Today is the feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo and patron of married women, mothers, difficult marriages, alcoholics, victims of abuse, and victims of unfaithfulness, among other things.
She is the perfect example of St. Paul’s exhortation to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Much of what we know about her is found in Augustine’s Confessions. A Christian of North Africa, she was married to a philandering Italian pagan with a bad temper. Suffering much in her marriage, she hoped to raise her children to honour God, but in spite of her example and exhortations, Augustine chose to pursue worldly pleasures, keeping a mistress and seeking fame.
For years, Monica prayed without ceasing for her family. A year before his death, her husband converted to the Faith and was baptized. Years later, when Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric, Monica was determined to follow him. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, her 29-year-old son felt this as something of an inconvenience, and on the day he sailed off to Rome, he told his mother he was merely going to the docks to bid a friend farewell. Hurt by the deception, she was nevertheless not thrown off, and headed to Rome independently. When she arrived, she discovered he had set out for Milan. Undeterred, she followed. In Milan, both Monica and Augustine made the acquaintance of the learned bishop, St. Ambrose, whom Augustine found impressive — much to his surprise, since he had thought Christians uneducated and simple. It was through St. Ambrose’s guidance that Monica’s prayers for her son were answered and he entered the Church. In fact, Augustine became such an influence in the Church that he became known as one of the Church Fathers and a Doctor of the Church. We are deeply indebted to St. Monica for being such a devoted mother!
St. Monica, pray for us!