"St. Monica" with Luis Tristan
St. Monica is one of my all time favorite saints. She is the patron of patience, married women, homemakers and housewives, mothers, wives, widows, alcoholics, difficult marriages, difficult children, victims of adultery or unfaithfulness, and victims of verbal abuse.
Born in a town called Tagaste, Algeria in 322 to Christian parents, Monica was married at a young age to an abusive, hot-tempered Roman official, Patritius, who was a pagan. Monica's life of prayer and her habits of almsgiving were irksome to her husband. However, though their marriage was not a happy one, Patritius held her in a sort of reverence and never outright forbad her outward expression of her faith. It seems that there were many unhappy wives in old Tagaste, and Monica, through her compassion, sweetness, and generosity, eventually formed a vibrant apostolate of encouragement and support to women in similar circumstances to her own.
Monica and Patritius had three children, Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Patritius refused to allow the children to be Baptized. When Augustine fell gravely ill, Monica begged her husband desperately to let him be baptized. Patritius gave his consent, but recanted when Augustine miraculously recovered. In time, Augustine became a wayward son, and Monica prayed fiercely for the salvation of her eldest son. Still, Augustine wandered farther and farther into sloth and debauchery. Yet, during this dark time for the devoted mother, God granted Monica another deep wish of her heart: Patritius became a Christian!
Sadly, Patritius died shortly after his conversion, and Augustine became more and more corrupt. He became a Manichean, a combination of Gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, which considered all material nature to be evil. Upon his return home from his studies in Carthage, the zealous son started spouting of quite a number of heretical positions at his mother's table, and she, heartbroken, drove him from the house.
Around this time, she went to see a holy bishop who took pity on her. "The child of those tears shall never perish," he told the weeping mother. After this, Monica pursued Augustine all the way to Rome, but when she got there, she discovered he had already left for Milan. So, she went to Milan. Here, she met St. Ambrose, and here, Augustine, who was to become St. Augstine, experienced his famous conversion. For six months, mother and son lived blissfully together, and after this period, Augstine was baptized a Christian--at last!--by St. Ambrose. Augustine had resisted conversion for seventeen years, but his mother never relented in her prayers on his behalf.
After Augustine's reception into the Church, mother and son returned to Africa, but they stopped at Ostia, and here Monica died. She is buried in Ostia, though her body was removed during the sixth century to a hidden crypt in the church of St. Aureus. In 1430, Pope Martin V ordered her relics to be brought to Rome. Many miracles occurred during their transport. Later, when a church was built in Rome in honor of St. Augustine, St. Monica's relics were placed in a chapel to the left of the altar. I think Monica would have been very happy to rest in her son's church.
In 1850, an Association of Christian mothers was established in Paris under the patronage of St. Monica for the purpose of mutual prayer for sons and husbands who had gone astray. In 1856, the Association was made an archconfraternity and spread rapidly all over the world.
Truly, Christian wives and mothers have great recourse to turn to St. Monica for her example and to beseech her intercession on their behalf, for her prayers were most efficacious not only during her lifetime but even still in death! Her heart is filled with compassion for all those who fall under her patronage, and this devoted woman of prayer can be a dear, dear friend in our struggles of married life and motherhood.
Here are some ideas for how to celebrate the feastday of this remarkable saint:
- Pray for your children and husband!--especially those that do not know God or have fallen away from the Faith. This should be done everyday, but I would particularly recommend praying for them on St. Monica's feastday and to seek her intercession on their behalf.
- Thank your mother for her prayers on your behalf, if you know her to have prayed for your salvation.
- Enjoy some North African cuisine. There are many delicious recipes out there. Here are links to some great options from Epicurious and All Recipes, for a start.
- Read St. Augustine's gorgeous tribute to his mother in his Confessions, written at the time of her death. It can be found in Book IX, Chapters XII and XIII, though he also writes of St. Monica's life beginning in Chapter VIII of that same Book.
- Over dinner, discuss with your family the power of prayer and the importance of diligence and fortitude in our prayer lives. Share with each other stories about how God has answered prayer in your own lives, and pray for each other's current prayer requests.
- Have a prayer ceremony where you bless your children and pray for their salvation in their presence. If your children have already accepted God into their hearts and are following Him, then give thanks for this gift of their salvation and pray that they will never wander from the fold.
"Prayer to St. Monica"
Dear St. Monica,
troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant me that same fortitude, patience,
and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear my plea for[State your intention here]
and grant me the grace to accept His
Will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.