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THE SILENCE OF THE HEART



The great Dominican preacher John Tauler (1294-1361), despite the reputation he enjoyed in Germany, remained unsatisfied in his heart. He implored the Lord to send him one of His servants to teach him the surest and shortest way to true perfection. One day, on the threshold of a church, he saw among the beggars waiting for alms a poor man hardly covered by a few rags, of whom the sight alone aroused pity. Overcome by compassion, Tauler approached the unfortunate man and greeted him kindly: "Good day, my friend."

"Thank you, Master," replied the poor man, "but I have never had a bad day."

Tauler thought that the man had not understood him, and he repeated: "I wish you to have a good day; I wish you to be happy and to have everything that you can desire."

"Thanks to the Lord, I have always been happy! I don't know what it is to be unhappy."

"Please God that after the happiness that you say you enjoy, you will come to eternal joy! But I admit that I don't understand the sense of your words very well. Could you explain it to me more clearly?"

"It's very simple, Master," replied the poor man. "I have never had a bad day, for I know that God is wise, just, and good and that nothing happens without His will or permission. When I am troubled with hunger, I praise God. If I suffer from the cold, if hail, snow or rain falls, if the wind is light or blows in a storm, I praise God. If I am in poverty or despised, I also praise God, and so there is not a sad day for me. I have learned to live with God, and I am certain that everything He does is always what is best.

"So when God gives me something or permits something to happen to me, pleasant or painful, sweet or bitter, joyful or sad, I accept it as what is best, and so I am always happy. I have abandoned myself solely to God's will: Everything that He wishes, I also wish. And that is why I have never been unhappy, since I wish to be joined solely to His will."

Tauler wept silently. The learned Dominican had never heard such a sermon. He nevertheless tried to find out more with his questions. The beggar told him that he had found God where he had actually left His creatures and that he was a king, "But my kingdom is in my soul where I keep everything in good order: passions subject to reason, and reason subject to God." And where did that perfection come from? "Silence," he said, "Silence to talk with God, intimate union with my beloved Lord. In Him I have found peace, and have found it forever."

Tauler took off his cloak and gave it to the poor man with the only coin that remained in his pocket, and then embraced him with all his heart. He thanked God for having taught him the most perfect means to serve Him. From then onward, he imitated that saintly poor man as much as he could. And he had the habit of saying in his sermons, recalling that touching adventure: "Happiness is possible in the heart, and not elsewhere. It is in our 'disposition' and not in our 'situation.'"