Saint Monica

St. Monica, Mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo; reformed alcholic Died 387 at Ostia, Italy; relics are enshrined at Saint Augustine's Church in Rome near the Piazza Navona; other relics are at Arrouaise Commemorated August 27

Patronage: abuse victims, alcoholics, alcoholism, difficult marriages, disappointing children, homemakers, housewives, marriedwomen, mothers, victims of adultery, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, widows, wives

In art, Saint Monica is portrayed in widow's reeds or a nun's habit in scenes with her son Augustine. She might also be shown: (1)enthroned with a book among Augustinian nuns; (2) kneeling withAugustine with an angel over them as she holds a scarf,handkerchief, or book in her hand; (3) praying before an altar withAugustine; (4) saying farewell to him as he departs by ship; (5)holding a tablet engraved with IHS (Roeder); or (6) receiving amonstrance from an angel (White). In this 15th-century Flemish painting, Saint Monica is shown with the Madonna and Child, and Saints Augustine, John the Baptist, and Nicholas of Tolentino. Monica, Matron.

Born at Tagaste or Carthage, North Africa, in 331-2; died at Ostia,Italy, in 387.Monica, the eldest of three children of Christian parents, wasreared by a family retained, who led her charges in a strict life.

According to one story, the servant never allowed them to drink between meals because, "It is water you want now, but when you become mistresses of your own cellar, you will want wine--not water--and the habit will remain with you. Nevertheless, when as a young girl she was given the duty of drawing wine for the family, she ignored the maxim and indulged in wine until the day an angry servant caught her drunk and called her a "winebibber." From thatday she made a vow (that she kept) that she would never drink anything but water. She married the pagan Patricius who had an uncontrollable temper. Her mother-in-law, also a pagan, usually sided with Patricius and told false tells to the servants about Monica, who met all their insults with silence.

Although he felt some contempt for her devoutness and generosity to the poor, he respected her. Her silence would overcome her husband's wrath. He never physically abused her,despite his explosive temper, and when other women showed her bruises received at the hands of their husbands, Monica told themthat their tongues brought the treatment upon them. Over time her meekness, humility and prayers transformed Patricius, who became a catechumen, and her mother-in-law. The formerly formal relationship of the couple developed into a warm, spiritual devotion. He died a happy death soon after his baptism in 370. The marriage produced three children that lived: Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Her eldest, Saint Augustine, was born in 354. He was inscribed as a catechumen in infancy, but was not baptized. He was gifted with a mother who spoke often of God's love and her faith.When widowed about 371, at the age of 40, Monica vowed to belong wholly to God, renounced all worldly pleasures, and ministered tothe poor and orphaned while still fulfilling her maternal duties, especially the conversion of her wayward son. The family was relatively poor, but a rich citizen of Tagaste met Augustine's educational expenses at the university in Carthage. Monica hoped studying philosophy and science would bring back her wayward son to God, but she did not realize Carthage was a seething mass of iniquity. Augustine had a 15-year, faithful common-law marriage and a son named Adeodatus or "given by God." In Carthage, he joined the heretical Manichees and persuaded others to follow suit.

The Manichean doctrine that bodily actions had no moral significance brought relief to Augustine's troubled soul. He returned to Tagastefor his vacation and Monica threw him out. When Monica heard thatAugustine had become a Manichean and was living a dissolute life, she refused to allow him to live in her home. He was not to return until he had renounced his errors and submitted to the truth. Unlike many modern minds, Monica refused to allow her son's life to be devastated by a vain deceit. Then she had a vision in which she seemed to be standing on a wooden beam, despairing of his fall, when a shining being asked her the reason for her lamentation. She answered and he told her to stop crying. Looking toward the spot he indicated, she saw Augustine standing of the beam next to her. She repeated the vision to her son, and he replied playfully that they might easily be together if Monica renounced her faith. After completing his studies, Augustine opened a school of oratory in Carthage and instructed his disciples in the principles of Manicheism. In doing so, he discovered that the Manicheans were more adept in attacking Catholicism than in establishing the truth of their own theories. And his new religion was incapable of relieving his grief at the death of a close friend.

Augustine tells us that Monica shed "more tears for my spiritual death than other mothers shed for the bodily death of a son." Monica kept praying for her son's conversion for 17 years. To add power to her prayers, she fasted, making Holy Communion her daily food and she was often favored with the grace of ecstasy. An unnamed bishop comforted her that her son was young and stubborn, but that God's time would come because "The son of so many tears cannot possibly be lost." At the age of 29, Augustine finally tired of the frivolity of Carthage, moved to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to accompany him, but he tricked her and sailed alone. Soon after his arrival he became deathly ill. He recovered and opened his school. Monica fretted because of the tone of his letters and the reputed vice of Rome, so she followed him after selling her few remaining possessions. In the meantime, Saint Symmachus offered Augustine a chair in rhetoric in Milan, after he won a competition. When she arrived in Rome, he had already left, but she hurried on to Milan. Upon arrival in Milan, Augustine had paid a courtesy visit to Bishop Saint Ambrose, to whom he felt attraction of a kindred spirit. Augustine came to love the bishop as a father and went every Sunday to hear Ambrose as an orator as he preached. At the age of 30, Augustine began to see the folly of Manicheism and its gross misrepresentation of the Church, but he still did not believe.

When Monica arrived in Milan, her first visit was also to Ambrose and they understood one another at once. She became his faith fuldisciple and Ambrose's "heart warmed to Monica because of her truly pious way of life, her zeal in good works, and her faithfulness in worship. Often when he saw [Augustine] he would break out in praise of her, congratulating [the son] on having such a mother." AndAugustine wryly notes: "He little knew what sort of a son she had. "Monica turned to Ambrose for spiritual direction, especially inregards to practice. In response to one of her questions on fasting,he gave the famous response: "When I am here, I do not fast onSaturday, but I fast when I am in Rome; do the same, and always follow the custom and discipline of the Church as it is observed in the particular locality in which you find yourself. "Monica and Augustine began to attend Mass together and to discuss the bishop's sermons afterwards. Monica had deeply studied philosophy and theology so that she might be able to deal intelligently with Augustine's difficulties. He began to realize how many things he believed that he could not prove, but accepted on the testimony of others.

And so Augustine fulfilled the maxim that "conversions are rarely brought about though an immediate influx of divine grace, but through the agency of events and persons." Saint Monica used every possible wile to bring her son into contact with the bishop. Augustine had reached a critical point, he must choose God or his mistress. Ever the meddlesome mother, Monica arranged a marriage for him but had to leave him to his decision. She began her penitential discipline in a convent. Meanwhile Augustine attracted a group of friends in Milan with whom he daily read and discussed the Scriptures. An old priest, Saint Simplicianus, told him of the courageous conversion of oldVictorinus, whose translation of Plato he had been reading and convicted Augustine of his cowardice.

Pontitianus told him of the life of Saint Antony the Hermit and of how two courtiers had been converted by reading his story. Immediately after Augustine finally recognized the darkness of his soul, his eyes fell upon Paul's epistle, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh and the concupiscence there of." Saint Alypius, his friend, too opened the book and read, "He that is weak in faith take unto you." Augustine went at once to Monica and told her what had happened. Her agony was ended! He attributed his conversion primarily to her.

When his instruction was over, he was baptized by Ambrose on Holy Saturday, 387. Monica's faith purchased for the Catholic Church its keenest philosopher, most comprehensive theologian, most persuasive apologist, and most far-seeing moralist, a wise administrator, apowerful preacher, and a penetrating mystic. Countless now live under the Augustinian rule. Four years after their arrival in Milan, during a stop at Ostia enroute back to Tagaste, Monica told her son: "What I am still to do,or why I still linger in this world, I do not know. There was one reason, one alone, for which I wish to tarry a little longer: that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I die. God has granted me this boon, and more, for I see you his servant, spurning all earthly happiness. What is left for me to do in this life?" Saint Monica died about two weeks later at the age of 56, Augustine was then 33. She is venerated at Ostia , Italy, and in all Augustinian houses . She is the patron saint of married women and mothers .


O Lord who taught Monica to persevere for the good of her family, help me to be a better parent to my children. Help me to have patience with them when they misbehave and give me the strength to guide them gently to the right path. Permit me always to forgive their misdeeds and keep me from speaking harshly or punishing unwisely. Please help me to be a beacon of goodness for them as they grow to adulthood and to be a good example to them in all I say and do.

Dieu le Roy!
de Brantigny

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