Catholic Activity: How God Provides
About St. Paul the Hermit and St. Anthony of the Desert and how God provides for all needs.
Every family has some experience with need, either the need for food or care or clothes, sometimes for fathering or mothering, and always the need for spiritual favors. When Our Lord taught that God the Father cares more for us than He does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (and mind you, He loves these), He did not mean God would always provide what we think we need, but what He knows we need; and He was chiding us not to worry. We will be provided for, sometimes with a special grace or a trial so we will grow strong or a hardship to purify us, besides the clothes, food, shelter, warmth and other things that we can see we need. Hundreds of saint stories tell how God has provided for those in need. One of them, showing how careful He is to provide what is exactly right and no more (how often this happens!) is about St. Paul the Hermit and St. Anthony of the Desert.
St. Anthony had dwelt in the desert for many years and there came to his mind the thought, tempting him to vanity, that no better monk than he had his dwelling in the desert. That night God sent him a dream in which he saw St. Paul the Hermit, deep in the desert, older than he and far better. The next morning he straightway started out to find him, even though he was an old man of ninety and Paul an even older one of one hundred and thirteen. The journey was a long and arduous one during which he saw and received directions from, it is said, a centaur and a satyr — creatures even St. Jerome reported as having been seen in those days.
Two days he journeyed in the scorching heat and on the third day he saw a she-wolf creep into a cave at the foot of a mountain. Dark and fearsome as it was, Anthony went in and reaching the closed door of Paul's abode cried out to him to open it which he did and invited Anthony to enter, revealing "a spacious courtyard open to the sky, roofed by the wide-spreading branches of an ancient palm, and with a spring of clear shining water hasting from it." The two hermits greeted each other with embraces and sat down to talk about the world and whether idolatry still reigned there. As they talked, a raven settled on the branch of the tree, then "softly flying down, deposited a whole loaf before their wondering eyes." "Behold," said St. Paul, when the bird had withdrawn, "God hath sent us our dinner, God the merciful, God the compassionate. It is now sixty years since I have had each day a half loaf of bread; but at thy coming, God hath doubled His soldiers' rations."
Activity Source: Saints and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York; reprinted by TAN Publishers, 1958