Memorial of St. Monica

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For the feast of St. Monica we recommend this painting of her by John Nava.

How wonderful that St. Monica’s feast falls the day before that of her son, St. Augustine. She goes before him in the calendar just as she went before him in faith.

Monica is the patron of wives and victims of domestic violence. She could also be the patron of parents of lazy and wayward children, for she certainly bore and raised one.

Monica, though a Christian, was given in marriage to a pagan government official, a man who was much older than she. They had three children — Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua. Monica’s husband had a violent temper. Living with him must have been a constant trial. Monica prayed for him and for her children. Shortly before her husband’s death, he and his mother, who also lived with them, converted to Christianity.

In life and in death, at home and among strangers, Monica trusted in Christ.

One might hope this would mark a period of quiet joy for Monica. Both Navigius and Perpetua entered religious life. But her son, Augustine, resisted the call of Christ. She prayed for him for 17 years, often imploring priests to pray with her. One priest comforted her saying, “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

Augustine did convert, in the same year, 387, his mother died. Still, they had six months of peace together before her death, rejoicing in their now shared faith. Augustine went on to become a bishop, a doctor of the church and one of its greatest writers and preachers.

You can read Augustine’s account of his mother’s death in chapter 11 of his Confessions. He writes of her courage dying far from the home where she longed to be buried. He recalls her saying, “Nothing is far from God. I need not fear that he will not know where to raise me up at the end of the world.”

In life and in death, at home and among strangers, Monica trusted in Christ.