St. Monica, whose memorial we celebrate on August 27, is the patron saint of mothers and wives. This makes sense since her tears and prayers brought her son, Augustine, out of a life of sin and into one of virtue that eventually led to his canonization. Her husband, Patritius, was a bad-tempered pagan whose licentious behavior was a cross for Monica to bear. Worse, Patritius’ mother was similarly bad-tempered and licentious (the apple didn’t fall far from the tree there) Yet, she remained faithful to her husband, serving him and praying for him and was respectful and kind to her mother-in-law.
However, there’s another aspect of St. Monica’s sainthood that I think is especially pertinent for our current times. Along with being the patron saint of mothers and wives, St. Monica is the patron saint of conversions. In that respect, we have much to learn from her. With the world turning more and more away from God, there’s a desperate need for conversion. St. Monica not only understands the need for conversion; she also understands how to lead others to it. She not only instigated the conversion of her wayward son, St. Augustine, she additionally was instrumental in the conversion of her husband, Patritius, and his mother!
Look around you. How many people do you know who have turned away from the faith? How many are living lives of licentiousness and amorality? If you’re like me, the total is pretty high. Perhaps some of those people are members of your own family like in St. Monica’s situation. It’s concerning to be sure. But, it’s certainly not hopeless, as St. Monica has proven.
Given that, there are three things you should know and remember about St. Monica.
- She didn’t succumb to or look the other way from, her family’s sinful behavior. She treated them with love and respect while guiding them gently but firmly toward God. She exercised tough love with St. Augustine by refusing to let him eat or sleep in her house while he clung to his sinfulness. Sometimes the wayward people in our lives need tough love and we have to be courageous enough to give it to them.
- St. Monica prayed, fasted, and sacrificed for her son and let him know that she was praying for him. Let the wayward people in your life know that you care about them and are praying fort hem. Even if they repulse your prayers, there will be a time when they come to appreciate them. Don’t be surprised if they turn around and start asking for them!
- St. Monica conducted herself with persistence, determination, and hopefulness. She wouldn’t allow herself to get fed up, let up or give up. Instead, she looked up – to the Almighty – and trusted in him to guide and save her son. Day after day, year after year, decade after decade, she persistently, determinedly, and hopefully kept her prayerful and sacrificial vigil. This is the same persistence, determination, and hopefulness that won over her husband and mother-in-law as well. Never allow yourself to get fed up, let up, or give up on the people in your life who are in need of conversion. You haven’t reached the final chapter of the book yet and so you don’t know how God will work in the life of that person. Don’t presume to know the end of the story because you’re not the author – God is. Your prayers, sacrifices, and efforts aren’t for naught, even when they seem utterly futile. God hears your prayers, and they matter now and for always.
St. Augustine once quoted his heroic mother as saying,
“For my part, my son, I no longer find pleasure in anything that this life holds. What I am doing here still, or why I am still here, I do not know, for worldly hope has withered away for me. One thing only there was for which I desired to linger in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. And my God has granted this to me more lavishly than I could have hoped, letting me see even you spurning earthly happiness to be his servant. What am I still doing here?” (St. Augustine, quoting his mother, St. Monica; Confessions; from Office of the Readings for August 27).
St. Monica died a happy death knowing that St. Augustine had finally converted to the faith. Her life is a witness to the effectiveness of persistence, determination, prayers, fasting, and sacrifices for the sake of those in need of conversion. She is indeed the patron saint of conversions and we have much to learn from her!
Image: Wikimedia Commons