Monica is the patron saint of mothers – not least, those who pray for the conversion of their children, which really should include all those called to the maternal vocation. For conversion is an ongoing process, never-ending, in that universal call to holiness to which we are all called.
She was from Thagaste, in Northern Africa, a Roman colony, and seems to have been a Christian from her childhood. The story goes that she would pour her parents a glass of wine from their cellar, and would often help herself – until a servant caught and reprimanded the young bibbler. This struck her conscience, she repented and was baptized.
As is sometimes the way of love, which has her own ways, she married outside her Faith, an ill-tempered pagan Patricius, for whom she also prayed all her life. One of the purposes of the married state is to help convert one’s spouse, and some need more converting than others. Patricius thought of becoming a Christian in the last year of his life, but died before he made the leap. Monica bore three children to Patricius who survived infancy: Augustine, his brother, Navigius, and their sister, Perpetua of Hippo. It was a fractious match, her prayer life and alsmgiving irking him (or more likely, his conscience), but they – or she – persevered unto death.
We will speak of Augustine tomorrow, the wayward son, wandering through the labyrinth of various philosophies, before finally realizing his mother had been right all along – the perseverance of her years of prayer, and her support in what was good in Augustine – she once drove him from her table – led to the conversion of one of the greatest minds of history, and the conversion of untold others by his writings and example. As Saint Ambrose said to her, when she was tempted to despair, that ‘the child of such tears should never perish’.
After his conversion in late August, 386, they spent six peaceful months together, with Monica ready now for eternity, with the gist of their final conversation is recounted in today’s Office. Son, with nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.
After an illness, Monica passed away peacefully in 387, and has been held in great veneration ever since. May she intercede for all mothers, and for all of us, that we may persevere unto the end, and help those around us do so also.