Today is the memorial of St. Monica, mother of Saint Augustine. A family who produces two saints must look more like the holy family than your family or my family, but this family may surprise you. Monica married a man who was an alcoholic and as often happens with alcoholism, violent and abusive. She lived in the home of her mother-in-law, who was also an alcoholic and so it is not hard to imagine how difficult her family life must have been. Monica, however, had one great defense and that was that she was a woman of great faith and a powerhouse of prayer.
Monica prayed for the conversion of her husband and indeed he did convert at some point in his life. Monica is an inspiration for all mothers who fervently pray for their children, particularly when all seems hopeless. She felt that way about Augustine, who was smart, talented, successful, but also a self-described lover of wine and women and the good life. He joined, for a time, a crazy religious sect, and he fathered a child with a woman to whom he was not married. Monica prayed for his conversion, seemingly without ceasing, as St. Paul would say. Augustine, in the true style of an obstinate young man, decided to flee their home in North Africa and go to Italy, in part, to get away from his mother. But Monica was on a mission and not to be deterred, she actually got on the next boat that left after his and followed Augustine to Europe!
The Power of Prayer
Monica is a witness to the strength and fortitude that can come from prayer. She gives all mothers of temperamental teenagers and young adults hope that one day, they will again have a close relationship with their children.
In the spirit of Monica
Today, many mothers are inspired by Monica. I wrote recently about the two planes that crashed over the Hudson. In that story is a subplot which brought the story of Monica and Augustine to mind. The pilot of the helicopter, though baptized Catholic had stopped practicing the faith. This did not keep his mother and his fiancee from praying for him and his return to the faith. Last Easter he was confirmed. His mother commented at the time of his death, “It was the perfect time.”
Seeking the intercession of Monica
I have a great love for Monica as she is buried in the church of Saint Augustine in Rome. It was my parish while I was studying at the Angelicum. I would often visit the tomb and ask her intercession for situations that seemed hopeless and for my friends who were struggling with their kids. The stories of the prayer of these two mothers are a reminder to me that God’s time is not always our time and that our prayer is never in vain.