Commemorated on May 4
Saint Monica is a patron saint for all prayerful mothers and faithful wives. She was a zealous Christian with a profoundly deep faith in God who never gave up hope amidst the many tribulations in her earthly life. If there are mothers whose children have gone astray, here is your rule of faith and hope and teacher of unceasing prayer. If there are wives whose husbands are unfaithful or abusive, Saint Monica is a heavenly intercessor who stands before the Lord of Hosts on your behalf.
St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, was born in 322 in Tagaste (located in modern-day Algeria). Her parents were Christians, but little is known of her early life. Most of the information about her comes from Book IX of her son’s “Confessions.”
St. Monica was married to a pagan official named Patritius, who had a short temper and lived an immoral life. Unlike many other women of that time, however, St. Monica was never beaten by her husband. She said that Patritius never raised his hand against her because she always held her tongue, "setting a guard over her mouth" in his presence.
Monica bore a son by Patricius, named Augustine. As a youth Augustine was prone to a wasteful life. Monica struggled throughout her life to make him a Christian from the time he was a young boy, but his father’s example and Augustine’s own restless life brought him to the way of sin. At the age of 19 he went to Carthage to further his studies. There, where debauchery was rampant, he was totally captivated by illegal pastimes and became a member of the then well-known heresy of the Manicheans. Monica heard this, but she knew how to be patient, to cry and to pray. She waited for him at night with tears in her eyes, to return from the houses of sin. She shed so many tears – as he himself later wrote in his “Confessions” – many more than those which mothers shed over the bodies of their dead children. Monica saw Augustine daily, not physically, but spiritually dead. However, God, who noticed her tears, also took care of her son’s return. Once, the Bishop of Carthage had comforted her, saying: “A child who causes his mother so many tears can never possibly be lost; your son will be saved”.
Augustine left Carthage and went to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric. There he joined the devout Bishop Ambrose of Milan, and his acquaintance with him brought about his departure from the delusion of the Manicheans. Augustine continued to experience a struggle between good and evil. A naturally restless and unsatisfied soul, he searched constantly for the Truth. One day he heard a voice telling him: “Take and read”.
He opened the Bible at an excerpt: “Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness…”.
He began to see sin as a torturous punishment. He abandoned his sinful life and in a continual path of repentance began to approach God more and more. He received catechism from the Holy Ambrose and on 24th April 387 AD (Holy Saturday) he was baptized and became a Christian.
The angels in heaven rejoice for every soul that repents. Together with them on earth, his mother Monica, St Monica, also rejoiced and this time she shed tears of joy and praised and thanked God. The return of the creature to the creator became a fact.
Mother and son returned to Rome. There Monica was struck by a fatal disease, which quickly worsened daily…The day of her departure from earthly life approached, opening the way to the next life, eternal life, unending life with God. Sadness overcame Augustine’s heart. Monica begged him not to worry because this separation is not worthy of sorrow as it is temporary; we will all meet up again in the heavenly Jerusalem. She asked only that she be commemorated in the Holy Prothesis in the Divine Liturgies… She breathed her last at the age of 56, when Augustine was 33. She was buried at Ostia, and her holy relics were transferred to the crypt of a church in the sixth century. Nine centuries later, St. Monica’s relics were translated to Rome.
In his book, “Confessions,” Augustine wrote about his reaction to his mother’s death: “If any one thinks it wrong that I thus wept for my mother some small part of an hour – a mother who for many years had wept for me that I might live to thee, O Lord – let him not deride me. But if his charity is great, let him weep also for my sins before thee.”
The tears of a mother, like Monica’s, are shed at every step of her life. She prays and hopes. She never buckles in prayer. She is never angered, she never complains to God. Together with her prayers, she lives a holy life, doing good deeds. Monica saved her son, her husband and her mother-in-law. She is probably the best example for mothers, wives, daughters-in-law.