Sunday August 31st. 2014                                                                                        Charity registration No. SC 002876

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Feasts of St. Monica and St. Augustine

(No one is beyond the power of God’s mercy to change their life)

Last Wednesday, the Church celebrated the feast of St. Monica, and the following day the feast of her son, Saint Augustine.The two are inseparably bound together, and it is a wonderful story of a mother’s perseverance in prayer and trust in God that finally won her brilliant son away from a dissolute and immoral life, and made them both saints! St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, was born in 322 in Tagaste (located in modern-day Algeria). Her parents were Christians, but little is known of her early life. Most of the information about her comes from Book IX of her son’s “Confessions.”

St. Monica was married to a pagan official named Patritius, who had a short temper and lived an immoral life, so her marriage was not easy. At first, her mother-in- law did not like her, but Monica won her over by her gentle disposition. St. Monica and Patritius had three children: St. Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua. It was a source of great pain that Patritius would not permit their children to be baptized.

She worried about Augustine, who lived for thirteen years with a young woman in Carthage, called Una,who bore him an illegitimate son. Although he liked her, he said he never really loved her, and that is why they had only one child. He did the ungentlemanly thing of walking out and leaving them when he decided to further his studies and found a school in Rome. No doubt Monica did her best to care for them. Her constant prayers and tears for her son had the effect of converting her husband to Christ before his death. Augustine, however, although raised as a Christian by his mother, he continued on the path that led him away from Christ and deeper into a debauched life.

continued on the path that led him away from Christ and deeper into a debauched life. His cry was: “Lord make me chaste, but not yet”

While in Carthage, Augustine fell under the influence of the heretical Manichean sect. His mother was horrified and tried to turn him away from this cult. She was calmed after she had a dream in which she was told to be patient and gentle with her son. Augustine, however, paid little attention to her and remained with this sect for nine years. St. Monica felt disheartened and disappointed, but never gave up.

 St. Monica later went to Rome in search of Augustine who had received a teaching post in the city of Milan. It was while he was there that he heard much about St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, and was greatly impressed by his preaching.  Monica made a point of meeting St. Ambrose to ask for his prayers for the conversion of her son. Ambrose came to have a great deal of respect for St. Monica and saw in her a saintly woman, and often congratulated Augustine on having such a virtuous mother.

 Augustine was convinced that Christianity was impossible for him because he thought he could never live a chaste life. While he was reading the New Testament in the garden one day, he came to the passage of Paul’s Letter to the Romans at Chapter 13, Verses 12-14. which immediately attracted to him,  for the grace of God so often works through the holy scriptures. The passage was: “cast off the works of darkness,put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

To the joy of his mother, and an answer to her perseverance in prayer, he was received into the Church by St. Ambrose and baptized on the eve of Easter in 387,  at the age of 33. He was ordained a priest at 36, and  was consecrated a bishop at 41. After his baptism, Augustine and his mother planned to return to Africa. They stopped to rest in Ostia, a port close to Rome, and it was here  where St. Monica fell ill and died at the age of fifty-six. Her last words to her son were:  ‘It does not matter where you bury my body. All I ask of you, is that wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord.

She was buried at Ostia, and her holy relics were transferred to the crypt of a church in the sixth century. Nine centuries later, St. Monica’s relics were translated to Rome

In his famous book, “Confessions,” Augustine wrote about his reaction to his mother’s death: “If any one thinks it wrong that I thus wept a whole day for my mother – a mother who for many years had wept for me that I might live to thee, O Lord – let him not deride me. But if his charity is great, let him weep also for my sins before thee.” It was because of his mother’s persistence that he felt this continual nagging of conscience to let God into his life, although he tried to ignore it