Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Catholic Activity: Waiting for Prayers to be Answered



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A story about St. Vincent de Paul to show that God does answer prayers.


Vincent de Paul was a peasant boy who tended his father s sheep and pigs outside the village where he lived in southern France. Afoot in the good seasons, on stilts in the bad, every day he went with his charges through the boggy pastures at the mercy of sun and wind and weather. A lawyer friend recommended to his father that such an intelligent lad would be better off in school, so he was sent to Dax where he studied grammar and Latin and decided God wanted him to be a priest. Seven years he studied, supporting himself at first on the price of a fine pair of his father's oxen then later by fees paid him at a little school he opened for boys, and finally he was ordained at the age of twenty in the year 1600.

Several years later he inherited a little money from a kind benefactress, only to discover that one of the old lady's debtors had run off with it. As Vincent was in need of funds he followed the man to Marseilles, caught up with him and regained his money, and then decided to return home the shorter distance by water across the Gulf of Lyons. His ship was barely out of sight of the coast when it was captured by Barbary pirates and carried off to Tunis. In a letter written to the friend who helped him through school, he describes these adventures and sufferings and tells something especially interesting about his encounter with a Moslem woman and her interest in Christianity.

"A renegade from Nice in Savoy . . . bought me and carried me off to his temat(property) . . . in the mountains where the country is very hot and parched. One of his three wives . . . a Turk by birth, was instrumental through the boundless mercy of God, in drawing her husband out of his apostasy back into the Church and delivering me from my slavery. She was very curious to know about our way of life and came to see us every day in the fields where I was digging and finally ordered me to sing the praises of my God. The memory of the children of Israel and their Quomodo cantabimus in terra aliena ('How shall we sing in a strange land') caused me with tears in my eyes to begin Super flumina Babylonis ('By the waters of Babylon') and then I sang the Salve Regina and several other pieces, in which she took so much pleasure that it was wonderful to behold. She did not fail to tell her husband that same evening that he had done wrong in giving up his religion, that to her mind it was extremely good, and all because of the account I had given her of our God and His praises which I had sung in her presence. She had, she said, felt such divine pleasure in all this that she did not believe that the paradise of her fathers which she had constantly hoped for could be so glorious or so full of joy as the pleasure she had taken while I praised my God. Her conclusion was that there was a marvelous element in this occurrence.

"This woman . . . was, by her account, the cause of her husband's telling me on the next day that he was merely waiting for a convenient opportunity for us all to escape to France and that he hoped in a short time to effect this to the praise of God."

And this the man did, not only returning to France, but, after public penance and reconciliation with the Church, accompanying Vincent to Rome where he entered a monastery.

In this same letter Vincent wrote. "God always preserved in me a hope of being set free through the earnest prayer which I made to Him and to the Blessed Virgin Mary through whose intercession alone, I firmly believe, I was delivered. . . ."

There he was, young and a slave, digging in the hot fields of that strange land, praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary and wondering, no doubt, why it had happened and when his prayers would be answered. Little did he know when he was captured that God had an errand for him to do, an apostate to restore to the Faith, and a Moslem woman's heart to touch with the story of Christ. God chose Vincent to do these things before ever he discovered his great vocation as lover and protector of His poor. Everyone's life with Christ is an adventure. Prayer makes it come out right.

Activity Source: Saints and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York; reprinted by TAN Publishers, 1958