I was introduced to St Monica a few years ago. When I discovered she prayed for her son, St Augustine's conversion for many years and also prayed for her pagan husband's conversion as well, I knew I had to find out a little more about this third century saint.
I have been praying for my family's conversion for a number of years. St. Monica has given me hope to preserve in my prayers for my loved ones.
Saint Monica was born about the year 331 in Tagaste, North Africa, of a Catholic family who raised her in the faith. Her marriage to Patricius, a pagan Roman official, wasn't a happy one, but it was peaceful and stable due mainly to the patience and prudence of Monica.
Monica and Patricius were blessed with three children. Augustine was the eldest; Navigius, was the second son and a one daughter, Perpetua. Monica's husband was very annoyed with his wife's charitable giving and her habits of prayer, but it was said that he always held her in a sort of reverence.
Monica was greatly saddened because her husband would not allow her to have her children baptized. When her child Augustine fell seriously ill, she begged her husband to allow Augustine to be baptized. Her husband agreed but when Augustine recovered he withdrew his consent. I just can't imagine the anguish and heartache she must have endured because she was not allowed to raise her children in the faith that she loved so much.
But still she continued to persevere in her faith. Monica endured her husband's violent outbursts with the utmost patience. By her sweet patience, she was respected by the other wives and mothers of her native town. The other wives knew that Monica suffered as they did with violent outbursts from their husbands but by her words and example she showed them how to love their husbands.
Even though her marriage to her husband was a difficult one, she continued to pray for her husband's conversion. I can just picture her pleading for God's mercy for her husband's conversion before the Blessed Sacrament daily. The daily example of her gentleness and kindness finally had its rewards. One year before her husband's death, he finally accepted his wife's Catholic faith.
This answered prayer and time of rejoicing occurred when Augustine was 17 years old. It would seem that Augustine's father becoming Catholic would have had a good effect on Augustine; however it seemed to have the opposite effect.
Augustine continued his pagan lifestyle and fell deeply into grave sin. But his mother Monica continued to pray constantly begging God's mercy upon her son. Her anxiety and determination to help her son Augustine was continuous.
Augustine was indeed a prodigal son and continued his life style of loose living and worldly ambitions. Monica seemed to literally wrestle with God for the soul of her son. Monica's lifetime mission was to see her son Augustine and her husband safely in heaven. She was a woman of deep prayer and action.
To her son Augustine however, she was overbearing, controlling and unrelenting in trying to get him converted. She is, however, no different than any Catholic mother today. We want to give our children our faith that we love so much and we would do anything to accomplish this.
I am sure through much letting go, hanging on, tears and a broken heart, she probably surrendered her son to God daily at the Altar begging God's mercy upon her family.
At one time she was determined to follow her wayward son to Rome. However, Augustine did not want his mother tagging along, so he lied to her and told her that the ship was leaving for Rome at a certain time. When his mother Monica arrived at the seaport, the ship to Rome with Augustine aboard was long gone. However after some tears and pouring out her heart to God, she hopped the next ship to Rome. I admire her determination. She pursued him like a hound dog.
It was during this trip that Monica found St. Ambrose and through this holy man she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine yield his wayward spirit after 17 years of resistance. After six months of instructions, Augustine was baptized by Saint Ambrose in the Church of St John the Baptist at Milan. Monica must have been overjoyed and praising God for God's mercy upon her son.
Prior to St. Augustine's conversion, she went to seek the counsel of a bishop concerning her obstinate son. The bishop consoled her by saying, "The child of those tears shall never perish." I have heard it also said God always hears the prayers of a mother for her children.
Saint Monica lived three years after Saint Augustine's conversion. Her mission here on earth was complete. God had called her to pray and offer up her suffering for the conversion of her son and her husband. Her task was complete and God called her home to receive her heavenly reward in the year 387 at the age of 56. Saint Augustine was 33 years old when his mother died.
I am sure from the heavenly realm she continued to pray for her son and praised God unceasingly from heaven to see her son become a holy Bishop of Hippo and of course finally made a Doctor of the Church.
In St Augustine's book, Confessions, he writes with such deep devotion and reverence about his mother. When she died, he grieved deeply for his mother that loved him into the Kingdom through her prayers, tears and perseverance. In Confessions, Saint Augustine, speaking to God, prayed:
She was already confident with regard to my wretched condition to this extent, that while she constantly wept over me in Your sight as over a dead man, it was over one who though dead could still be raised to life again; she offered me to You upon the bier of her meditation, begging You to say to this widow's son, 'Young man, arise I tell,' that he might live again and begin to speak so that You could restore him to his mother.
Monica told Augustine one day that she was full of confidence that in Christ she believed she would see her son a faithful Catholic before she departed from this life.
Let us all seek this kind of deep confident faith. We celebrate St Monica's feast day on August 27 and Saint Augustine's feast day on August 28.
Connie Beckman resides in Helena, Montana, with her husband and their four cats and dog. She is an active member of the Cathedral of St Helena, the Catholic Writer's Guild and a Catholic writers group in Helena. She is a former editor and feature story writer for a bi-weekly newspaper and has been published in many Catholic magazines. Her desire as a writer is to encourage Catholic spiritual growth by sharing the truths of the Catholic faith through the written word, addressing a variety of subjects. Connie shares her joy and love of God at Connie’s Catholic Corner.