Ordinary Time 17, Year C
- We go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless (1 Cor. 4:11-12)
As John the Baptist and Jesus had done, St. Vincent de Paul too taught his followers to pray. The Vincentian teaching on prayer is founded on the vision of Christ being constantly before the Father in prayer (cf. Father Rober P. Maloney’s The Way of Vincent de Paul, part I, chapter I, number 6).
St. Vincent taught the Daughters of Charity that Christ was above all a man of prayer (cf. P. Coste, IX, 415 at ). He enjoins the members of the Congregation of the Mission to “conscientiously spend one hour a day in mental prayer, and the custom of the Congregation is that this is to be done together and in the assigned place,” in imitation of Christ who, “in addition to his daytime meditations, sometimes used to spend the whole night in prayer to God” (Common Rules X, 7 at ). St. Vincent also taught a particular method of prayer (cf. Father Maloney’s “Mental Prayer: Yesterday and Today – Some Reflections on the Vincentian Tradition” at ). And he understood prayer to be, in general, “a lifting-up of the mind to God, through which the soul detaches itself, as it were, from itself in order to go and seek God in himself” (P. Coste, IX, 419 at ). Prayer is the soul’s conversation with God; it is “a mutual communication in which God tells the soul inwardly what he wants it to know and do, and in which the soul tells its God what he himself has told it to ask for.”
But St. Vincent, of course, taught prayer convincingly because, first and foremost, he practiced what he taught. Wrote Jacques Delarue of St. Vincent (cf. The Holiness of Vincent de Paul [Geoffrey Chapman Ltd., London, 1960]):
- His life was a running conversation with God and even when he
- was talking to men he did not interrupt it: “Oh Saviour!” he
- would cry out, “Oh Saviour! Blessed be God!” This was no
- affectation, but the spontaneous movement of a loving soul.
- With his eyes fixed all his life long on God, he discovered what
- God wanted of him and fanned the flame of that untiring zeal
- which carried him wholeheartedly to the aid of the most degraded
And if St. Vincent dared approach Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin, as well members of the royalty or the nobility, I do not at all doubt it that he—assured in prayer by Divine Providence that he ought to do his best to alleviate the miseries of the poor—must have bargained with God and importuned him on behalf of the same poor people. His experience with the powerful who found him rather annoying must have left him even more convinced of God’s incomparable goodness and generosity as a parent. St. Vincent’s deep sense of being a needy person among the needy must have accounted largely for his life being a running converation with God. As a poor person among the poor, St. Vincent appreciated the goods that came to him as gifts from God. And so, he praised and thanked God for them, respected them, was willing to share them, and—when they were lacking—he persisted and hoped against hope that God would provide the best of his gifts and would answer on the day he is called upon, and could bring life even to one dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of the flesh.
In the end, let me just say that St. Vincent teaches and convinces me that only a genuinely poor person who is in true solidarity with the poor and finds inconceivable a church without reference to the poor—only such a person genuinely knows to be constantly before the Father in prayer.