“The needs were overwhelming,” the Home Visit team recalled, “And they were beyond what we could provide. So we just prayed.” Have you heard an account like this before? The emotions were high, the needs were great, there was nothing we could do, so…we just prayed.
It’s easy to feel as though we’ve let down the neighbor sometimes. We are the ones who return their calls. We are the ones who listen and understand. And we are the ones who, more often than not, are able to help with that overdue bill, or groceries, or rent, so when we can’t, or when the problem isn’t really a matter of material assistance, it can seem as if we’ve fallen short. Instead of offering our alms, we share in their suffering.
And we just pray.
Yet no matter the need, no matter the outcome of our Home Visit, we always pray. It isn’t an afterthought, or a rote exercise, or something we fall back on only when things seem hopeless! Our prayers are the most important thing we have to offer.
After all, why do we offer them for each other, or for our friends and family? Vincentians are people of “prayer and action.” [Rule, Part I, 3.3] Bl. Frédéric calls us to “do all the good we can and trust to God for the rest.” [Baunard, 81] However great or little our efforts or our material offerings, our work is never complete without prayer.
We always pray; we never just pray. The final balance between our action and our prayer is up to God alone. As St. Vincent reminds us, “God does not consider the outcome of the good work undertaken but the charity that accompanied it.” [CCD I:205]
In our prayers, we place the needs of the neighbors before God in order to assure them that they are not forgotten, that this, too, shall pass. We add our voices to theirs, knowing that God has placed us n the presence for this reason, that He, too, is present on our Home Visit, and that the hope we offer is not merely the hope of a light bill payment.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great taught that to give what is ours to the neighbor is charity; to give them what is theirs is justice. [P.R., Bk III] In this sense, at least, they are all just prayers.
If I approach each home visit as if I have only prayer to offer, how would I pray differently?