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The Holy Family in Prayer

A beautiful lesson from a beggar to a doctor.

Taulère, of the Order of St. Dominic, a famous theologian and holy preacher, had been asking God for many years for the grace to meet a skilled director who would teach him the shortest way to perfection. Being one day in church, he heard a voice saying to him, “Go out and you will find the teacher you desire.” Filled with joy and hope, he immediately got up, went out of the church, and meeting on the doorsteps a poor man, all covered with ulcers and disgusting sores, he wished him good morning, according to the custom. The poor man replied, “Sir, I have never had a bad day.” The theologian was at first surprised at this reply, and fearing that he had not made himself heard, he added, “My friend, I pray God that He may fill you with good things. – I do not remember, said the beggar, that I have ever had any harm.” This repartee made our Theologian even more upset; nevertheless, he thought that either one was mistaken; therefore he repeated the same wish to him, changing the terms a little: “I tell you again, my poor man, that I pray to God that He may make you blessed. – And I answer you once more, said the beggar, that I do not remember being unhappy.” The Doctor, almost angrily, said to him, “I think, my poor boy, that the violence of the evils you suffer is clouding your mind; have I not explained myself well? In a word, I say to you that I pray to God to give you all that you would know how to desire in the world. – Sir, replied the patient, I beg you, do not put yourself in trouble; have I not said it enough? I am very satisfied, and I can assure you that not only do I have everything I want, but that only what I want happens in the world.”

The Theologian then began to recollect himself a little, surprised and forbidden by such a strange way of answering; then resuming his speech, he urged the poor man to explain to him how he understood things, confessing that he could not conceive that, being reduced to such extreme misery, he nevertheless considered himself the only man in the world who was not miserable. Our poor man did not remain short at this request, and educated as he was in the school of the Holy Spirit, he gave the learned Doctor a sublime lesson in these terms: “Know, Sir, that it is very true that I have never had any bad days, nor any evil, nor any misfortune, as I have just told you; and let this not surprise you, because I have convinced myself so well that everything that happens to us in this world, good or evil, comes from an infinitely good God, that I never take any trouble about anything; and in this thought I have united and given myself so much to God my Sovereign Lord, that I am, so to speak, one with Him. God’s feelings are mine, His thoughts are my thoughts, His desires are my desires; He does whatever I please, when He does whatever He pleases, because I want whatever He wants and want nothing that He does not want. If hunger presses me, I praise God who wants it so; if cold or heat bothers me, if rain, if wind, if diseases torment me, I am happy, because it is God who orders it; if men play with me, if they persecute me and even the devil does not spare me, I always have patience; I even rejoice that God’s will is done in me; for I know that neither men nor other creatures have any power over me except as God gives it to them; that is why I never attack anyone but God, and can God do anything that is not very well done? Worm that I am, would I do well to oppose the actions of this great God, or to blame Him in the execution of His purposes? Feeling no other hand touching me than His, why should I complain? Is He not my Creator and I His creature? And as great a God as He is, did He not love me to the point of dying for me on a cross? How could it be possible that, loving me so much, He would want to do me harm? Or that, knowing Him to be so full of goodness towards me, I would not conceive with thanksgiving all that it pleases Him to send me, be it health or sickness, honor or dishonor, or in a word, all that His will intends for me? The evils that come from Him are no longer evils, and the goods that come from elsewhere should not even bear the name of goods. As for me, I count among my greatest goods that of being able to do without them. Good and bad fortune, prosperity and adversity, these are names I do not know; all is indifferent to me, since all comes from the hand of God. Is it not true, then, that I have never had any bad days or misfortunes, and that I cannot even have any, while I will keep the same resolution that I have taken to want unceasingly and without reserve everything that God wants? – These are fine words, said the Doctor, but after all, if God were resolved to condemn you to hell, would you still be happy? – God would condemn me to hell, replied the poor man, to hell! He, who is Goodness itself! Ah, sir, that is not possible; but even if He would, know that I have two arms, one of which is extreme humility, through submission to His divine Providence; the other is loving confidence in His infinite mercy; with these two arms I would embrace Him with so much strength, that I would take Him with me to hell; and I would much rather be in hell with God than without Him in heaven.”

The Theologian was delighted to hear such words from the mouth of a man burdened with so many evils; he thanked God in his heart for having made him meet the master he had so longed for; and the resolution he took was to imitate his example and to abandon himself like a child to the holy and loving providence of God.

Let us have the same docility as this pious Theologian; let us follow a model as beautiful as that poor beggar; let us take like him from the hand of the Lord all that happens to us, convinced that He governs us with infinite wisdom and goodness, and that there was never a father more tender or a mother more sensitive with regard to their children, than is this God of goodness in what affects us.

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