Saint Monica – Mother, Wife, and Widow

August 26, 2011

The Pastor's Page

St. Monica with young Augustine

St. Monica with young Augustine at St. Patrick in Mauston WI

St. Monica is most remembered as the mother of St. Augustine, and her feast day is August 27, the day before her son’s feast day on August 28

Monica was born in 332 in Tagaste, North Africa, in the region of modern-day Algeria.  She was born into a Christian family and raised as a devout and pious believer.

Monica had an arranged marriage.  While she was still a young lady, her parents chose her husband for her, Patricius, a pagan.  He was basically a good man, but he had a bad temper, drank heavily, was prone to tantrums, and was unfaithful in marriage.  Monica’s home life was further aggravated by the fact that her mother-in-law lived with them, and she was both emotionally and verbally abusive to Monica with her scorn and deriding comments.

Despite the ill treatment that Monica received, she persevered in prayer for both of them.  She did her best to be a good wife.  She completed her household tasks and she tried to be as kind and pleasant as possible to her husband, even if he did not reciprocate.  She longed for his conversion and the day that they would both be able to go to church together.  Because Monica was so patient, cheerful, and charitable, Patricius was touched by the sincerity of her love, softened his resistance, converted a year before his death, and was baptized in 371 a short while before he passed away.  Remarkably, Monica’s mother-in-law also converted and was baptized.

Monica and Patricius had three children and Augustine was their eldest.  He was born in 354 but was not baptized as an infant.   Monica tried to raise her firstborn in the Catholic faith and he became a catechumen as a teenager, but his father’s influence prevailed, he rejected Christianity and became an adherent of the Manichean heresy.   Meanwhile, he also slipped into reckless, immoral living, frequented the baths, had a mistress and a son out of wedlock.  Monica was so distraught that she threw her son out of the house for a time.  It was in 370 with many tears that she began her campaign of prayer and fasting for her son’s conversion.

Augustine was brilliant and a tremendous orator.  He studied secular philosophy, but he could see that some aspects were deeply flawed.  In his desire for truth and meaning, and wanting to be a master of rhetoric, he moved to Rome in 383.  His mother objected, but followed him.  After an illness Augustine moved north to Milan, and Monica was not far behind.  It was there that Augustine listened to the preaching of Bishop Ambrose, and through his mother’s prayerful intercession, the Holy Spirit softened his heart, he reconsidered his former way of life, took instructions from Ambrose, and was baptized on Easter, 387, with his mother Monica present.  Her son became a Catholic Christian, and eventually a priest, bishop, and Doctor of the Church.

Monica stormed heaven for seventeen years, and she is an outstanding model of piety and prayerful perseverance.  Sometime later in 387 Monica died in Ostia, Italy, before she was ever able to return to African, and she is now entombed at the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.  She is the patron saint of mothers, wives, parents with difficult children, troubled marriages, widows, and alcoholics.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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