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On March 14, 2013, almost three years ago, the church experienced a day full of joy and hope: the white smoke announcing the election of the 266th Pope. We all remember the excitement that his appearance on the Vatican balcony generated as well as the many surprises that occurred that night, among them, the election of the first Pope in history to come from the Americas. We already find in his first greeting the seeds of something that has continued over the past three years: prayer as the fundamental focus and action of the Pope. He had no sooner come out and given the simple greeting of “good afternoon” than he asked the people of God, gathered at St. Peter’s Square, to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Then he invited people to pray for one another (“Let us always pray for each other”) and for all human beings (“Let’s pray for everyone, so there is a great brotherhood”). Next, he asked the people of God gathered there to pray for him and his new papal ministry (“I ask you to pray to the Lord to bless me: the prayer of the people, asking for blessing for their bishop. Let us make this prayer, your prayer for me, in silence…“). And finally, he blessed the people and said goodbye.

The last few years we have become accustomed to hear Pope Francis end his encounters with people of all kinds with, “Pray for me.”

Few would have any doubt, therefore, about the importance the Pope gives to personal and community prayer and how important it is to him that that we pray for one another.

As members of the Vincentian Family who are celebrating the Year of Collaboration, do we know how to bring Francis’ feelings and convictions to our spiritual family?

Sometimes we say that St. Vincent de Paul was a “contemplative in action.” To him, prayer (personal and in community), besides being indispensable, should also launch us to action and be a fountain from which we drink to recover our strength, but always for the purpose of continuing the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and serving the poor. We read in his conferences to the Daughters of Charity:

“It’s time for prayer; if you hear poor persons calling for you, mortify yourselves and leave God for God, even though you must do your utmost not to omit you prayer, for that’s what will keep you united to God; and, as long as this union continues, you will have nothing to fear. Now, in order to preserve this union of charity with God, you must be recollected and reserved, communing with our Lord.”

It’s not so much about whether we pray or not (that too!), but about how we pray.

We are living a time of grace, a Year of Collaboration, in the Vincentian Family. Here, we are invited to partake more closely of the spirituality and activity of each branch. We are called to share ourselves and our actions for the good of the poor.

It looks just right that there is also sharing, among the branches, of common prayer spaces where we can gather around Jesus Christ, asking him to make fruitful our action and to purify our hearts, so that we may be worthy followers of the great saint, Vincent.

We are in Lent…, what if we propose, as one of our Easter resolutions, to hold a local prayer meeting (monthly, every other month…) that is open to all members of the Vincentian Family in our neighborhood?

Let us get to know one another and acknowledge each other as brothers or sisters, also while we are in an intimate encounter with the Lord.

For our reflection and dialogue:

  1. What place does prayer have in my life?
  2. How is my prayer?
  3. For what reasons do I pray?
  4. Does prayer feed my life? How?
  5. Does my prayer lead to action? How?
  6. In community, group, family?
  7. What time does we give to common prayer?
  8. How do we pray, and share prayer?
  9. Do we encourage prayer meetings within the Vincentian Family?

Javier F. Chento
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