Were today, August 27, 2017, not the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary time, it would be the Feast of St. Monica, the saintly mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, whose feast the Church celebrates the following day, August 28. Even still, it’s worth taking the time to remember the mother who never gave up in her prayers for her son and whose prayers were finally answered.
Monica was born in Tagaste, present-day Algeria, in AD 331. She was married off to a pagan named Patricius, who respected his wife’s Christian faith, though only up to a point, for he would not allow her to baptize their three children, Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Monica prayed fervently for the conversion of her husband and mother-in-law, who shared her son’s pagan faith and violent temper. Finally, in the last year of Patricius’ life, Monica succeeded in bringing him and his mother to faith in Christ.
She was successful, as well, in passing on the faith to her two younger children, both of whom entered religious life. Augustine, however, rejected his mother’s Christian faith and embraced Manicheanism, a religion to which he was introduced during his studies in Carthage that believed creation was caught up in a struggle between light and darkness, good and evil. Darkness ruled the temporal world, and when one died, he or she was transferred into the light.
When Augustine shared his beliefs with his mother, she threw him out of her house. Inspired by a vision, however, she sought reconciliation with her son and never stopped praying for his conversion. She sought the advise of her bishop, who told her that, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Monica traveled to Rome to be with Augustine, only to discover that he had moved to Milan. Arriving in Milan, Monica became friends with the local bishop, St. Ambrose, who would play a significant role in the conversion of her son. Augustine had been unimpressed with what he regarded as the unintelligent and dim-witted arguments set forth in defense of Christianity by the Christians he had met, as well as the insistence of some to interpret the Scriptures in only a very literal sense. But, Ambrose was a learned man, and his sermons impressed Augustine both with their explanation and defense of the faith and in their expoundings on the Scriptures. It was Ambrose who convinced Augustine of the truth of the Christian faith and who baptized him, much to the delight and relief of Monica.
Mother and son hoped to dedicate their lives to spreading the Gospel in Africa, but it was not to be. Monica died shortly after her son’s conversion, in the city of Civitavecchia, and she was buried in Ostia, Italy. Realizing her end was near, she told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” Her relics reside in the Basilica di Sant’Agostino in Rome.
Monica’s epitaph, from her original resting place in Ostia, survived. It reads:
“Here the most virtuous mother of a young man set her ashes, a second light to your merits, Augustine.
“As a priest, serving the heavenly laws of peace, you taught [or you teach] the people entrusted to you with your character. A glory greater than the praise of your accomplishments crowns you both – Mother of the Virtues, more fortunate because of her offspring.”
God of mercy, comfort of those in sorrow, the tears of Saint Monica moved you to convert her son Saint Augustine to the faith of Christ. By their prayers, help us to turn from our sins and to find your loving forgiveness.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
From Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Source: Catholic Online at http://www.catholic.org