About her vocation to prayer, Andrea Pinnavaia writes from St. Johns…
The deeper I delve into my vocation as a Vincentian, the more I am drawn into caring for the poor through prayer.
People who are truly people of prayer will be inspired to serve and be drawn into a life in service to others. The more we come to know Jesus through our prayer, the more Christ compels us to know Him in our neighbor, particularly in the person of the poor.
Our prayer, however, does not end with being drawn to service. Once we have committed ourselves in action, we must go a step further and daily bring to mind those who we encounter and hold them up to God. The most basic distinctions I make between Vincentian service and other forms of volunteerism for our students who offer their time and of themselves in the many services opportunities we facilitate at St. John’s are that we serve because we know it is Jesus himself we encounter in the poor, that these beloved children are made in the image of God, and that we are further called to reflect upon our service and continue our connection with the individuals we serve through prayer.
My first Vincentian service experiences as an Undergraduate at St. John’s were through the Midnight Run program. After meeting the men and women we were able to find on the streets of Manhattan some bitterly cold winter nights, and offering a cup of soup, a sweatshirt, and a conversation, I could no longer enjoy the warmth of protection of my room in Donovan Hall without thinking of these brothers and sisters of mine. I may not be able to find Sally again for a face to face meeting, but I could remember her face in prayer daily – that she would find someplace warm on a particularly cold night, that she would be kept safe from theft of her few possessions, and that some other person of goodwill might give her something to eat tonight. I found that the more Vincentian I became in my treatment of those in need, the longer I needed to spend time in prayer – for the faces of the poor in which we find Christ yearning for our compassion become persons that can no longer be called numberless but counted and named and remembered. Most of all in need of prayer was myself: that the Lord might constantly renew my spirit to give me eyes and a heart for the poor.
In this Holy Year of Mercy, let us not forget to pray for those who have been marginalized: for God hears all of our prayers and can transform situations of those who need to be served and the hearts of those who can serve from darkness to light, from sadness to joy, and from death to life.