Commemoration of Monica, Mother of Augustine
The Lord be with you
Monica (333 – 387) was the devoted mother of Augustine of Hippo, who wrote extensively of her virtues and his life with her in his Confessions. (Monica is the traditional spelling of her name. However, a fragment of her actual tombstone has been discovered at Ostia, on which her name was spelled Monnica. Therefore, some now use that form of her name.) Throughout her life, she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son, Augustine, praying many years for his conversion.
Because of her name and place of birth, Monica is assumed to have been of Berber origin (North Africa). She was married early in life to Patritius, who held an official position in Tagaste in Numidia. Patritius was a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name; his temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius’s mother seems to have been of a like disposition. There was, of course, a gulf between husband and wife; her alms, deeds and habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence. Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a good example amongst the wives and mothers of her native town; they knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.
Monica had three children: Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and she experienced much grief when Augustine fell ill. In her distress she asked Patritius to allow Augustine to be baptized; Patritius agreed, but on the boy’s recovery withdrew his consent. Her husband did become a Christian shortly before he died in 371. Monica decided not to marry again.
All Monica’s anxiety now centered in Augustine; he was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. Augustine had been sent to Carthage, to further his studies, and there he lived dissolutely. At Carthage, Augustine had become a Manichean. When he shared his views regarding Manichaeism with Monica, she was horrified.
Monica followed Augustine to Carthage. It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Augustine then left Carthage, secretly so his mother would not accompany him. Monica, though, followed her wayward son to Rome. When she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance on his part, and prayers on her part.
Following her son’s baptism, the two planned to return to North Africa in the fall of 387. However, weakened by her travels, Monica fell sick and died at Ostia, Italy. She was buried there.
The LC-MS has followed the lead of the Roman Catholic Church in celebrating this lady of faith on August 27, the day before the date set aside to remember Augustine, whose life was so interwoven with her own. Other traditions remember her on May 4, making Monica available as a model for Mother’s Day in places where that observance is expected.
Prayer: O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son. Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Other appropriate prayers:
• For mothers that by their prayers and example they may bring up their children in the Faith
• For homes where only one parent is Christian
• For the spirit of unceasing prayer
• For the unity of families in Christ
• For Christians in Africa
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert