Today 128 years ago was the death of Fr Francis Xavier Gautralet who had been the spiritual director at the seminary in Vals, Southwestern France. The long period of academic studies in Jesuit Formation is interrupted in Regency, with a couple of years of full-time apostolic work. Nevertheless many young Jesuits who are itching to work on the front line can get frustrated during studies, even though they are constantly told that their primary mission is their studies. It was this healthy desire to support the apostolic work, that was harnessed by Gautralet when he said that in spite of their studies they could become apostles, apostles of prayer. Encouraging them to offer each day to God he reminded the young Jesuits that as the goal of the Church was 'to save souls', a supernatural goal, they could be actively involved through supernatural means i.e. prayer.
The zealous young Jesuits took this message into the surrounding villages, and it was soon to be enthusiastically embraced by many. According to de Guibert, this union of all the faithful by their united apostolic prayer was to become one of most characteristic contributions of the restored Society. What was new was the idea of concentrating the combined petitions of so many for a specific objective. Fr Gautralet had sown the seeds of this idea, but it was to be developed and widened by Henri Ramiere. He had founded a journal called the Sacred Heart Messenger in 1861, and he now combined this with the Apostleship of Prayer as well as promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist. In the 1880's Pope Leo XIII realised the potential of combining the morning offering with a monthly intention that he would announce, and this was continued by successive Popes and in the 1920's Pius XII added a missionary intention.
The advent of social media has led to new life for this ministry. In a document released in September 2012 it was admitted that too many people, including Jesuits, view the apostleship as "an obsolete ministry that belongs to the past" or one that is "just 'a devotion for old ladies' that doesn't speak to younger generations,". The internet allows millions of people around the world see the pope's monthly prayer intentions, share them online and make them part of their prayer lives. The morning offering and prayers are the basic membership requirements, and in many countries the apostleship has no registration, no groups, no fees, and no special meetings. It is estimated that about 50 million people fulfil the membership requirements in the apostleship and its youth wing, the Eucharistic Youth Movement.In current practice, national Apostleship of Prayer directors send ideas for the prayers to the international office in Rome. The international director and the superior general of the Jesuits choose 12 themes and send them to the Vatican Secretariat of State where they may be modified in light of suggestions from Vatican offices. The final list -- along with the missionary intentions -- is returned to the Jesuits for distribution. The link to the new website is www.apostleshipofprayer.org