Monday, August 10, 2020

Saints for Today: Monica, Mother of St. Augustine (332-387)

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Feast Day: August 27

Monica was born in North Africa and raised in a devout Christian family. At an early age, she was given in marriage to Patricius of Tagaste, and found herself living with his unkind mother and her ill-tempered and sometimes unfaithful son, neither of whom shared her faith. Monica’s sweet disposition and pious example ultimately led to her spouse’s conversion shortly before his death. Widowed, Monica was thus left with the care of her son, Augustine, who at the age of 16 was a catechumen but still a victim of his passions and involved in the Manichean heresy. Rather than distance herself from her son, Monica tried to stay close to him, but Augustine deceived her and escaped to Italy.

When her son seemed lost for good, Monica had a dream in which an angel assured her: “Where you are, there will your son be.” She told Augustine, who said scornfully that the angel meant she would come to see things his way. Monica answered: “No, he did not say, ‘where he is, there thou also,’ but ‘where thou art, there he also.’” Augustine, the great debater, was more impressed by his mother’s swift retort than by the dream itself.

Monica prayed incessantly for Augustine to leave his worldly ways and find true faith. She asked a bishop to try to influence Augustine, the bishop responded with prophetic words: “Let him be, and continue to pray for him; it is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost.” It was only some time later, when Augustine was being influenced by the preaching of St. Ambrose at Milan, that Monica could rejoin him and witness her son’s baptism and conversion to Christianity. Augustine then consecrated himself to celibacy and later was made a saint and Doctor of the Church. Monica never returned to northern Africa but died at Ostia, Italy and was buried there. This saint and mother of a saint, who never stopped praying for her family, died peacefully only a few months after her son, Augustine’s baptism, content in his salvation.

In the Opening Prayer of the Mass on this feast day we read: “God of mercy, comfort of those in sorrow, the tears of St. Monica moved you to convert her son St. Augustine to the faith of Christ.”

In the Office of Readings we have Augustine’s account of his mother’s words to him just before her death: “Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect, for I know that you have renounced earthly happiness to be his servant. So what am I doing here?”

This consolation experienced by St. Monica and her total abandonment to God can also be ours today if we persevere in patience and trust. Moreover, her request in the Office of Readings reminds us to pray for the souls of the faithful departed: “One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.”

The Scripture passage said to have moved Augustine to embrace Christianity:

“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” – Romans 13:11

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Gallick, Sarah. “The Big Book of Women Saints.” New York, NY: HarperOne, 2007.
Hendey, Lisa M. (Creator of CatholicMom.com) “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul.” Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2011.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.

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