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Our Augustinian Saints/ 2
Introduction* Monica of Tagaste, the mother of Augustine of Hippo, belongs to a group of 4th century women to whom the universal Church will ever be indebted. They had a decisive influence on some of the most important personages of that period. For instance, in Cappadocia, a region in presentday Turkey, Saint Basil the Great refers to his grandmother Macrina the Elder as his spiritual nurse. And for Saint Gregory of Nyssa, his sister, Macrina the Younger, was a true spiritual director. Near this great family stood another shining one, also enlightened by the virtue of a woman, Saint Nonna, who constructed with her family a veritable home of holiness. She converted her husband Saint Gregory, and gave the Church three sons, all three listed among the saints. The eldest among them is Saint Gregory the Great. And in Antioch of Syria, another woman, the young widow Anthusa, guided the education of her son, the great Saint John Chrysostom. Like all these holy women, Monica was the builder of the Christian life of her home. She planted and watered so God could make grow one of the most eminent and prolific figures of the 3
universal Church and of human culture, Saint Augustine.
in present-day Algiers. 1 2 cf. Our information about her family is scarce. She died in 387 at the age of 561. we do not know the number of her siblings or the name of any of them. What can be affirmed. is that she belonged to a middle-class family.Chapter 1 Early Years We must mention. 9. and their references are at the end of the pamphlet. the Dialogues and some other passages in his writings. without interrupting the smooth reading. however. cf. first of all. but they had servants and some possessions. 5 . Having servants then was not a *The passages of Saint Augustine that we transcribe here are in italics. 11. Conf. The family Monica was born in Tagaste. 1. 17. 9. that all that we know of Saint Monica comes to us from Saint Augustine through his Confessions. 28. We only know that she had other sisters2. They could not be called rich. Conf. in the year 331. they can be consulted by those who so wish. 8. Thus.
The consequences were disastrous for African 3 4 cf. 17. a sound member of Thy Church3. It was like the Pharisee in the parable (cf.privilege of the wealthy class. Ep. and that sinners had no place therein. Later. 8. he would find out that the city of Tagaste had belonged to Donatus’ party at the onset of the schism4. and at the core. 17. ended up denying God’s very power to forgive. though. 9. Coming as these words are from his mouth. Augustine is affirming that his mother’s family had long abandoned paganism (Christian). then went on to doubt his mercy. Augustine describes it for us in these words: She was born into a family of believers. they were found quite often among the more or less well off. The religious atmosphere in the family wherein Monica was born and raised had solid Christian convictions. The so-called party of Donatus or Donatism arose in Africa towards the year 305 in reaction to the defections that occurred during the last great persecution (years 303-305). 93. 5. 9-14). they have special meaning. Conf. Lk 18. who started by presenting a God-judge. 6 . It claimed that the Church was composed only of saints. and that it has kept its distance from the Donatist schism (good member).
2. Monica was entrusted to an elderly servant.” The exercise was hard but wise. Finally. her parents assigned her to draw 5 Conf. Monica did not have to wait for marriage to find it for herself.D. but the habit of drinking will remain. and made mistresses of storeroom and cellar. The woman knew how to guide their early years firmly but tactfully. Sometime later. in 411 A. 17. 8.only because you have not control of wine. and instructing them with a sober sagacity5. with a holy severity. an achievement wherein Saint Augustine played a key role. To illustrate. 7 . reunification was forged. he goes on to describe one of the exercises that the old servant required of Monica and her sisters: outside of meals they could not drink anything. who in her younger years had been nurse to Monica’s father and was now entrusted with the education of the girls.Christianity on account of the division and bloody persecution that the sect unleashed on Catholics. “You drink water. Education While a child and adolescent.. but when you have come to be married. you will despise water. Augustine describes her as restraining them when necessary.she would say. 9.
Here they were fated for marriage and house chores. During an argument one day. Monica would devote herself to these tasks with all her 6 Conf. During her trips to the cellar. We will always find her ready to face the most adverse situations and to respond in a sober and definitive way. 18. but in the provinces they were not as lucky. first. just wetting her lips. but this grew to become a habit. who opened her eyes to the potential vice. and Saint Augustine says: “Stung by this taunt. she would occasionally take secret sips of wine. and immediately condemned and renounced it”6. Monica did not go beyond the primary grades. This drastic reaction reveals Monica’s resolute character. she perceived her foulness. As regard intellectual formation. nor her nobility of spirit allow her to resort to defense mechanisms to excuse herself and follow the easy way. 8 . 9. women had easy access to culture. who daily accompanied her and had maliciously covered up. Her self-esteem would not let her scare easily. the servant got even by calling her winebibber. It was another maid.wine daily for the table. until she came to drinking whole cupfuls with relish. In the capital city of Rome. her word would be final and definitive. 8. out of curiosity.
9 . thus becoming a genuine teacher of married and family life.soul.
he discussed the wedding arrangements with the groom or his family. Nor do we know of their courtship. although she had misgivings. However. Mixed unions between pagans and Christians were not rare at all. Monica devoted herself to running her home. she was given to a husband whom she served as her lord7. defections occurred in the Church. The marriage of Monica and Patricius would be one of the great examples of the latter. 11 .Chapter 2 A Christian Wife When she had arrived at a marriageable age. she had to see 7 Conf. a pagan from Tagaste. on account of the dangers they posed for the faith. Like all Roman women. although in this regard the paterfamilias (the head of the family) would have much say. 9. The Church has never prohibited them. as was the custom at the time. From then on. if by influence of the pagan spouse. Monica married Patricius. experience also taught that. 9. 19. there were also numerous cases wherein the home became a fertile mission field. We ignore her exact age then. but she would be a young lady of about 20 years.
charity. She knew it was her home and her life. so that in all patience she employed the most effective weapon. Saint Augustine says that: Her mother-in-law. she ran up against a rather suspicious mother-in-law and some gossipy maids. and severely reacted by asking her son to punish them. she was responsible for the internal life of her home. 12 . Monica was not perturbed. [was] at first prejudiced against her by the whisperings of evil-disposed servants8. 21). Rm 12. also. Her house. Patricius whipped the servants. the two 8 Conf. be concerned that all activities ran smoothly. by returning good for evil (cf. 20. Absent was the Christian atmosphere that she breathed until then. above all. 9. moreover. and from then on. 1. The mother-in-law promptly realized that the maids’ talks were baseless. 9. supervise the servants and. In sum. a home of peace Monica’s new hearth differed much from her ancestral home.to everything: do the needed purchases. spin with spindle and distaff. her most distinctive work instruments. Nevertheless.
disclose nothing 9 Conf. Her friends had the age-old vice of rumor mongering. He would even launch a veritable pastoral campaign against the spirit of resentment and revenge that so easily thrived in the life of his faithful. on the contrary. for them she was the shoulder to cry on and the gracious hand wherein they found the support of advice and example. Monica. 9. She always nurtured a climate of sincere trust with her friends. and she never fomented them nor relayed to others what she had heard. The magnanimity displayed here by Monica is the foundation on which she would build the house of peace that was her home. Rather. she tried to reconcile people.said Saint Augustine-. was exceedingly refined: she never joined these comments. 13 .lived together with a wonderful sweetness of mutual good will9. 9. especially since it was quite rare among the Africans. bringing out the good in each one: she would . Monica’s house was also a place of peace for those who frequented it. through her conversation. 20. Her son Augustine writes admiringly in the Confessions of this virtue of hers.
9. 9. 21. 2. 14 10 11 . he communicates the science of life and concedes the most precious gifts. upon that good handmaid of Thine. but exemplary. 9. but abuses and ill treatment on the part of their husbands were not infrequent. Mt 5. Monica gradually acquired this beautiful gift. . Thus did she live out that mark of God which is the peacemaking spirit of the beatitudes (cf.Thou. 9. 21. Conf. 9. my mercy.about the one unto the other. she showed herself such a peacemaker between any differing and discordant spirits11. her most intimate Instructor. my God. this blessing from above. Relationship with her husband Monica’s relationship with Patricius was difficult. Conf. even that. In the Roman world. by listening attentively to the interior Master: Such a one was she. out of whose womb Thou createdst me. 9): This great gift Thou bestowedst also. 12 Conf. women had attained the recognition of some respect and dignity. 9. save what might avail to their reconcilement10. 21. teaching her in the school of her heart. whenever she could.12 When God is welcomed into the intimacy of the soul. She lived in a typically malechauvinist society.
should he have been excited without cause.Her husband was a violent man. despite Patricius’ violent character. It would seem. 9. that she was slave to her husband’s whims. so was he violent in anger13 -says his son-. because.14 Sustaining this effort day after day is possible only to those who have assumed their life as an apostolic mission and are nourished by the gifts of the Spirit. in reality. she would give him a reason for her conduct. 9. at first glance. 9). Patricius had a very volatile character: as he was earnest in friendship. Her friends could not but be amazed. nor even in word. Conf. nevertheless they were frequently maltreated. and she saw a fitting moment. 19. 15 . their marriage proves Saint Paul’s dictum about strength being manifested in weakness (cf. Monica could well presume of this strength. 19. Their husbands were more peaceful than he. she had to be exceptionally patient and prudent with him: She had learned that an angry husband should not be resisted. For this reason. 2 Co 12. 9. though. she was never physically harmed in the least. neither in deed. 13 14 Conf. 9. as often shown by the bruises they could ill conceal. But so soon as he was grown calm and tranquil.
16 . 9. 19. with gentle chiding. Relinquishing one’s whole life merely to avoid a beating was too high a price. would seriously remind them of the evil effects of pride15. There was need to give in so that peace might reign at home and to help the husbands recognize the truth of things. But that would have been a Pyrrhic victory were it the only fruit she obtained from her husband. She aimed at the conversion of Patricius. his unfaithfulness: For she so bore the wronging 15 16 cf. preaching Thee unto him by her behavior. 9. and admirable unto her husband. the spouses might live with increasing affection for each other. 9. Monica’s secret consisted in making service her life’s motto and her concern each and every minute. 16 And in this missionary undertaking she not only had to endure Patricius’ bad temper. She also had to turn a blind eye on a more painful indignity.Then she. For this end her virtues played a key role. by which Thou madest her fair. Many of them heeded her as teacher and adviser. Conf. her husband increasingly valued them: And she busied herself to gain him to Thee. thus. 9. Conf. and reverently amiable. 19. Monica’s real objective was much more ambitious. and soon they were reaping the results.
Conf. and died a baptized Christian20 in the year 371. cf. he brandished against adulterers all his rhetorical and theological weapons. 9. 19. This insight of Monica’s into the mechanics of Christian life would be confirmed in more than one instance. S. De coniu. 17 17 18 . 3-4 19 cf. 7. She had triumphed in the only possible way: with Conf. 7. requiring in the matter of fidelity greater obligation on the part of the husband than of the wife18. 9. when his son was 17. 9. 20 cf. Patricius started to prepare himself for baptism. that by believing in Thee he might become chaste.of her bed as never to have any dissension with her husband on account of it. This was surely what Saint Augustine had in mind when. 9. adul. 17 Monica evinces a fine theological sense here. Conf. 9. 3. 2. 6. later. it would have been a waste of time to demand conjugal chastity were it not sustained and nourished by a genuine faith. 22. when Augustine was 15 or 16 years old19. The richness and firmness of her faith enabled her to endure these humiliations for the good of the husband. For she waited for Thy mercy upon him. In an environment where adultery almost acquired social acceptance. The effort was not in vain. 6-8. 2.
She was then 40 years old. 2. She thus became a follower of St. 2. 9. 21 cf. 4. 5. in his first letter to Timothy (5. had requited her parents. Conf. Conf. as her son underscored in referring to his mother’s widowhood: For she had been the wife of one man. 9. He ended up surrendering at her feet. With this. 18 . had guided her house piously.genuine love. Monica sealed her surrender to God. 9. The widowed Monica now devoted her attention and effort to her children and her God. 17. for a woman to join the group of widows.9-10). was well-reported of for good works21. loving and admiring her and accepting her faith. Her exemplary life continued after Patricius’ death. Conf. Paul’s doctrine. 22. Paul required. This is what St. 6.
as often travailing in birth of them. Monica stands out like few other women. 9. enables us to see her complete dedication to her children and summarizes what she did to Saint Augustine in particular. He only transmits the passage cited above: She had brought up children. Conf. 9. as she saw them swerving from Thee22. 22. as she saw them swerving from Thee23. was the mother’s duty. This testimony. This last is what made her famous.Chapter 3 A Christian Mother She had brought up children. a Christian mother. 19 . 9. then a daughter whose name we know not. 22. She bore Patricius three children. Augustine hardly mentions Monica’s relationship with his siblings. But where her figure achieves eminence is as a mother. 9. and Augustine. Their education. though somewhat vague. In her mission as Christian wife. we ignore in what order: Navigius. and the only one that we have record of. as in all Roman families. as often travailing in birth of them. 22 23 Conf.
11. and it cost her numerous sacrifices and renunciation for the intellectual formation of her son. O Lord. This catechesis was extensive and effective. was unable to separate him from the faith that Monica transmitted to him26. when he was living away from the Church. together with her milk. Later she educated him by making him drink. Conf. 26 cf. the name of Jesus Christ: For this name. Conf. The first thing she did was to bring him to church and inscribe him among the catechumens24. Monica. such that he would admit: that whatsoever was without that cf. 1. Augustine’s catechist Right after Augustine’s birth. this name of my Savior Thy Son. 1. 4.1. His father. 20 24 25 . had my tender heart piously drunk in. 17. 3. then a pagan. Augustine would search everywhere for that name he had learned as a child. She became the great catechist of his infancy. Conf. deeply treasured even with my mother’s milk25. 11. according to Thy mercy. Later. 8. 17. Monica assumed the task of giving him as thorough an education as possible.
8. 7. took not complete hold of me27. but when he suddenly recovered. it was back to normal practice28.warned me. 11. Augustine was at the point of receiving baptism when he was six. had she done so. She did not have to wait long to experience the first disappointment. She foresaw her son’s long and difficult struggle regarding continence. with great solicitude.name. At any rate. as Saint Augustine narrates . polished. knew the fickleness of the human heart and the naiveté of childish fervor. aware that. The common practice then was to delay baptism until one could be fully responsible for one’s faith and life. Monica. who was already 15 years old. “not to commit fornication. cf. though never so erudite. but above all things never to defile another man’s wife”29. When Patricius boasted to her of the virility of his son. and truthful. But she did not resort to repressive methods. 29 Conf. 3. Conf. 21 27 28 . 2. she. very wise in the ways of life. 4. because he fell gravely ill and insistently asked for it. We might wonder why she did not have her son baptized immediately. Conf. 1. 17. 3. His mother made all the preparations for an emergency baptism.
unlike her husband. 2. 2. what was important for her was that Augustine embraced the faith with the maturity required to live out all its consequences. she and Patricius had set their hopes on their son’s career. 3. which in turn would have helped him to be chaste. she doubled her efforts so Augustine could conclude his higher studies in the capital Carthage31. a responsible preparation was therefore needed to enter this way. This was another reason for not interrupting them by having him marry prematurely. Monica. and they spared no sacrifices so he could finish with all honors. On the other hand. Moreover. however. commenced after Augustine completed his studies and 30 31 cf.the lax environment would have won the day. despite the dire financial straits they were in. And after the death of Patricius. 22 . 4. 8. was personally convinced that studies would bring Augustine to the knowledge of God30. She proved to be prophetic in this regard. 7. The Calvary of a Christian mother The real Calvary of Monica. 3. as later events would show. Conf. In those days. the sacrament of reconciliation could be received only once after baptism. Conf. cf.
23 . had become a Manichean. Augustine knew only too well that his mother’s decisions were unshakeable. 11. But she soon relented. 3. what made her open the doors to him was a dream she had that assured her of his conversion. 19. wept to Thee on my behalf me more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily deaths of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that faith and spirit which she had from Thee. member of a sect that oppugned Christianity. since they were founded on prayer and on what she received therefrom. For whence was that dream with which Thou consoledst her. Thy faithful one.32 She staunchly refused to receive him at home. Not that maternal tenderness made her give up her convictions.returned to his native Tagaste from Carthage. he remarked in awe when recalling this event: Thou heardest her. 32 Conf. Thus. and to have my meals at the same table in the house. For this reason she wept for him more than if he had bodily died: My mother. She discovered that her son. so that she permitted me to live with her. in whom she had so lovingly inculcated the name of Jesus Christ. which she had begun to avoid.
a bit in jest. there thou shalt be. disconsolate on account of her son’s situation. ‘where he is. she spared no opportunity to effect the change in her son. 24 33 34 . 11. 11. A resplendent youth was with her. When she recounted the dream to her son. 20. She perceived her son sharing the same faith as hers. Conf. she recalled the words of the youth: “No. 3. Those were years of many tears and intense prayer35. Augustine stood too. standing on a wooden rule. She especially sought help from all those she thought could draw him out of error. attempted to interpret it in his favor. Monica would not desist until her son was converted.’ but ‘ where thou art. and she took this as a heavenly sign. 35 cf. 11. The latter. symbol of Christian faith. the latter. Conf. with characteristic cleverness. Conf. 20. made her see that there where she was standing. for it was not told me that. upon knowing the cause of her grief. And although the dream had made her hope anew. But. 3. 19. which calmed her spirit. From then on. 3. there shall he be’” 34. She saw herself.hating and detesting the blasphemies of my error?33 The dream in question was the following.
She spent the night there praying and weeping. 3. Cyprian. and there she followed him. and God bless thee. 25 . he himself had been a follower of Manichaeism and had abandoned it quite naturally and spontaneously. At daybreak. 21. However.36 She took this reply as a heavenly message. The latter soon left to teach in Carthage.Among those was a bishop whom Monica insistently begged to talk with her son. Augustine resorted to trickery: he told her he was going to see a friend off at the port and spend some time with him before sailing. she became disconsolate. but he did everything to keep her on land. 12. But such was the importuning of Monica that he wearily sent her off saying: “Go thy way. for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish”. In the end. Monica wanted to accompany him at all cost. Monica always wanted to be with Augustine. It was here in the African capital where she had the most painful experience of her life. She had her misgivings. The good prelate put no great weight on the matter. On account of the difficulties the work gave him. Augustine had decided to transfer to Rome. but she agreed to wait for him in the nearby chapel of St. calling him 36 Conf. the great African bishop. when she found out that the boat had sailed.
Indeed. from liar to evil son. or a little later. on the contrary. at the mercy of the elements and the not infrequent pirates. Conf. Nevertheless. 1. 5. It is hard to imagine the boldness of such a trip in those days: an unaccompanied woman. hardships were not lacking: Augustine recounts that the voyage was assailed by tempests. she did not stop praying for him37. of some 55 years. At the end of a year. it was she who encouraged the crew. 8. 6. 14-15. If Augustine believed that a stretch of some miles could vanquish the tenacity of his mother. ventures to cross the sea in one of those small boats. who had never been out of her country. She did 37 38 cf. Just like in other occasions. her triumph was not complete. 26 . Monica set sail for Italy. The birth pangs of Augustine’s conversion She tracked down Augustine in Milan. however his mother did not fear. 3. she had received through prayer the assurance of their safe arrival38. Nevertheless. he was greatly mistaken. cf.all names. He had already abandoned the Manichean sect. as she was hoping for his total conversion. Conf. 1.
1. with whom he had a son. This union could not be formalized in marriage since the girl was of a lower social status – such were the norms and mentality of the age. and the two separated with great sorrow41. 1. 13. 25. since his student days at Carthage. and it was necessary to wait a couple more years so he could marry her legally. naturally. and blesseth Thee… for she perceived that Thee to have given her more for me than she cf. cf. as is known. 6. on the contrary. Her son decided not only to be baptized but also to forgo all marriage plans and become a monk. she burst out rejoicing: she leapeth for joy. Monica was not dismayed. she did not count on the surprising plans of God. 6. he had been living with a woman. and triumpheth. For this reason. Conf. And. 15. The selected bride was only ten years old. She thought that Augustine would settle down if he married40 because. For once. He did so. Monica was happy. 27 39 40 . 41 cf. Conf.intensify anew her prayer for her son39. 23. Conf. thinking everything was pretty much wrapped up. Monica strove to find him a good match and urged him to dismiss his partner. she buckled down to work. 6. which now set Augustine on the road to his final crisis.
She obtained what she had proposed. 42 Monica. so many years before. 30. This was the year 386. who had waited so steadfastly. 8.used to ask by her pitiful and most doleful groanings. finally got her recompense. … [So that I was] standing in that rule of faith in which Thou. 12. had showed me unto her in a vision. 28 . 42 Conf.
There she displayed her intuitive intelligence. 9. C.Chapter 4 A Christian Teacher My mother had also joined us. acad. 22. and served each one as if she were his servant45. Conf. with her son. She took care of running the house. an estate in Milan province owned by a friend of Augustine’s. 9. matured in things of God. 13. With them she hied off to Cassiciacum. 1. I had already carefully observed her ingenuity and enthusiasm for divine things. 2. she relished for close to twelve months the fruit she had cultivated with so much work and watered with so many tears. God gave our saint one more year of life. 6. her spirit was so exposed that it seemed to me that nobody was more well-suited for the cultivation of sound philosophy43. 45 cf. was starting to live the Christian life. 29 43 44 .44 attended to everyone like a mother. De ordine 2. They withdrew there to prepare for baptism. But. She now had to attend to and accompany the group that. cf. 1. in a conversation that we had.
but if he desires bad things.1. De b. I was wondering from which divine font my mother had drunk those truths49. Monica participated therein more than we might imagine. yes. vita 2. Her son was amazed at this reply: to learn it himself. De b. Monica. you have conquered the very castle of philosophy48. Augustine asked his friends if science was the food of the soul. And. 10. 48 De b. 49 De b. His mother’s immediate reply was: Yes. he had needed to study Cicero. 8. He could not help congratulating her with the highest of praises: Mother. another question cropped up: is the man happy who possesses everything that he desires? She replied again with the statement: If he desires good things and possesses them. in the next breath. of course. 30 46 47 . even if he obtains them. vita 2. vita 2. 10. 10. he will be a wretched person47. vita 2. he observed: We thought we were seated beside an illustrious man. For example. Christian philosopher The conversation that Saint Augustine alluded to at the beginning of this chapter is found in his work On the Happy Life. with very accurate observations. A little later. with what shall the soul nourish if not for the knowledge and learning about things?46.
prompting her son to explain that philosophy means love of wisdom and the authentic philosopher is one who loves wisdom: You love it more than you love me. vita 4.The conversation continued and Monica made other pertinent interventions. and in its love you have progressed so much that you are no longer affected by misfortune nor does death frighten you. 27. protect those who invoke you!. vita 2. a joyful hope and a fervent charity52. because it is the perfect life. for her. and to it. She started with a concrete application of her description of the happy man50. doubtless. He solemnly conferred on her the title of “philosopher”. 35. the happy life. cf. we will be directed soon by the wings of a firm faith. After hearing all these teachings. hope and charity: This is. De b. Recalling a phrase of Saint Ambrose which said: Oh Trinity. vita 4. 52 De b. Augustine. those thinkers were foolish who thought it impossible to know the truth51. That cf. Then she affirmed that. 31 50 51 . 16. happiness consisted in possessing God through faith. overwhelmed by such wisdom. Finally. which everyone applauded. she explained that. she even attempted to define happiness. we believe. in her mind. De b. proclaimed himself a disciple of his mother. which she declined.
57 cf. therein she listened to Sacred Scripture54. coming to Thy church without intermission – not for vain gossiping. 5. 9. 17. She asked not for gold nor silver nor other goods57. De ordine 1. 5. her life was one of unceasing intercession. From it his mother drank. as Augustine admits: she herself had ere this fled “out of the midst of De ordine 1. but in order that she might listen to Thee in Thy sermons. 2. 56 Conf. 55 cf. 11. the highest bastion of philosophy53. The road to holiness a. Liturgy The divine font about which Augustine wondered was Monica’s daily participation in the liturgy. She was not born a saint. 17. cf. 9. 32. Everyday she took part in the Eucharist55. This was the road that progressively raised Monica to God. as everyone admits. Conf. 9. and Thou to her in her prayers56. 32 53 54 .is. She always prayed for the conversion of her son. nor old wives’ “fables”. Moreover. for morning and evening prayers. 32. nor was she one at age 38. she went to church twice daily. to which she then responded with her life. 5. Conf. 11. 17.
cf. Conf. 8. or that which assured her during the storm in her voyage to Italy60. Monica incessantly prayed to God for a vision into the future of her son in marriage. 3. discern the difference betwixt Thy revelations and the dreams of her own spirit. 1. 3. 19-20. 13. 6. she declared. but she was clear about the difference: For she could. 23. 6.” – progressing. through some feeling which she could not express in words. in making God the sole object of her soul. Augustine realized this when she was preparing his marriage. Conf. but with full awareness. b. She had not yet attained purification in the little things. but she received no response from above. 61 Conf. not letting her dreams and illusions carry her away. Prayer Dialogue with God came to her naturally. She engaged in wishful thinking.Babylon. On his prompting. She lived these events as a most normal thing. 2. though. we should not be surprised about her visions: that of the rule59. 60 cf. however. 33 58 59 .61 Conf. 11. Hence. 1. but slowly in the skirts of it58.
20. Augustine specifically acknowledges the influence of her prayer in his conversion when he narrates the event in his Confessions and in his earliest writings. who considered it inappropriate. he uses the example of his mother’s prayers for his salvation as a clear proof of his doctrine on grace: Don’t you remember that in narrating my conversion I clearly showed that what prevented my perdition were the ardent prayers and daily tears of my good mother? For the rest. He. to chant a psalm while in the toilet. written in his old age. if an 62 De dono pers. 53 34 . Monica considered prayer as something sacred. a work of lofty theology. young and a bit brash. seriousness and devotion. which demanded respect. This earned him a stern rebuke from Monica. Licentius by name. the Dialogues. In The Gift of Perseverance62. But it is in one of his last books. In this regard. where such influence is greatly underscored. then. Monica’s constancy and the faith with which she prayed were for her son a living school of spirituality. retorted with slight mockery: Tell me. It occurred to one of the group. a charming incident happened in Cassiciacum.The efficacy of prayer is another thing that Augustine discovered through his mother.
8. will God not hear my voice?63 63 De ordine 1. 22. 35 .enemy locked me up in the bathroom.
3. she found in Milan a tradition different from her own: fasting in Africa was done on Saturdays. 2. Her reaction was simple. The reply was that she should adopt the local practice. Without further ado. Ep. that I myself --wrote her son—marveled at how readily she could bring herself to accuse her own custom. she did so with total filial obedience. rather than question his prohibition. 36 . Ep. 14. As soon as she learned that Ambrose had forbidden it. 36. For instance. she so piously and obediently acceded to it. 16-18). 2. Conf. Through Augustine. she inquired from the bishop.Fasting Fasting accompanied Monica’s life of prayer. She fasted as the Gospel enjoined: without anybody noticing it (cf. Mt 6. Ambrose. 2. as to how to proceed. she accepted the Milan custom64. 32. Her method consisted in doing what the Church required and how it was to be done. that of offering food on the martyrs’ tombs and of eating it there. 6.65 The love and obedience she professed for the Church are highlighted in the care with which 64 65 cf.3. 54. The same thing happened with another old African observance. not so in Milan.
when the Bishop of Milan enclosed himself in one of the churches to prevent the Arians from taking over it. for that through the testimony of the fruits of a holy conversation. 17.burst forth into her praises. 5. on account of her most religious conversation… so that he would often. honor and love Thee. did in her much magnify. Conf. 2. 9. congratulating me that I had such a mother69. 22. 9. 69 Conf. when he saw me. 15. cf. 68 cf. 9. and in the attentions she showered on the monks. however. So that. 2.she treated her ministers66. there she was in the frontline.recalled Augustine-. -. whom she considered the architect of her son’s salvation67. they perceived Thee to be present in her heart70. Conf. as Monica deserved. 6. 6. 9. Conf. 4. Above all. Ambrose appreciated all this and reciprocated. burning with zeal and nurturing herself in prayer 68. she had special devotion for Saint Ambrose. Almsgiving cf. 7. 70 Conf. 2. And that was the common opinion: Whosoever of them knew her. 2. 37 66 67 .
could not be absent in Monica’s spiritual life. a Lent that purified her for the full encounter with the Risen Christ. 6. 17. 2. 2. 71 72 Conf. 38 . and to give all that she could to the poor71. fasting and almsgiving. Not that she did not give alms until then. obviously. therefore. Her life was. an uninterrupted Lent of prayer. she gave and frequently too72. she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of more purified petitions. 5. she gave to the poor: And in lieu of a basket filled with fruits of the earth. what she did in Milan was to increase her almsgiving. Conf.Almsgiving. cf. What she saved therefrom. We have seen her give up the meals at the martyrs’ tombs. 9.
Rome’s seaport. Monica’s days were numbered. for myself. admiring it all yet not being sated in the least. along with Alypius. Their spirits hungered for God. but only “to be”73. Immediately after. Augustine’s friend. 9. they went to Ostia. On that night her son and grandson were baptized. 10. Amidst this bucolic setting. in ever-ascending pitch.” are not in her. Augustine and she were at the window overlooking the garden. And. For this reason.Chapter 5 Final Moments Monica lived the Easter vigil of 387 brimming with joy. Monica received the last premonition: “Son.” and “to be hereafter. they started to savor all beings. everyone was in a hurry to return to Africa. I have no longer 73 Conf. 24 39 . and stayed there waiting for the first available ship. This is what is known as the “ecstasy at Ostia”. at the inn. One day. Upon reaching those heights of divine illumination. but each of them had a heavenly taste. as in an alternating chant. until they had a fleeting touch of the region of Wisdom where to “have been. they started conversing about the future.
she was solely concerned with asking for prayers for her soul: This only I ask. 9. I know not. nor need I fear lest He should be ignorant at the end of the world of the place whence He is to raise me up”. She was 56 years old. after nine days of sickness.76 Thus died Monica. 9. Seeing her imminent death. 9. It was the summer of 387. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life. made His servant.any pleasure in aught in this life. Conf. and why I am here. 26. -what do I here?”74 The answer came shortly. 28. What I want here further. now that my hopes in this world are satisfied. surrounded by her loved ones. 40 74 75 . for she was sure that Christ would resurrect it just the same: “Nothing is far to God. Conf. My God has exceeded this abundantly. not even her grandson. 13. Barely five days later. then only a child. 10. There was no weeping. 11. 76 Conf. 9. 27. cf. 11. and that was that I might see thee a Catholic Christian before I died.75 She did not mind where they buried her body. so that I see thee despising all earthly felicity. was allowed to Conf. she fell gravely ill. 36. that you remember me at the Lord’s altar. wherever you be. happy that God had shown that He does not abandon those whose trust was in Him.
You. new light to your merits. Monica was not altogether dead. In praise of your works supreme glory crowns you: your most virtuous mother On account of her son more blessed. Monica has remained intimately linked to her son. who left a trace of sanctity wherever she went. we have seen a woman whole and entire. in Ostia. in her husband and in her children. In early 5th century. Augustine. 30. at the gates of Rome. has left her ashes. oh Augustine.cry. faithful priest of the heavenly prerogative of peace. At home and among her circle. with her own personality. said her son Augustine 77. She was buried right there. 41 . educate the customs of the peoples to you entrusted. 9. However. because her life and faith were guarantee of the future that awaits us in God. As expressed in these verses. Anitius Auquenius Bassus ordered the following inscription to be carved on her tomb: Here your most chaste mother. 12. especially in Saint Augustine to whom 77 Conf.
Saint Monica’s feast day had always been celebrated on May 4. She impressed on all who knew her the image of God through her words and works. the Church venerates her as model and intercessor of all Christian wives and mothers who fix their gaze upon the Lord. which today is dedicated to Saint Augustine. eve of Saint Augustine’s feast. The last liturgical reform transferred this to the 27th of August. the Resurrection. For this reason. the Augustinian family continues to commemorate it on the traditional date. 42 . However.she taught the road to eternal glory. There they rest awaiting the fulfillment of her final hope. In 1430 her relics were transferred to the Roman church of Saint Tryphon.
She prepares Augustine’ s wedding Augustine is converted .They spend autumn and winter at the farm in Cassiciacu m. She goes to live in Milan. Augustine is 43 . with her son. 386 She goes to Carthage with her son Augustine leaves her in Carthage and sails for Rome. 375 Principal Dates 384 331 She is born in Tagaste (Algiers) She marries Patricius Her son Augustine is born Dismay over her son’s incontinen ce Husband Patricius dies Augustine finishes his career. 351/353 385 354.NOTES Monica refuses to receive him at home. He goes home a Manichaea n convert. 24 Apr. 387. 369 371 373 . 13 Nov.
. Augustine's catechist ..... The Calvary of a Christian Introduction .................................. Chapter 1: Early 3................... Relationship with the husband .........baptized.... Monica............... Her home.............. The birth years ............. while waiting for the ship on which to sail for home................................................ Chapter 4: A Chapter 2: A Christian teacher ......................... 2........................ 2..... conversion .... in Milan............................... 2.. Aug /Sept Monica dies in Ostia.... Christian wife ........................ TABLE OF CON TEN TS Chapter 3: A Christian mother ..................................................................................................... 387.............. together with his friend Alypius and son Adeodatus........................ 1. pangs of her son's 1... The family . peace .......... mother ......................................................................... a Christian place of philosopher .......... Monica... Education ................................... 1............... 1..................... 44 .
... Fastin g ............................................ Table of contents ........ The road to holiness ... Prayer ............................................................................................2........ 2...... 4.......................................................... Liturgy .......... Principal Dates ................. 3.................................. 1........................................................ Chapter 5: Final moments ............ Almsgi ving ..................................... 7 45 ...................
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