Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Saint of the Week -- Monnica, Mother of Augustine

I always think of Monnica as the patron saint of mothers with wayward sons who don't live up to their full potential ... at least for a while.

Monnica was the mother of St. Augustine, one of the greatest theologians of Christianity. But Augustine wasn't always so saintly, and his mother -- a seriously devoted Christian woman of North Africa -- was crazy with worry about him. He lived a life of debauchery. He had a mistress and an illegitimate child. He was brilliant and a stellar rhetorician, but he espoused a heresy called Manichaeism.

So Monnica fasted and prayed and wept and prayed for her son. She sent him to a bishop to see if the bishop could get him to see the light of Christ. No luck. But the bishop told Monnica not to give up, that "It is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish."

Augustine's famous conversion is told in his "Confessions." Shortly after his baptism, he was taking his mother home to Africa, but she died in Ostia, an Italian port. She died serenely happy. Her work here on earth was done. She was asked if she was afraid to die in a foreign country. She replied, "Nothing is far from God, and I have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world."

Her son would go on to lead the church during the Fall of Rome, and to write great works like "The City of God" that would shape Christian thought and faith forever.


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