Today is the feast of St. Monica, the patron of all parents who are worried about their children, that is, almost all parents.
The Catholic Herald summarizes the story:
St Monica was born in 331 and is believed to have been of Berber origin. She married a pagan known as Patricius who was prone to violence and annoyed by Monica’s charity and pious habits.
Monica bore three children; Navigius, Perpetua and Augustine. When Augustine fell ill, Monica was greatly distressed because Augustine, like the rest of her children, was not baptised. She begged her husband to allow her to baptise Augustine and he agreed but then withdrew consent once Augustine had recovered.
Following Augustine’s recovery, he became lazy and wayward and was eventually sent to a school in Madauras. He was 17 and studying rhetoric in the city of Carthage when his father died.
During his time at Carthage Augustine became a Manichaean, a follower of a religion founded by the Iranian prophet Mani. Monica was so upset that she sent Augustine away but relented when she experienced a vision, encouraging her to reconcile with him.
St Monica visited a bishop [St. Ambrose] to discuss her concerns about Augustine and he told her: “The child of those tears shall never perish.”
Monica followed Augustine to Rome but when she arrived discovered that he had gone to Milan. She persevered and followed her son to the city, where she met St Ambrose and to her joy discovered that Augustine had embraced Christianity after 17 years of resisting the faith.
Monica and Augustine spent six months in serenity at Rus Cassiciacum (now known as Cassago Brianza) and Augustine was then baptised in the church of St John the Baptist in Milan. When in 387 St Monica died, her son’s grief inspired him to write his famous book Confessions.
Augustine’s body was lost when the city of Hippo where he was bishop was overrun by the Vandals. However, Monica’s body is still preserved in the basilica of S. Agostino in Rome.
The Basilica of St. Augustine in Rome
Several years ago my wife and I were visiting the basilica to pray at her tomb for one of our children who was having a severe crisis. As we left, we encountered on the steps a begging gypsy woman holding a baby (probably borrowed). She knew quite well that any parent leaving the basilica would have a tender heart for children and would open his wallet, which I of course did. I rather liked the gypsy beggars in Rome; they were all dressed a gypsies should be, and I suspect were hired by the city government from central casting to give an authentic flavor to the city.
The Altar that contains the body of St. Monica
Someone has written a Litany of St. Monica:
St. Monica, pray for us and for our children.
Model of wives, pray for us and for our children.
You who converted your unbelieving husband, Mother of St. Augustine, pray for us and for our children.
Strict and prudent teacher, guardian of your son in all his ways, pray for us and for our children.
You who carefully watched over his conduct, pray for us and for our children.
You who were sorely distressed at his erring from the right, pray for us and for our children.
You who were untiring in your petitions for his soul’s safety, pray for us and for our children.
You who still hoped on amid the bitterness of your heart and your floods of tears, pray for us and for our children.
You who were filled with consolation upon his return to God, pray for us and for our children.
You who died calmly after faithfully fulfilling your duties, pray for us and for our children.
You who are the prayerful intercessor of all mothers who pray and weep as you did, pray for us and for our children.
Preserve the innocence of our children, we beseech you, St. Monica.
Protect them against the deceits of evil men, we beseech you, St. Monica.
Protect them from the dangers of bad example, we beseech you, St. Monica.
Watch over the movements of grace in their hearts.
Let the Christian virtues strike deep root in their hearts and bear much fruit.
Redouble your intercession for youth approaching manhood.
Obtain for all in mortal sin true contrition and perfect conversion.
Obtain for all mothers to fulfill their duties steadily and perseveringly.
Commend all mothers to the protection of the ever-blessed Virgin Mother of Our Lord.
Favorably incline the heart of your beloved son Augustine to the salvation of our children.
St. Augustine, holy son of a saintly mother, pray for us and for our children.