Saint of the Week: Saint Monica

One of the most popular saints in all of western/Latin Christianity is St. Augustine of Hippo. The Oxford Patristics Conference proved that, with at least two papers about St. Augustine being given at any moment. Whether you like St. Augustine or not, he is a force to be reckoned, if you’re a Calvinist, a Catholic, a Lutheran, or a Pelagian, you have to come to grips with St. Augustine for good or for ill.

As they say, however, behind every great man lies a great woman.

St. Monica (331-387) was the mother of St. Augustine. She was married to a man named Patricius who was a pagan, and their marriage seems not to have been a happy one; he seems to have been a violent man and opposed to his wife’s religion. He refused her requests to have their three children (Augustine, Navigius, Perpetua), although he relented for the ailing Augustine. Until Augustine recovered, of course.

Monica displayed her motherly concern for her children, such as the wayward and worldly Augustine, through prayer. Indeed, perhaps because she saw his brilliance, perhaps because the other two children, like their father, converted earlier, Monica had prayers and concern especially for young Augustine.

Widowed when Patricius died shortly after his conversion, Monica followed Augustine first to Rome and then to Milan where, in answer to seventeen years of prayer through her son’s dissolute life, Manicheanism, and paganism, she saw him converted and baptised by St. Ambrose.

In the time between Augustine’s conversion and baptism, Monica and Augustine had a sort of semi-ascetic, philosophical retreat where they spent time in prayer and conversation about spiritual things.

Monica fell asleep in the Lord at Ostia on the journey back to Africa from Italy.

St. Augustine, as I understand it, left behind the largest body of Latin literature from a single writer in antiquity. His was a keen mind, and he produced works of great erudition ranking with the greatest of theologians and philosophers. Whether you agree with him or not.

We are not all gifted as Augustine was, nor are we all blessed with the sort of education he was blessed with.

But God can save the world through us, through our prayers, for we can all be like St. Monica. We can all pray for those whom we love. And the prayer of a righteous (wo)man is powerful. God hears it.