In letters to friends and family, Frédéric Ozanam always assured them of his prayers, and frequently closed by asking for their prayers in return. Sometimes, this was a simple and sincere sign-off of “pray for me,” but often he asked for very specific prayers.
“Pray for me to be wise,” he asked his mother; “pray to God for me so that I may get through so important and unusual an event…” he asked a friend; “pray, pray for us who begin to man the barricades…” he asked his cousin, Ernest Falconnet; and “pray for me who does not yet know where I am bound” he asks his friend Léonce Curnier. [Letters 207, 398, 44, 107]
Always in his prayers and his requests for prayers is Frédéric’s deep sense that prayer is the most essential bond of love and friendship, the bond that unites friends with each other and with God. For Frédéric it was the shared prayers of the Conferences scattered across France, offered in unison on feast days and other celebrations, that kept them “intertwined despite distances.” [Letter 113] Indeed, he defined our cultural belief in One Society when he said that “united in works and prayers and the strength of this union would be very great.” [Letter 135]
Prayer is at the center of Vincentian friendship, and neither ceases upon death. As our 1835 Rule pointed out, ours is even “a friendship stronger than death for we will often remember in our prayers to God the brethren whom we have lost.” [1835 Rule] Our Rule today continues to confirm for us that prayer is “the basis of friendship.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2]
Through prayer we are connected to one another and to the whole Communion of Saints, among whom we count our own dearly departed. “Let us consider,” Frédéric consoled his friend Perrière, “that our beloved dead do not forget us any more than we forget them, that they think of us, love us, pray for us, that perhaps they walk with us as invisible guardians.” [Letter 1353]
Like every aspect of our friendship, our prayers also extend to the neighbor. We pray before Home Visits for the Holy Spirit to guide us in our acts of mercy, we offer up the neighbor’s needs in prayer during the visit, and in “every Conference throughout the world and in their personal lives, Vincentians raise their prayers to God, united with the prayer of Christ, on behalf of one another and their masters the poor, whose suffering they wish to share.” [Rule, Part I, 2.3]
To ask for prayer is a prayer itself, through the intercession of our friends. Let us never cease praying for and asking for prayers of one another and the poor constantly, bearing witness to Vincentian friendship, united in Christ’s love.
What Vincentian friend or neighbor can I pray for today?