In 2012, after 10 years of pastoral work in Vienna, I had the impression that the presence of our religious community in Vienna was irrelevant. Yes, there were beautiful pastoral experiences here and there. But at the end of the day, we had failed to build anything of lasting value. I felt like a drop of water on a forest fire. A friend of ours, the dean of our region of the diocese, felt the same way. In his parish he had the bleak experience that in one year only one child registered for First Communion classes. And that child came from another parish. We hardly had any young people in our churches. There was talk of one percent church attendance among people under 35. And yet I had the impression that I always had way too much to do.

At some point it got to be too much for me. Or too little. I couldn’t take it anymore. This couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t imagine that the Lord wanted this. That fewer and fewer people still had a connection to him. I made a decision. In view of the enormous challenges, it would make little difference whether I devoted a little more or less time to my too many tasks every day. As a religious I had 3 to 4 hours of daily prayer time already. I decided to add an additional daily time of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament to the 3-4 hours that my life in my religious Congregation already had me on my knees. Looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Because it helped me to change my mindset. Because it showed me that I am not the “Lord of the harvest” (Mt 9:38). That „unless the Lord builds the house, everyone who builds it labors in vain.“ (Ps. 127:1) The sources of fruitful activity in the Lord’s vineyard do not lie primarily in our strategies and structures, but in the deep waters of God’s grace.

John Paul II., Prayer und Mission

In his last address to the young people of Rome, two weeks before his death, on March 17, 2005, John Paul II impressively illustrated this: “But shouldn’t we also say with St. John of the Cross, “Those who are very active and think that they embrace the world with their preaching and with their outward works should remember that they are of much greater use to the Church and much more welcome to God, without mentioning the good example they would set, if they would spend at least half that time being with Him in prayer?” Jesus, help us to understand that we who are committed to “doing” in your Church, even in the urgent field of the new evangelization, must first learn to „be“, that is, to be with you in adoration, in your pleasant company. Real, effective, true apostolic activity only grows out of an intimate fellowship with you.” – Strong words from a Pope who didn’t exactly walk around with both hands in his pockets… He was very active in missionary work. And yet. He knew how to prioritize.


I am very pleased that we have chosen prayer as our annual focus this year. Johannes Hartl was so right when he said; „Prayer is not everything, but without prayer everything is nothing.“ Indeed, prayer must be the foundation on which we build everything. First and foremost, being a missionary Church means being a praying Church. This is an act of faith. It is faith that reminds us that Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before making big decisions like choosing disciples or facing Good Friday. It is faith that reminds us that we are only co-workers. It is God who gives growth to the tender seed, which he himself sows in the hearts of men.

Edith Stein and decisive turn abouts in history

In the midst of the turmoil of World War II, St. Edith Stein showed us what is of ultimate importance in all missionary activity: “What ultimately matters is the inner life; growth goes from the inside out. The more deeply a soul is connected to GOD, the more completely surrendered to grace, the stronger will be its influence on the Church. Conversely: the more a time has sunk into the night of sin and distance from God, the more it needs souls connected to God. And God does not fail to raise up such souls. The greatest prophets and saints emerge from the darkest nights. But for the most part the formative stream of mystical life remains invisible. Certainly, the decisive turning points in world history are largely determined by souls about whom no history book reports anything. And to which souls we owe the decisive turns in our personal lives, we will only find out on the day when everything hidden will be revealed.” Edith Stein. (Hidden Life and Epiphany. January 6, 1940.)

We will leave a mark on this city and beyond, if it is not our mark but his. The Lord’s. We can ignite when we ourselves are ignited. We can dispense water to a thirsty world when we ourselves have become sources of that Divine water. This place will become a place where people encounter God if encounter Him daily. If we live a deep relationship with him. If we are a people of a deep inner life. If we let the Lord transform us more and more. If he is allowed to be master of our lives. When relationship with the Lord, when prayer is the #1 priority in our life. And if this prayer is not an anxious escape from our responsibility for our fellow human beings, but becomes a source of strength for our commitment. If that is what precedes, accompanies and reinforces everything we do.

A culture of prayer as condition for discernment 

Making prayer the foundation of everything is the motivation for many decisions made at the JP2 Center. For one, there is 24/7. Preferably not just once a month, but at some point 24/365. This is the reason for the hours after hours that our pastoral team invests in the spiritual accompaniment of individuals. Conscious that the most important thing we can do is to support other people in their relationship with the Lord, to help them to become deep adorers of the Father, people who can say ever more: „I live, but it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20). That’s why at the beginning of every gathering, meeting, event, briefing, whatever, we start with prayer. And not to get it over with quickly, so that we can get straight to what we think is so important. Rather, we want to calmly take the time to listen, to invoke the Spirit of God, to open a space where impressions can arise to the fore, giving thanks, asking for enlightenment and strength. This is also why we should have the courage to interrupt a team meeting or group session, briefly or for a little longer, to implore light, clarity or a spirit of unity when we feel, for example, that there is discord in the room. That’s why we want to enable people to pray for one another when we realize that someone is going through a difficult situation. That is why it is so important for us that people learn what it means to communicate with God and to develop and deepen a relationship with Him.

For me, one of the most beautiful and strongest experiences of recent times was the way we, as a management team, were able to reach a very important decision together with the our some 15 member Council. For three hours we read the Scriptures in the chapel, asked for light and enlightenment, listened, exchanged impressions … and although we had very different opinions at the beginning, the final vote was unanimous, without a dissenting vote. A small miracle of grace. We cannot force God to intervene. But we can prevent his intervention by not giving him any space where he could do just that. Because we’re so busy creating solutions ourselves that we can’t even hear his voice.

It is interesting that the atmosphere created by the spirit of prayer is exactly what many address when visiting the John Paul II Center. Just today I got feedback from a visitor that you can feel something very special here, a spiritual power that she hopes to take home with her, at least in part. I think we should really be thankful for what the Lord is doing BECAUSE we are trying to make room for HIS work… and not trying to do everything ourselves. We expect him to show up, to intervene, to act. Thank you for your testimony. And yet. I think it is important to all of us not to stand still. To get even closer to the Lord. Following his invitation, to avoid any activism that consists in giving too much importance to one’s own actions and being content with a mediocre prayer life.

Perhaps the upcoming Lent can be an opportunity to bring our prayer life anew to the Lord and to ask Him where He invites me to grow, how to go deeper. Prayer is not everything, but without prayer everything is nothing. Let’s not forget that.

God bless!

Fr. George LC