An Angry Prayer – Jean Butler

This chapter is taken from The Silent Power – Selections from The Mountain Path and The Call Divine, Part III On Miscellaneous Topics

In this moving narrative we see the efficacy of an intense prayer.

Some years ago my daughter Martha and I were living on the island of St. Croix in the Caribbean. At that time the Virgin Islands (in which group this falls) were so poverty- stricken that they were spoken of as the world’s poorhouse.

One evening I went into the local drug store and found the chemist, Mr. Edwards, arguing in English with a little Puerto Rican peasant who was pleading volubly with him in Spanish.

Mr. Edwards was saying, “I’m sorry I can’t give you any credit. I don’t own the drug store. I am only an employee and have to obey orders.”

The peasant answered, “It is only until my tomatoes are harvested. Then I can pay you.”

Mr. Edwards was unmoved.

“But,” cried the peasant in despair, “what will my son do without the medicine?”At that point I said rather angrily, “Give him the medicine, Mr. Edwards, and put it on my bill.”

I turned to the peasant and asked what was the matter with his son. A torrent of Spanish poured forth as he explained. He had five children ranging from fourteen years to three months. His wife had died giving birth to the baby. The oldest boy had epileptic fits, as many as five a day. By law the children had to go to school, but when the eldest boy had his medicine he could stay at home in the mornings and take care of the baby while the father worked his land. If the boy did not have his medicine he could not be left with the baby. Nor could he go to school. The only thing the father could do was to tie the baby on to his back when he went to work on his land and leave the boy unattended in the house; and on one such occasion the boy had a fit during which he broke his leg.

A wave of such intense fury, pity and sheer horror came over me that for a moment I turned dizzy — not only on account of the little peasant but also of all the others in the world who were equally suffering and equally hopeless and helpless.

I told the peasant that I knew a great specialist in New York to whom I would write for a new medicine I had been reading about. I wrote down the peasant’s name and the age and weight of his son. “The medicine should come in about ten days,” I said, “and I will have it sent care of Edwards for you.”

I rushed out into the night blind and sick with rage against God. “D—n you!”

I cried, “What are you doing? Why don’t you at least help the poor and sick who can do nothing to help themselves and who have nothing?” I cried and cursed all the way up the long hill to my house, hating the world, hating God, hating the unspeakable injustice of life. All night, even in my sleep I alternated prayers with curses and invectives and blind anger. Day and night for a week I had no peace. I directed my thoughts repeatedly to the sick boy, saying to him, “God made you in His image and likeness. God is perfect, without flaw or sickness. Be you therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.

That is what Christ said to you.” This alternated with my repeating that, “not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowing it.” And I pointed out somewhat bitterly that the Son of God had said, “Inasmuch as you do it to one of the least of these you do it also to me.”

Gradually the anger and frenzy died down, but remembrance of the peasant and his epileptic son continued day and night. One evening, about ten days after my first meeting with the peasant, I was just going into the drug-store when a bare-footed man in worn overalls and a big straw hat came out, holding a package in one hand. On seeing me he swept off his hat, waved the package in the air and exclaimed excitedly, “This has just come, the medicine for my son. But I no longer need it. Something has happened.”

It was the same peasant. I had not recognized him with his hat on. I knew what was coming and felt faint because of it. I said, “Remember, Senor, the Bible says that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. What He does is a mystery to us. Don’t ask any questions. Just go to the church and give thanks to God.”

“But Senora,” he said, “I must tell you what has happened. Since we talked the other night my son has had no more fits. What shall I do with this?” And he held out the box of medicine.

I had known what was coming. “Don’t open it, Senor,” I said, “You won’t need it. Just go to the church and give thanks to God.” And I turned and rushed up the hill to my house, thinking, “Excuse me, God! Forgive me!”, consumed with humility and shame at my former rage, overflowing with love of God.

On a Sunday morning some months later, when I had completely forgotten the peasant and his son, I was leaving my house with Martha to go to the beach when an ancient truck full of people dressed in their Sunday best came roaring up the hill and stopped outside my door. One by one they scrambled out and came on to the terrace, each one carrying something in his hand. They made quite a pile there — fruit, eggs, chickens, fish, freshly baked bread, a bottle of wine, lobsters — and then they returned to the truck, while I kept on remonstrating, “You have made a mistake! You have come to the wrong house! I didn’t order anything!”

Just then my little Puerto Rican friend, scarcely recognizable in his Sunday clothes, came up to me shyly and said, “Senora, these are my relatives. We have brought you these gifts to show our appreciation for what you did for my son.”

“But Senor”, I protested, “I did nothing, nothing! Please try to understand me. It was not I who did it!”

Then I asked him about his son, how he was now. He glowed with quiet pride. “He has gained fifteen pounds,” he said, “He is quite well now. I sent him to the island of St. Thomas to work on his uncle’s farm for a few weeks and now he is back here with me. He works on the land with me in the morning and we earn enough to pay a girl to look after the baby, and in the afternoons he goes to school. He has never had another fit.”

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