pope Pius XII

On its 100th anniversary in 1944, Pope Pius XII gave thanks to God for the Apostleship of Prayer, calling it “one of the most efficacious means for the salvation of souls, since it concerns prayer and prayer in common.” He commended the organization for its goal: “to pray assiduously for the needs of the Church and to try to satisfy them through daily offering.”

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 1994, wrote: “As the dawn of the third millennium approaches a world in which many sectors have become quite pagan, it is obvious how urgent it is for members of the Apostleship of Prayer to be involved in the service of the new evangelization. For Christ has come to preach the Good News to the poor, and the Apostleship of Prayer has always considered itself a form of popular piety for the masses. As such it has performed an important service during the past hundred and fifty years by giving new life to people’s awareness of how valuable their lives are to God for the building up of His Kingdom.”

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is, as Pope John Paul II wrote in 1985, “a precious treasure from the Pope’s heart and the Heart of Christ.”

Pope Francis

Most recently, Pope Francis said during a Sunday Angelus, “I would also like to invite you to join in the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which spreads, also through social networks, the prayer intentions I propose for the Church each month. In this way, the Apostleship of Prayer moves forward and communion grows.”