Uncle Eddy's E-mails - August 27
Saint Monica, Widow (entered heaven in 387)
Yes, my dear niece, “unanswered” prayers can be hard to endure. Just ask today’s saint. Monica spent over ten years pleading with God through tears and entreaties to bring her wayward son into the Christian fold. At times she spent entire nights in prayer; more often than not, when she allowed herself a few hours of rest she cried herself to sleep. She had grown up a Christian in northern Africa, but had been married to a pagan. Her husband tolerated her faith, though his temper and dissolute living (as well as his mother, who was a most disagreeable person and resided with them) caused her constant grief and difficulty. Eventually, however, her prayers and Christian example won them both over to the faith a year before her husband’s death. At about that time, their eldest son (Saint Augustine) was finishing up his elite education and notified his mother that he had embraced the Manichean heresy. Nothing could have pained her more. She spared no efforts to save him, taking him on interviews with eminent churchmen, arguing with him herself, disciplining him by taking away family privileges, and always, day after day, year after year, praying for him. Only after she had pursued him to Rome and Milan, where Augustine finally met his match in Saint Ambrose, was her prayer answered.
Actually, I should probably rephrase that. Every one of her prayers before then had been answered as well, with a curt and judicious “Not yet.” We easily forget that God hears all our prayers; in fact, he inspires us to pray them. And he answers all our petitions, but not always in the way we want. If he says yes, we usually know right away and are grateful. If he says no or “not yet,” we don’t find out until later, and in the meantime we get mad or disillusioned. That’s no way to treat God. However he decides to answer our prayers, we can be assured that his choice is governed by perfect love and infinite wisdom. What more could we ask for?
I recommend that you reflect on the lesson Saint Augustine learned from his mother’s confidence and persistence in prayer. When he left North Africa, he did so in secret, so that his mother wouldn’t go with him (she actually wanted him to stay, because she feared he would drift further away from the truth if he traveled to Italy). Here is a later reflection on the incident: “Why I left the one country and went to the other, you knew, O God, but you did not tell either me or my mother. She indeed was in dreadful grief at my going and followed me right to the seacoast… That night I stole away without her; she remained praying and weeping. And what was she praying for, O my God, with all those tears but that you should not allow me to sail! But you saw deeper and granted the essential part of her prayer: you did not do what she was at that moment asking, that you might do the thing she was always asking.”
Love, Uncle Eddy
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