Skip to comments.Saint Monica, Widow 332-387[mother of Saint Augustine]
Posted on 08/27/2003 7:56:30 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
|SAINT MONICA, WIDOW332-387|
|Feast: *May 4
|Our knowledge of Monica comes almost entirely from the writings of her much-loved son, the great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo. His relationship with his mother was a close one, especially during Monica's last years. In Book IX of St. Augustine's <Confessions> he gives us many details of her life, and expresses his gratitude for her devotion in moving terms. Monica was born about the year 332 in Tagaste, North Africa, of a Christian family of some substance. We are given one episode of her childhood which suggests a possible origin for her firmness of will. She was sometimes sent down to the cellar to draw wine for the family, and fell into the habit of taking secret sips. She developed such a passion for wine that before long she was drinking great draughts of it whenever opportunity offered. One day a family slave who had been spying on the little girl denounced her as a wine-bibber, and Monica, covered with shame, gave up the habit. Soon afterwards she was baptized, and thenceforth seems to have led a life of irreproachable virtue.
As soon as Monica had reached marriageable age, her parents found a husband for her, the pagan Patricius. He was a man of violent temper and their home could scarcely have been a happy one. Monica endured his outbursts with the utmost patience, although he was critical of Christians and their practices. The daily example of her gentleness and kindness finally had its rewards, and a year before his death, which occurred when Augustine was seventeen, Patricius accepted his wife's faith. Monica and Patricius had three children, Navigius, who seems to have been an exemplary son, Augustine, and Perpetua, a daughter, who became a religious. Augustine, the more brilliant of the sons, was sent to Carthage, so that he might develop his talents and become a man of culture. He took to learning naturally but he also spent time in youthful carousing. This caused his mother great anguish, and when he returned to Tagaste, she disapproved so strongly both of his loose living and of his espousal of the popular heresy of Manichaeism that she refused at first to allow him to live at home. She relented only after having seen a vision. One day as she was weeping over his behavior, a figure appeared and asked her the cause of her grief. She answered, and a voice issued from the mysterious figure, telling her to dry her tears; then she heard the words, "Your son is with you." Monica related this story to Augustine, and he replied that they might easily be together if she gave up her faith, for that was the main obstacle keeping them apart. Quickly she retorted, "He did not say I was with you: he said that you were with me." Augustine was impressed by the quick answer and never forgot it. Although his conversion was not to take place for nine long years, Monica did not lose faith. She continually fasted, prayed, and wept on his behalf. She implored the local bishop for help in winning him over, and he counseled her to be patient, saying, "God's time will come." Monica persisted in importuning him, and the bishop uttered the words which have often been quoted: "Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish."
Augustine was twenty-nine and a successful teacher when he decided to go to Rome. Monica opposed the move, fearing that his conversion would be indefinitely postponed. Her son went on with his plan, and set off with his young mistress and little son Adeodatus for the seaport. His mother followed him there, and when he saw that she intended to accompany him, he outwitted her by a deception as to the time of sailing. He embarked while she was spending the night praying in a church. Although this grieved her deeply, Monica was still not discouraged about her wayward son, for she continued on to Rome. The ship on which she took passage was tossed about by a storm, and she cheered those on board by her serene confidence in God's mercy. On reaching Rome, Monica learned that her son had gone to Milan. There he had come under the influence of the great Bishop Ambrose. When his mother finally found him in the northern city, he had given up Manichaeism, although he was not yet a Christian. Monica's friendship with Ambrose is worth touching upon. She apparently made a friend of this eminent churchman and he entertained the highest opinion of her. Here in Milan, as at home in North Africa, Monica was foremost among the women in all charitable works, and also in her devotions. The bishop, however, persuaded her to give up some of the customs practiced by the Christians of her homeland, for they were derived from ancient pagan rites; carrying food and wine to the tombs of the martyrs was one of the customs which Monica now relinquished.
The joyous day of Augustine's conversion, which will be fully described in the life of that saint, came at last. For some time his mother had been trying to end her son's illicit relationship of so many years' standing. She hoped to find a suitable bride for him, but after his mistress went back to Africa Augustine informed her that he would now adopt a celibate life and devote himself to God's service. The <Confessions> give us glimpses of the period of preparation preceding his baptism. The time was passed in the house of a friend, where a close-knit group, consisting of his mother, brother, Adeodatus, and a few companions occupied themselves with discussions of religion and philosophy. At Easter, when Bishop Ambrose baptized Augustine, his mother's cup was full to overflowing.
Augustine and the members of his family now set out for their return to Tagaste. At the port of Ostia, Monica fell ill. She knew that her work had been accomplished and that life would soon be over. Her exaltation of spirit was such that her sons were unaware of the approach of death. As Monica's strength failed, she said to Augustine: "I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God granted me even more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service." Shortly afterwards they asked her if she did not fear to die so far from home, for she had earlier expressed a desire to be buried beside her husband in Tagaste. Now, with beautiful simplicity, she replied, "Nothing is far from God," and indicated that she was content to be buried where she died. Monica's death plunged her children into the deepest grief, and Augustine, "the son of so many tears," in the <Confessions> implores his readers' prayers for his parents. It is the prayers of Monica herself that have been invoked by generations of the faithful who honor her as a special patroness of married women and as an example for Christian motherhood. Her relics are alleged to have been transferred from Ostia to Rome, to rest in the church of San Agostino. Her emblems are a girdle and tears.
Saint Monica, Widow. Celebration of Feast Day is May 4.
Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.
Provided Courtesy of:
BTTT on the Memorial of St. Monica, August 27, 2005!
Andrea del Verrocchio
S. Spirito, Florence
"The child of those tears shall never perish."
Monica, a saint especially revered by mothers because of her tireless prayers for the conversion of her wayward son, Augustine, was born of Christian parents in Tagaste, North Africa in 333, and died in Ostia, near Rome, in 387. She was married young to a government official, Patricius, who was not a Christian, and had a bad temper, though she bore her burdens patiently, and their life together was relatively peaceful. Three children were born to, Augustine, Navigius, and a daughter, Perpetua.
Augustine, the eldest son, though brilliant, was, according to his own account, a lazy and dissolute youth whose bad behavior caused his mother much grief especially so after he went away to school at Madaura and to Carthage. Although Patricius became a Christian not long before he died, Augustine persisted in his pursuit of pleasure, and, as a nineteen-year-old student, joined the heretical Manichaean sect. When he began to spout heresies, Monica became alarmed, and intensified her efforts to bring him to Christ. In the Confessions, Augustine recounts Monica's dream which consoled and encouraged her:
"In her dream she saw herself standing on a sort of wooden rule, and saw a bright youth approaching her, joyous and smiling at her, while she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow. But when he inquired of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping (not to learn from her, but to teach her, as is customary in visions), and when she answered that it was my soul's doom she was lamenting, he bade her rest content and told her to look and see that where she was there I was also. And when she looked she saw me standing near her on the same rule." (Confessions, Book III, 9.14).
During this anguished period of prayer for her son, Monica consulted a bishop who had himself been a Manichaean before he became a Christian. He declined to intervene with Augustine, whom, the bishop correctly observed, was not open to hearing the truth. She persisted tearfully, but he refused to intervene. Nevertheless, the bishop consoled Monica that "the child of those tears shall never perish", which she took as a sign from God. Though he continued in his heresies for nine years, Monica followed Augustine to Rome and then to Milan.in an effort to rescue her son from his errors. In Milan she met Ambrose, who helped lead Augustine into the true faith.
A few months after his conversion, Augustine, Monica and Adeodatus, set out to return to Africa, but Monica died at Ostia, the ancient port city of Rome, and she was buried there. Augustine was so deeply moved by his mother's death that he was inspired to write his Confessions, "So be fulfilled what my mother desired of me--more richly in the prayers of so many gained for her through these confessions of mine than by my prayers alone" (Book IX.13.37)
An account of Monica's early life, her childhood, marriage, her final days and her death, is given in Confessions Book IX, 8-12. He expresses his gratitude for her life:
"I will not speak of her gifts, but of thy gift in her; for she neither made herself nor trained herself. Thou didst create her, and neither her father nor her mother knew what kind of being was to come forth from them. And it was the rod of thy Christ, the discipline of thy only Son, that trained her in thy fear, in the house of one of thy faithful ones who was a sound member of thy Church" (IX.8.7).
Centuries later, Monica's body was reburied in Rome, and eventually her relics were interred in a chapel left of the high altar of the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.
The power of a mother’s prayers!
Prayer to St. Monica
Exemplary Mother of the great Augustine, you perseveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.
Intercede for all mothers in our day so that they may learn to draw their children to God. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray. Amen.