A Difficult Marriage
Saints Monica and Augustine are powerful Saints! We learn almost everything we know about Saint Monica from her son, Saint Augustine of Hippo.
Monica was born around the year 331 in present-day Algeria. Even though she was a Christian, when she was still very young, Monica’s parents married her off to a pagan named Patricius. Both Patricius and his mother (who lived with the couple) had violent tempers and this presented a challenge to the quiet and peaceful Monica. Patricius did not share his wife’s Christian beliefs and he criticized her virtues but he respected her nevertheless.
Patricius and Monica had three children: two boys and one girl, the eldest of which is now known as Saint Augustine. Augustine was born on November 13, 354. Monica was never given permission to baptize any of her children and this greatly distressed her. Monica never worried about her two youngest children. Augustine, however, led an immoral life and wanted nothing to do with Christianity.
Conversion and Prayers
After many years of praying, Monica was grateful when Patricius and his mother both converted to Christianity. Patricius’ mother converted on her death bed and Patricius died one year after his conversion. The conversion of her husband and mother-in-law did not distract Monica, who continued her fervent prayers for her wayward son.
Augustine went to school in Carthage and studied rhetoric. While there, he embraced the Manichean way of life which said that “all flesh is evil.” When Augustine came home from school and shared his troubling beliefs with his mother, she banished him from her house, and only reconciled with him when prompted to do so by a vision. Monica prayed and cried and fasted constantly for the conversion of her son.
Many legends say that Monica cried every night for many years because of Augustine. When Monica spoke to a bishop about her distress over her son and about her fears for his soul, the bishop reassured her,
The child of so many tears shall never perish.
Once he finished school, Augustine spent many years teaching grammar and rhetoric.
Onward to Rome
When he was 29, Augustine decided to teach rhetoric in Rome. Monica was determined to go with him. Augustine tricked his mother and left without her but she was not discouraged. When she arrived in Rome, she discovered that Augustine had left for Milan so she traveled to Milan also. There, through the preaching and guidance of Saint Ambrose, who was, like Augustine, a master of rhetoric, and the encouragement and prayers of Monica, after about 17 wayward years, Augustine finally embraced Christianity and changed his ways. Augustine was baptized on Easter Sunday in 387.
In 391, Augustine was ordained a priest and he later became bishop of Hippo. Augustine is known for his writings including The Confessions of Saint Augustine and City of God.
Mother and Son Live On
Monica died around the year 387, about a year after her son’s conversion. Augustine died on August 28, 430. Both Saints Monica and Augustine were recognized as Saints before the official process of canonization came about. Before 1969, Saint Monica’s feast day was celebrated on May 4. However, it is now celebrated on August 27 and she is the patron Saint of wives, mothers, conversion, and difficult marriages. Saint Augustine’s feast is celebrated the day after his mother’s on August 28 and he is a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron Saint of the Augustinians, printers, and theologians.
We can turn to Saint Monica as an example of patience, fortitude, and perseverance. We can also turn to Saint Augustine to see that there is hope for us all! No sin is too great and no sinner is too far gone – Jesus wants us ALL to be in Heaven with Him! Our prayers are powerful and we must always pray for others with the same dedication Saint Monica prayed for Saint Augustine. Even though for many years it looked as if her prayers were not working, Saint Monica never doubted that her prayers were bearing fruit.
Saints Monica and Augustine, please pray for us!
“There are few things more powerful than the prayers of a righteous mother.” Boyd K. Packer