Presenter Information

Thomas McKenna C.M., S.T.D.


This article concerns the balancing of seemingly conflicting demands, prayer and action. Vincent de Paul used his experience to show that the two should be integrated. He said that “prayerful solitude” made missioners desire work and vice versa. As Thomas McKenna writes, “each feeds off the other, and each does not make full sense without the other.” The word “prayer” has two senses: formal prayer, but also one’s general openness to God. At its best, formal prayer is the conscious expression of this openness, which is mostly unconscious. Action keeps prayer from becoming abstract or “insulation from reality.” McKenna makes a distinction between activity and action; activity is done for its own sake and not because it is God’s will. Action is done with care, under the guidance of the Spirit. Prayer keeps action from becoming activity. In explaining Vincent’s exhortation to “leave God for God,” McKenna adds, “praying and service are rooted in one underlying reality—God’s presence and care at the heart of life. Because both prayer and service are sprouts from the same soil, one can change into the other and still remain an avenue onto God’s Way.”