All mothers want the best for their children, but in today’s commercialized world it seems to be harder and harder to keep young people involved in the church. Media today makes guiding children a bit more complicated than it used to be.
Though she was born in 331 A.D., St. Monica also faced serious challenges with one of her three children: her oldest son, Augustine.
She married at an early age to a pagan man named Patricius, who held an official position in Tagaste, which was located in the present-day country of Algeria. Patricius had a raging temper and was unfaithful to St. Monica. Her dedication to prayer and to her faith annoyed her husband, but he was said to always regard her with respect. Later in life, she was able to convert Patricius to the Catholic faith.
Her three children were unable to be baptized until they were in their teens, at which time her son Augustine grew ill. St. Monica received permission from Patricius to have her son baptized, but he retracted his consent as soon as Augustine became healthy again. Her husband died but before he did, he converted to Christianity himself not long after Augustine recovered. St. Monica vowed to never marry again.
As he matured, St. Monica’s son Augustine became a wayward soul, and St. Monica spent most of the rest of her life praying for her son to come back to the faith. Augustine went to Carthage to pursue his studies but fell into a sinful lifestyle. At one of Augustine’s visits to St. Monica, he began to promote the current, popular heresy of Manichaeism. When hearing this heresy from her son, St. Monica drove Augustine from her home.
St. Monica continued to pray constantly for her son and she visited a local bishop who consoled her with the words “…it is not possible that the child of so many tears shall perish.” St. Monica had a dream in which a young man urged her to call Augustine back into her life and (the dream) gave her hope about Augustine’s eventual conversion.
When she told Augustine about the dream, Augustine indicated that he expected that they would be together when she joined him in the Manichee sect. St. Monica is said to have responded: “He did not say I was to be with you. He said you were to be with me!” (St. Anthony Messenger Press)
She attempted to follow her son to Rome, but upon her arrival she found he had already gone to Milan. She traveled to Milan where she worked with St. Ambrose, the Archbishop of Milan and her spiritual advisor, to bring Augustine back into the faith after many years of resistance.
Eventually St. Monica’s dedication as a mother and a person of prayer and faith succeeded in bringing Augustine, who later became the Bishop of Hippo and one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time, back into the Catholic faith.
In these difficult times, many parents may despair as their young adult children seem to leave the faith. St. Monica, however, teaches a valuable lesson about being a parent, about trust in God and about being a child of God. The faith in God she possessed allowed her to guide her son to the truth and bring him back to the church. St. Monica said it best: “Nothing is far from God.”
Much of what is known about St. Monica’s life is from her son’s masterpiece, the Confessions of St. Augustine.
St. Monica died in 387 A.D., and her feast day is celebrated on Aug. 27. She is the patron saint of wives, mothers, alcoholics and abuse victims. According to an article in the St. Anthony Messenger Press, St. Monica also was made the patron saint of those who stop practicing the Catholic faith when in the fifteenth century Pope Eugenius IV established a confraternity named in her honor. Members of this society continue today to pray for family members who have left the church.
(Some material in this article is from the Catholic Encyclopedia.)
Leah Hagan Pottinger
at Kindred Healthcare