Pray, Hope and Trust
So often, we believe that our experience is unique, that we are alone in facing the struggles that clutter our lives, or that times were simpler, safer and more pleasant in the past. Parents in this postmodern, digital age might lament the many dangers that threaten our children, dangers that we consider new and unique to our age. We pray for our children with an urgency and something that almost verges on despair, as we see the many ways the world tempts them away from the Faith and into dangerous lifestyles.
Believe it or not, this parental lament is not exclusively ours in this era. One can read diaries of mothers throughout history and find their pages filled with worries for their children, concern for the temptations of drink, drugs, disease and debauchery that plague every generation. As long ago as the fourth century, St. Monica was praying and interceding for her errant son, Augustine. She is a model for unceasing prayer and hope.
St. Monica was not without her own struggles in life. For much of her marriage, Monica's husband, Patricius was a mean-tempered man, and her equally unpleasant mother in law added to Monica's distress. There is some evidence that Monica turned to drink for some time, but was helped to overcome that addiction and was a model of faith to her husband and son. Monica eventually brought her husband to conversion by her prayers and her example of patient virtue. He was baptized a Christian just a year before his death.
Monica never stopped praying, with fasts and tears, and guiding her son, Augustine, towards the true Faith, while he resisted. St. Augustine is famously quoted as praying, "Lord, give me chastity and continence…but not yet!" He enjoyed his immoral life, living with a mistress and fathering a son outside of marriage. Monica begged help from a local bishop who encouraged her with the admonishment that God would not allow "the son of so many tears to perish."
Monica followed her son to Milan where he taught rhetoric. It was there in Milan that Monica began to follow the preaching of St. Ambrose, bishop and future doctor of the Church. Ambrose befriended Augustine and was successful in convincing Augustine to accept baptism, and a true conversion. Jubilant, Monica declared that all her hopes had been fulfilled. She was ready to face her coming death with joy and peace, only imploring her son to remember her always at the altar of God.
Augustine wrote in his "Confessions" of his mother and her constancy and of his own gratitude for her example and prayers which brought him to the Faith. He hoped that all those who read his Confessions would also join their prayers for his mother to his, so that she would never be forgotten. St. Augustine went on to become bishop of Hippo and defended the Faith against the many heresies of his time. He is one of the great Doctors of the Church, sometimes referred to as the Doctor of Doctors. He left a rich body of writings that have never lost their appeal and relevance in fifteen centuries!
May we pray and trust and never give up hope in our zeal for the conversion of a loved one, as St. Monica's example inspires us to do. We celebrate this holy mother's feast on August 27 and the feast of her son, St. Augustine, on August 28.
July 31, 2014