"Lord, make me good, but not yet!"
Monica was born in Tagaste in northern Africa around 332.
She was raised by Christian parents and a nanny.
Her nanny would not let the children drink too much water
for fear of them becoming fond of drinking wine.
As a child, Monica would go to the cellar to pour her parents a glass of wine,
and she would drink some herself—sometimes even a full glass!
Her nanny discovered what she was up to and gave her a telling-off.
Monica realized her faults, repented, and turned fervently to Christ.
Although Monica was raised a Christian,
her parents gave her away in marriage to a pagan, Patricius,
an upstanding citizen of her hometown of Tagaste.
Monica lived with her husband and mother-in-law throughout their marriage. Patricius had a violent temper and was unfaithful.
Monica suffered from his infidelities but refused to complain.
When other women in town complained about their husbands,
Monica would never join in.
Monica was finally able to influence her husband and mother-in-law
to convert to Christianity and be baptized a year before Patricius passed away.
Patricius and Monica had three children who survived infancy.
Her eldest was the famous AUGUSTINE,
and her other two children were named NAVIGIUS and PERPETUA.
Through the pious loving example of their mother,
Navigius became a monk and Perpetua became a nun and later an abbess.
Augustine on the other hand, was interested in rhetoric and the classics.
Unfortunately, when Patricius passed away, Augustine was only seventeen years old and was strongly influenced by his peers. Augustine took on a mistress, with whom he had a child, but the two were unable to marry because she was of a lower social class.
Monica was disappointed in her son and cried more tears for him than if he had died. For a while, she did not allow him to eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that her son would come back to the Faith. She then stayed closer to him, praying and fasting. Augustine did not like having his pious mother around, so he tried to get away. At the age of twenty-nine, Augustine decided he wanted to go to Rome to teach; Monica was determined to go with him. One night, Augustine told his mother he was going to the docks to say goodbye to a friend, but instead he got on the boat himself and sailed to Rome. This trickery broke Monica’s heart, but she still followed after him.
While Augustine was in Rome, he became very ill—to the point that they were preparing to anoint him. Through the prayers and tears of his mother, Augustine had a miraculous recovery, and he travelled to Milan, where he met and came under the direction of St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan. Around the same time, St. Ambrose became Monica’s spiritual director.
She continued to pray for Augustine through his years of instruction with St. Ambrose. At Easter in the year 387, Augustine was baptised with his friends. Monica was overjoyed at this and treated his newly-baptised friends like family.
To Monica’s amazement, Augustine had his own intentions
of giving his life to Christ through priesthood!
Shortly after Augustine announced his intentions to enter a life of celibacy,
Monica had no reason to remain on this side of heaven;
her work on earth was complete.
She caught a fever in Ostia, Italy, and she asked for her body to be laid there.
She passed away soon afterward, in the year 387.
Her son Navigius wanted to lay her in their hometown of Tasgaste,
but he honoured his mother’s wishes to be buried in the city where she died,
Her wayward son Augustine became a great saint,
a priest, the founder of many monasteries, Bishop of Hippo,
a fine theologian, and one of the greatest Doctors of the Church.
Augustine’s meditations on his spiritual journey are found in his Confessions,
where we read that he wept bitterly for his mother
because she wept so many tears for his salvation.
Augustine ascribed his conversion
to the example and devotion of his mother:
"She never let me out of her prayers
that you, O God, might say to the widow's son
'Young man, I tell you arise'" -
Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favourably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. Luke 7. 11-17
Monica' is commemorated on August 27th;
her son Augustine on August 28th.
Faithful God, who strengthened Monica,
the mother of Augustine with wisdom,
and through her patient endurance
encouraged him to seek after you:
give us the will to persist in prayer
that those who stray from you may be brought to faith
in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.