On Wednesday and Thursday this week we celebrate two great Saints, St. Monica and her son St. Augustine. Monica is a great example of Christian motherhood. In fact she is the patron of all married women and mothers.
Born in Tagaste, North Africa in 333, she found herself given in marriage at an early age to Patricius, an ill-tempered man who was prone to infidelity, and with him came his unkind mother who lived with them. Neither of them shared her faith and she often had to listen to her husband’s constant criticism of the Christian faith. She remained faithful to him and was known throughout the region for her kindness and gentle manner. Her behavior finally had its reward, a year before his death Patricius converted and accepted his wife’s faith.
The couple had three children, Augustine the eldest, Navigius, and a daughter Perpetua. History seems to show that Navigius was an exemplary son and that Perpetua entered religious life. But it was Augustine who gave his mother many a sleepless night!
Augustine was a bright boy, he was sent away for school to Madura and Carthage. But by his own admission he was lazy and didn’t try very hard. While he was away from home he became influenced by some of the different teachings that were floating around at that time. He came home and told his exceedingly cross mother that he had adopted the Manichean “religion”. In her fury his mother wouldn’t let him come home to live. Shortly afterwards Monica experienced a strange vision, one in which she heard a voice say “your Son is with you”, though not understanding quite what it meant she relented and allowed Augustine to move back in with her. There often seemed to be arguments in the house and Monica spent much time crying, praying and fasting for the conversion of her son.
During this time Monica would go and visit her local Bishop who consoled her with the now famous words, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish”.
Augustine was nearly thirty and teaching when he decided to go off to Rome with his mistress and young son Adeodatus. His mother decided to go with him and she followed him to the seaport. When Augustine realized her intentions he decided to trick her into missing the boat. While she was praying in a local church Augustine caught an earlier boat. This must have grieved her, but undeterred she followed him to Rome, only to find he had gone to Milan. In hot pursuit she finally caught up with her son.
While in Milan Monica met St. Ambrose. It was through this holy bishop that St. Monica had the joy of seeing her prayers answered. After seventeen years of running from his mother’s faith St. Augustine was finally baptized and received into the Church in Milan.
Mother and son left Italy to return to Tagaste. It was on this journey at Ostia that Monica fell ill and died. After his mother’s death St. Augustine went on to pen his classic book “the Confessions”.
For me these two great Saints give so much hope. In fact it is the one thing I love about the Saints, there is always someone who has gone before us who understands the difficulties we face. For any Catholic mother whose heart is breaking because her children are rejecting the faith she has tried to pass onto them, Monica is a great one to intercede for us. In fact with these two you get the perspective from both sides, so don’t be afraid to enlist the help of this mother and son duo.