God often does not grant our prayers because what we ask would be hurtful to us. St. Monica, the mother of the great St. Augustine, for many years prayed for her son’s conversion without receiving an answer to her petition. Presently Augustine, who was professor of rhetoric in Carthage, informed her of his intention of going to Rome, in order to have a wider sphere of action. His mother, fearing that the great city would offer fresh dangers and temptations for her son, wept bitterly and endeavored to dissuade him from carrying out his project. She spent the whole of the next night in prayer, beseeching God to prevent him from embarking on the voyage; but the next morning, to her grief, she heard that he had already set sail.
Why, it may be asked, did almighty God not grant her prayer? Because Augustine’s residence in Italy was to be for his spiritual profit; for in Milan he made the acquaintance of Bishop Ambrose, whose eloquent discourses had the effect of converting him. Later on Augustine himself said: “O Lord, Thou didst not at that time fulfill my mother’s desire, in order to grant her that for which she had for so long a time besought Thee.”
Text from Francis Spirago, Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating the Catholic Catechism (New York: Benziger, 1904).