Today (August 28th) we have the feast day of a bishop and doctor of the Church who is considered one of the great figures in Western civilization, St. Augustine. But we also have yesterday (August 27th) the feast day of another renowned saint, his mother, St. Monica, and I think I would like to focus on her instead.
As I said, St. Monica was Augustine’s mother, and this undoubtedly brought her more notoriety than she would have had if he wasn’t her son, but I think it would be fair to say that she would have more likely been a saint without his help, than he would have been a saint without her help, even if she may not have gotten as much publicity and we wouldn’t know as much about her as we do from Augustine’s writings.
Probably the most common and best way to think about Monica is as a faithful wife and mother, faithful to them and to God. Her husband, Patricius, is identified as a pagan with an uncontrolled temper and who could be violent, and his mother who lived with them is described in a similar manner. They had at least three kids we know of, Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua, but she is said to have favored Augustine, her eldest, (of course we are hearing this through Augustine’s writings though.) While none of her children were baptized as children, all of the family would eventually become Christian’s.
We know most about Augustine of course, and how difficult he was up to his mid 30’s, but Monica was still working on him and praying for him until he did finally convert and become Christian. But Navigius and Perpetua were also baptized (without all of the difficulties we know about with Augustine) and entered religious life. And probably the most impressive would be the conversion of both her husband and her mother-in-law before they would die. We realize that it is ultimately up to one’s own free will to choose to follow Christ or not, but the efforts, example, and the prayers of those around us can be critical in helping us come to that choice.
Hopefully as we remember St. Monica we are encouraged by her faithfulness, her perseverance, and her influence on the lives of those around her to be open to God’s call. Hopefully she may also inspire us to consider how we can do that for others in our lives? RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is starting in late September, maybe there is someone we know who just needs that invitation today.