This is not an appeal for funds – just prayer! Seriously!
What do we do when something is very important to us?
Again, seriously, what do we do when we are especially upset about something? The loss of a job, the health of a relative, a cancer diagnosis, etc. You get the picture! We pray hard, and often, for what touches us deeply.
So my question today is, how fervently and how often do we pray for those who are homeless. I am not talking about the concept “homeless people.” I am talking especially about the homeless people themselves. The people we see (or try not to see) in the course of our daily activities…the haggard grandmother standing on a street corner begging, the disheveled man at the stoplight holding the makeshift sign, the person fumbling with food stamps at the cash register, the drunk who reeks of alcohol, etc.
I must admit it is easier for me to pray for an end to homelessness than to pray with an image of a specific person before my mind’s eye. And yet when I have an image of a specific person my prayer becomes very focused and sometimes pain-filled.
How and when Vincent and Rosalie prayed
I write this on the feast of St. Vincent who was clearly moved by the images of the homeless he saw in his daily routine. I suspect he kept these faces before him when he prayed. I think also of Blessed Rosalie Rendu who said, “Never have I prayed as well as in the streets.” She saw the people she served through the eyes of the God who created them and loved them. I suspect that neither really changed God’s mind. I think it was more a case of prayer changing and challenging their hearts.
So it is in this spirit that I suggest we not multiply our prayers. Rather, let us take time to pray the following prayer of the Vincentian Family. Take time to see the face of a specific person in each situation. There is no recommendation I know of that we finish the prayer all at once. Let us open our hearts to each of these persons. In our prayer, we can walk the streets praying with Vincent, Rosalie and so many before us who have prayed because they saw in the face before them their brother or sister and could not look away. I know I need to do it more often!
Prayer of the Vincentian Family
Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless this day.
For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.
For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime.
For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.
For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.
For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.
For those who are afraid and hopeless.
For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net. For all these people, we pray that you, God, will provide shelter, security, and hope.
We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.
Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through whatever means we have, to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.