St. Monica, whose feast we celebrate today, is not only a saint. She’s also the mother of a saint, St. Augustine. So what the Church presents to us today for our veneration is a saintly family!

Some of you may be thinking, “That’s nice, but it certainly doesn’t describe my family.” That may be true. But consider this: At one time, St. Monica was an alcoholic. She had a verbally abusive, non-Christian husband who cheated on her. Her son Augustine abandoned his faith as a teenager, defiantly embraced another religion, came home from college with a live-in girlfriend, fathered a child out of wedlock with her, and then later sneaked out of the country in order to get away from Mom.

For his part, St. Augustine suffered from depression at times; he spent many years adrift as he sought meaning and purpose in life; he wasted time and money on silly and immoral entertainment; and he struggled with a sexual compulsion that filled him with shame.

Does that sound a bit more familiar? Sound a bit more like a real family. It even sound a bit like a dysfunctional family. But that’s not the entire story, which has a happy ending. Augustine eventually returned to his Christian roots and became a great bishop; Monica’s pagan husband changed his ways and became a Christian as well; and Monica recovered from alcoholism and died in the company of her son, whom she had shortly beforehand watched being baptized at the hands of another saint, St. Ambrose.

Their story, I think, should give real hope to real families who struggle with real problems: Hope that now matter how bad things may seem, there’s always the possibility for healing, conversion, reconciliation, growth, and freedom. For nothing is impossible with God!

Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082711.cfm

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

5 Responses

  1. Benjamin Baxter says:

    Doesn’t Augustine defend his mother from charges of alcoholism early on in the Confessions? That sort of claim is like the one that Magdalene was a prostitute. Widely believed, and in no way undermining their particular judgment as they presumably repented, but nonetheless untrue, often slander.

  2. Cynthia BC says:

    I was amused at the first reading of the day, from Ecclesiastes (sp)

    “…Like the sun rising over the mountains of the Lord
    is the beauty of a good wife in a well-kept house.”

    Is said good wife expected to keep up with pet hair and a 10-year-old Agent of Chaos?

  3. Robert Hagedorn says:

    Is Saint Augustine’s exegesis of the 2nd and 3rd chapters correct? Do a search: First Scandal.

  4. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Quite a tale of experience, strength and hope; which are at their best when told by the one who lived the life it describes. However, once they’re no longer around the story becomes a spiritual legacy that can only serve its purpose as it is passed on and spreads its benefits.
    Thank you.

  5. Fr. Scott Hurd says:

    Benjamin- I last read the COnfessions in 1992, I believe. I’m in need of an update! I encountered the bit about St. Monica’s struggle with alcohol in a commentary on her life somewhere. If I recall, it had to do with household servants commenting on her intemperate consumption in her younger years- a situation which Monica came to appreciate that she needed to change.

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