First among North African Christians

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Monica, mother of Augustine and Patroness of all mothers who storm heaven on behalf of their sons and daughters. Monica was born in 332 in Thagaste, North Africa. She was born into a Christian home and practiced her faith seriously. She had a particular devotion to the martyrs who lives were a source of strength for the Christians of her day.

In re-reading the life of Monica, I was struck by a quote of Augustine in the Confessions.  Augustine writes “She did not die sadly nor did she die completely” (IX, 12). What a pithy way to get at the heart of the Christian experience of dying. Death is not the end of the story for those who love God. It seems to me from reading of Monica’s life that she seemed rather peaceful and confident in facing death. I think it was her devotion to the Eucharist that prepared her for death. It is in every celebration of the Eucharist that the church on earth and the church in heaven are united in praise of God (loosely quoted from the Catechism).  So, while dying with the finality that marks the end of life on earth, it is in this very death that the seeds of new life begin. They are seeds that have been planted in the way in which we live. Augustine prays.

But you, O God of mercy, would not despise the contrite and humble heart of that chaste and pious widow, so generous in giving alms, so prompt in serving Your saints, who never let a day pass without assisting at the sacrifice of Your altar, and came twice daily, morning and evening without fail, to Your church…that she might hear You in your preaching and You her in her prayers. (Confessions, V, 19).

Perhaps the best way we can celebrate the feast of St. Monica is to pray for and if possible, call or visit our mothers, who in many cases are our first and most influential teachers of the faith!