By Anne Metz
Saint Monica, the patron saint of mothers, is best known for being the mother of Saint Augustine, a doctor of the Church and author of many writings including The Confessions.
It was a rocky road to sainthood for Saint Augustine, beginning with an abandonment of the Catholic faith followed by 17 years of indulging in worldly desires. During this tumultuous time, Saint Monica’s greatest wish was that her son would return to the Catholic faith; she never gave up hope or stopped praying.
As parents, we can learn a great deal from the example of Saint Monica.
Although her two of her other children, Navigius and Perpetua, both followed their mother’s footsteps and embraced faith, Augustine fell away from the faith entirely. Saint Monica was determined to do everything in her power to bring him back. This included prayer, fasting, and making her beliefs known to her son.
As a child, she catechized her children and taught them their prayers; and as an adult son, Augustine never had to doubt what his mother thought of his partying ways. During his 17 years away from the faith, she never stopped seeking him out and praying for his conversion.
Love Above All
Saint Monica was unhappy with Augustine’s choices and lifestyle, but at the heart of her desire for Augustine to return to the Catholic faith was love - the love from our gracious Father and the wish for her beloved son to know this love.
If the greatest way to live is to be in a relationship with God, that should be our desire for our children. It should also be the reason for our words of counsel and fortitude in prayer for them. We aren’t called to bend our children to our will for our sake, but rather to guide them to the Lord and eternal life with Him.
The Power of Prayer
One of the most powerful witnesses of a mother’s love was Saint Monica’s consistent prayers for her son. Saint Monica spent much time in prayer, pouring out her hopes and wishes for her son to God. She gave up trying to control the situation and put the matter into God’s hands. With great trust, she prayed year after year. Her bishop noticed Saint Monica’s efforts and gave her more reason to hope when he told her, “it cannot be that the son of those tears should perish.”
Seventeen years is a long time to worry about the eternal soul of your child. But throughout the years, Saint Monica never gave up hope and prayed daily and fervently for St. Augustine. Shortly before she died, she saw her greatest desire come to fruition when Augustine had a conversion to the faith. What joy she must have felt!
May God sustain us as we witness our child’s journey in faith and may we, like Saint Monica, delight in the joy of seeing our child come to know and love you, Lord. Amen
When she’s not writing about faith, Anne Metz works for Growing Catholics, whose mission is to bring Scripture to all, especially tweens and teens.