First, Pope Francis prayed. He prayed, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He prayed for the world and its people – and he asked everyone to pray for him.
It was March 13, 2013, and he stood on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica overlooking the cheering crowd welcoming the newly elected pontiff. And in his first public appearance as the leader of the Church, he prayed.
He has encouraged prayer ever since that moment. But many people have trouble responding to his call.
Fifty-five percent of American adults pray daily, according to the Pew Research Center.
To the credit of Catholics, their daily prayer rate is higher: 59 percent. But before you puff up with pride, the Catholic rate is well below the daily prayer rate for Evangelicals is 79 percent; for Mormons, 85 percent; for Muslims, 69 percent; for Jehovah’s Witness, 90 percent.
Only 20 percent of Canadians pray daily, according to the Angus Reid Institute. And Pew reports that only one in 10 Western Europeans pray daily.
Of course, the only thing these numbers show is how often people report that they pray. It doesn’t give a qualitative evaluation of the depth of their prayer. These statistics might make some readers feel a bit uneasy. Maybe you fall into the nearly one-fourth of U.S. adults who seldom or never pray.
Whether you pray daily or have suffered from prayer avoidance syndrome, you may find a moment of peace in the daily practice of the Marian Minute.
The Marian Center of Dallas was founded in 1989. A group of young professionals founded Marian Minute in 2011 and assumed direction of the center after that year’s World Youth Day. They wanted a simple way to foster devotion to Mary and help others build a relationship with her through a consistent life of prayer.
From the beginning, the mission was to explore creative means and new technology to increase Marian devotion not only among the youth but to anyone seeking a deeper friendship with Our Blessed Mother.
The first campaign was inspired by recognizing that young people are often too absorbed by the distractions of daily life to dedicate even one minute to pray. The founders set to launch an innovative campaign during World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain on the feast day of the Assumption of Mary. With one simple mission: to promote Mary and daily prayer. They distributed thousands of rosary wristbands inviting people to devote one daily Marian minute. The campaign quickly drew responses from thousands of people from over 100 countries.
Inspired by the first words spoken by Pope Francis from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica when he invited people from around the world to pray for Bishop Emeritus Benedict the XVI saying “Let us pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may keep him” before adding, “Pray for me” asking the faithful to pray that the Lord might bless him. The Marian Minute team set to launch its second campaign by distributing thousands of “prayer coins” featuring a portrait of Pope Francis meant to be passed along to friends after sharing a Marian minute of prayer for the pope, building a global prayer chain. Once again, the campaign drew a great response from thousands of people all over the world.
Karla Alfaro and Horacio Gomez, both members of Regnum Christi, are two of the key people who founded and continue to lead the Marian Center and Marian Minute.
“Since launching Marian Minute, my relationship with Our Lady has simply grown and grown,” Karla said. “I really wanted to do something to bring people closer to Mary.”
Horacio was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to the United States for college. When Marian Minute was launched, the idea online prayer was new and one of the “techies” among the young professionals he knew mentioned a website that challenged viewers to “do nothing” for two minutes.
“We thought if someone can promote the idea of doing nothing for a couple of minutes we ought to be able to attract people to pray for a minute,” Horacio said. “We especially wanted to reach out to millennials.”
“The idea is to help young people build a habit of prayer,” Karla said. “Mary wants to keep it simple.”
And simple it is. Go to the Marian Minute site, click on start, and pray for a minute. WARNING: Mary wants you to pay attention for a full minute, so if your computer mouse the timer starts over.
Karla said that they believed they had a good idea and in 2011 they were ahead of the “technology” curve. She was right; the first month of the Marian Minute website it had 100,000 visitors from 120 countries. Today, it has 500-1000 visitors a day and is offered in 10 languages.
The group had another campaign for World Youth Day in Rio: Rosary stickers that are affixed to a cell phone. They are a reminder to pray – and of what is really important in life.
Praying for a minute with Mary or having a rosary reminder on your cell phone may seem like tiny steps. But putting many small steps together that eventually carry a pilgrim on a long journey. And it is a good bet that the Holy Father will continue to promote prayer.
“Today, on this great feast of Mary,” Francis said on August 15, 2019, as he blessed 6,000 rosaries for the faithful of Syria. “I am going to bless the rosaries, and then they will be distributed to the Catholic communities in Syria as a sign of my closeness, especially to families who have lost someone because of the war. Prayer done with faith is powerful! Let’s continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and throughout the whole world.”
Pope Francis has said that prayer can be personal and simple. When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, his response is specific, the Pope explained before the July 28, 2019, Angelus in St. Peter’s Square. He shows them how to connect directly with the Father.
“Here is the novelty of Christian prayer! It’s a dialogue between persons that love each other; a dialogue that is based on trust, supported by listening and open to solidary commitment,” the Holy Father said. “It’s a dialogue of the Son with the Father, a dialogue between children and the Father. This is Christian prayer.”
At the beginning of Lent in December 2018, the Pope recalled that In Jesus prayer constantly. In public. In private. In the morning, Late at night.
“The Gospels have given us very vivid portraits of Jesus as a man of prayer,” the Pope said. “Despite the urgency of His mission and the urgency of so many people that claim Him, Jesus feels the need to withdraw in solitude to pray.”
Pope Francis leads by example when it comes to prayer. Where will you find Pope Francis the day before he departs on an apostolic journey? You will find him in the same place that was the site of his first non-official act outside of Vatican City after his election as Pope: St. Mary Major in Rome, praying.