Paxtonvic’s Blog

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A saint and his mother- Augustine and Monica

August 27th is the day when in the church’s year St Monica, mother of Augustine  is remembered and the next day, August 28th, St Augustine himself has the  limelight. Thats Augustine of Hippo, Teacher of the faith.

I wrote a little piece about them last year and reading it again am reminded of the effect that our mothers can have on our lives and our personalities.

My mum is still with us despite being very poorly and its been good that Im able to sepnd some quality time with her. Sometimes she is quite chatty and other times so sleepy so cant really speak.  So her journey continues.

here is my offering on Monica and Augustine – Im not sure now what my sources are but hopefully it has some historicity in it!

St Monica – August 27th

St Augustine of Hippo – August 28th.

May  I introduce you to Monica. She was a Christian woman in North Africa  near modern Tunis – once called Carthage.  Born c 331AD – only 300 years after Jesus’ death and  resurrection.She has a bit of a history. As a young girl, she was fond of wine and coming from a well to do family, was taunted once for her drinking habits by a slave girl. She resolved to drink no longer. She married a pagan husband, Patricius- a man of hot temper who was often unfaithful to her, but never struck or insulted her. Monica attended church daily and cultivated the virtue of patience. She would say to other women who had bad marriages, “If you can master your tongue, not only do you run less risk of being beaten, but perhaps you may even, one day, make your husband better.” Eventually, she converted Patricius to Christianity and calmed his violent nature.

She had a son called Augustine born c 354 near to Carthage.

Monica soon recognized that her son was a man of extraordinary intellectual gifts, a brilliant thinker and a natural leader of men (as a youngster he was head of a local gang of juvenile delinquents), and she had strong ambitions and high hopes for his success in a secular career.

Indeed, though we do not know all the circumstances, most Christians today would say that her efforts to steer him into a socially advantageous marriage were in every way a disaster. Augustine took a lover from an early age who bore him a child – a situation that Monica was not at all happy about. But for many years her son remained faithful to the woman ,probably not marrying her because she was from a lower social background.

Neither was Monica happy about the way Augustine spurned Christianity

. He, as a youth, rejected her religion with scorn, and looked to various pagan philosophies for clues to the meaning of life. He undertook a career as an orator and teacher of the art of oratory (rhetoric), and moved from Africa to Rome and thence to Milan, at that time the seat of government in Italy.

In Milan two turning points shaped his future life.

Firstly, his mother joined him there. She persuaded him  that he ought to give up his lover and get married. He agreed to the bethrothal to a suitable young lady – but she was too young for marriage and the wedding was postponed for two years. His lover was sent back to Africa – and Augustine lapsed back into his old bad ways.

Secondly, he seriously engaged in conversation with the Bishop of Milan, Ambrose who had a profound effect on his thinking – he realised that Christianity was a religion fit for a philosopher. Under his preaching Augustine was converted on Easter Eve 387 to the great joy of Monica his mother. He also felt called then to a life of celibacy and wrote a famous book called the Confessions, looking back on his past life of waywardness.

After his baptism, Augustine and a younger brother Navigius and Monica planned to return to Africa together, but in Ostia, the port city of Rome, Monica fell ill and said, “You will bury your mother here. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord. Do not fret because I am buried far from our home in Africa. Nothing is far from God, and I have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.”

Monica obviously had a tremendous influence on her son’s life and faith – even if he was slow to discover joy in Christ. He went on be ordained a priest and then bishop of Hippo in 396. He was diligent shepherd of his flock but also found time to write extensively. His output was vast – 113 books – 500 sermons – and his work greatly influenced Luther and Calvin. One of his most famous books was called The Confessions – written soon after his conversion and two others – The City of God and On the Trinity  – two famous pieces of Christian writing. He also found time to refute two of the main heresies of his time – the Donatists and the Pelagians – but I won’t go into those long debates now!

Augustine died aged 75 years in 430.

Just before his conversion, Augustine had read the verses we heard from Romans today “  The night is far gone – the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of light”

These words remained with him for the rest of his life – foundational words of scripture, as the example of Monica had been a firm foundation in his personal life.

Saint Monica Church, in Creve Coeur, Missouri - statue of Saint Monica
This is a statue of Saint Monica at the  church of  St Monica   Creve  Coeur, Missouri.  She is shown here in the orans prayer position (which is one of the most ancient symbols of the Church), interceding for her wayward, lazy, and faithless son. Her prayers were answered. She is the patroness of mothers with disappointing children.

August 26, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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