By Paula Briden
Saint Monica was born in the year 332 in the city of Tagaste in northern Africa, which is within the country now known as Algeria. Her parents were Christian in a city that was both pagan and Christian. The struggle between paganism and Christianity was coming to an end after nearly four hundred years. She grew up hearing stories of Christians that were martyred for their faith from her grandmother. Even as a young child she could be found kneeling in a quiet corner of the Church for hours at a time. "Oh God, to suffer for Thee and for Thy Faith" she once was heard to say in prayer in the garden of her home.
At the age of twenty-two her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan citizen of Tagaste. His name was Patricius. He held a good position in the town and her family felt her husband would some day become a Christian. Patricius was known to have a violent temper. Monica continued her practice of kneeling in a corner of the church daily praying and seeking help from God. Her mother-in-law, also a pagan, took an instant dislike to her as well as the servants. Monica always met harshness with gentleness and abuse with silence. She spoke little, preached not at all, loved much and prayed unceasingly. It is said no one but God knew of Monica’s suffering.
Monica had three children. Augustine was her eldest and eventually became her most difficult. Her other two children were pious and gentle. As soon as Augustine could speak she taught him a prayer. As soon as he could understand she taught him the great truths of Christian prayer. Augustine was thoughtful and intelligent and he loved good and noble. When he was old enough he was sent to a pagan school. There he learned to play and lie from his fellow students.
As Monica's mother-in-law became ill Monica was the one who cared for her, never asking for thanks or praise. Her mother-in-law began to see the goodness in Monica and started learning about the Christian faith. She eventually became a Christian and was baptized, as were all the servants in the household. Seeing his mother die a Christian death Monica’s husband Patricius also became a Christian. He died soon after receiving the faith. As a widow, Monica devoted herself to prayer and caring for the sick.
After returning from school Augustine had changed his faith and started practicing a religion called Manichean; he was living an immoral life. Monica would not let him sleep in the house or eat at her table. She continued to pray incessantly and fasting, but she stayed close to him. She had a vision that assured her he would return to the faith. When Augustine was twenty-nine years old he tricked his mother and set sail to Rome. She followed him. While in Italy she became a leader of devout women in Milan. Eventually Augustine started going to church with her and he became a believer in the faith. They spent six months there in a time of peace, discussing the faith and Augustine was baptized. After seeing him baptized she said, "Son, there is nothing in this world now that affords me delight. I do not know what there is left for me to do, all of my hopes in this world have been fulfilled." Shortly after that she developed a fever and died after nine days of severe suffering. Augustine went on to become St. Augustine; he always spoke of his mother's devotion and patience.
Saint Monica is the patron saint of alcoholics, married women and mothers, victims of verbal abuse, widows, difficult marriages and disappointing children. I did not know anything about Saint Monica when I choose her for this project. The book I read, "Life of Saint Monica" by Frances Alice Forbes was enjoyable as well as informative. In the present times in which we live Saint Monica is definitely a role model for today's society. Her patience and perseverance was extraordinary, she never stopped praying for those in her family. She never asked God for anything for herself, only those around her. It could be said she was the founder of "Tough Love" because of the way she dealt with Augustine by not letting him eat or sleep in her house when he was living an immoral life. God gave her the strength to follow him, even to Italy, which during those times was a difficult and dangerous journey. I will be praying to Saint Monica to help my family and those suffering with similar problems.