Saint Monica, Mother of Saint Augustine

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Monica was born in Tagaste, present day Algeria, in 331, to a deeply Christian family of some means. She was given in marriage to Patricius, a pagan, who was a small land-owner. Together they had three children, Augustine, Navigius, and a daughter whose name is not known to us. Strong of character as well as of faith, she sought to guide her family in their human and Christian development most of all by her own example and prayer but, when necessary, also by her persuasive words and diligent actions. Thus she brought her husband to discover the beauty of the Catholic faith, as well as the son of her many tears, Augustine.

Monica figures significantly in Augustine’s journey all the way through to his eventual conversion, and is remembered in history – according to his own words – as the mother “who brought me to birth, both in her flesh, so that I was born into this temporal light, and in her heart, that I might be born into eternal light” (Conf. 8, 17). Her great joy was to witness the baptism of Augustine, after his long and restless journey to the faith of the Church, by Bishop Ambrose in Milan in 387. Some months later, as mother and son, together with Augustine’s own son and a small group of friends were making their way back to North Africa to begin living a monastic life, Monica died at Ostia while awaiting the ship. There she was buried and in time the site of her burial was lost.

Later, however, it was rediscovered and her remains were transferred to the Basilica of Saint Augustine in Rome where they are now venerated. Monica is that wise and prudent woman about whom Scripture speaks, not afraid to live her faith openly nor to share it with others. It would not be fair to characterize her, however, as an over-bearing and meddling woman. Just as she knew how to win the heart of her husband through silence and patience, she learned how to touch that of her son through her words and persistent attention.