As I have grown in my faith, I have gotten to know and make closer spiritual friendships with a wide variety of holy men and women. Like many of you, I have my favorites and spiritual besties I rely on and talk with frequently.
Several years ago, the parish I joined bears the patronage and name of Sts. Monica and Augustine, one of the most famous mother-son duos in the Church. A small, diverse African American community located in eastern Detroit, my parish has helped me get to know and appreciate the unique lives that make up this famous Catholic duo.
An Unlikely Happy Ending
On some level, many of us have at least heard about Sts. Augustine and Monica. Augustine was born to an upper-class family around the year 354 in what is now modern-day Algeria. His father, Patricius, was a pagan, though years later he converted to Christianity on his deathbed.
His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian and raised Augustine in the Faith, though he abandoned his Faith for many years. He later had a radical conversion and was baptized as an adult.
As a young man, Augustine began a long-term affair with a woman. They never married and their relationship led to the birth of their son Adeodatus. In Latin the name meant “by God given” or “gift of God.”
Despite the deep faith of his mother and his Christian upbringing, he abandoned the Faith of his childhood and became a Manichean. Monica was utterly destroyed. But she never let go of the hope that someday her prodigal son would return to God.
She unceasingly prayed for him many years.
Augustine was a very intelligent man. He eventually took a position teaching rhetoric in Milan. This experience led him to have more engagement and connection with Christian literature and other believers.
Perseverance in Prayer
One hot summer day in 386, Augustine heard a childlike voice calling him to “take up and read.” He took this as a divine command, picked up the Bible, and opened to read the following:
Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, – not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh. -Romans 13:13-14
Augustine was cut to the heart. The conversion his mother prayed for all those years now began in great haste.
At the next Easter Vigil, both Augustine and his son were baptized by St. Ambrose.
The radical conversion of Augsustine led to him eventually becoming one of the most profound spiritual teachers and bishops of Western Christianity. To this day, he is one of the most beloved and prolific writers and thinkers in the history of Catholicism.
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What the Story of Sts. Monica and Augustine Teach Us
The story of Sts. Augustine and Monica holds powerful, unique lessons for us, no matter where we are in life or the sins and failings we wrestle with.
That being said, there special insights and lessons we can learn from this dynamic duo.
Lessons We Can Learn from St. Monica
Saint Monica teaches us hope and persistence when life and situations look most bleak.
Hope is one of the Theological Virtues I see shining brightest in the life of St. Monica. She hoped against all odds inforthe conversion of her wayward son. The virtue of hope is not wishful thinking for something you desire to happen. Hope is all about who God is and who we are not. It helps us grow and develop a deeper trust in Jesus, which I imagine occurred in Monica’s life as she prayed for his conversion for many years.
Monica was a fierce woman. She persisted against all reason, believing her son would someday convert. She never gave up or stopped praying and fasting. And more importantly, she never stopped loving her son even when he went against everything she instilled in him as a child.
Many of you have family members or friends away from Jesus or the Church. You may wonder if your prayers are making a difference or if it will always be this way. The example of St. Monica reminds us to continue to press in, persist, and never give up. No one is too far gone for the power of Jesus Christ.
Lessons We Can Learn from St. Augustine
St. Augustine teaches us the importance of a personal relationship with God and that no person is too far gone for God.
Importance of a Personal Relationship with God
While Augustine was raised in a devout Christian home, I am struck by the reality he probably knew a lot about Jesus but did not have a personal relationship with Him. It was not until many years later as an adult that he had a personal encounter with the Living God. That experience propelled a radical conversion.
I think this is an important reality to keep in mind for us as believers today as we live in an ever-growing secular culture. People don’t come to faith through laws and rules, but through a personal encounter with God. This encounter then ideally helps lead them into a deeper relationship and continual conversion. May we never forget the importance of this in our relationship with God.
No Person is too Lost for God
Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged and think, “This person will never change. He or she will never come back to the Church.” Discouragement leads to hopelessness, which I believe, are some of the tactics Satan most loves to use to destroy us.
The story of Augstine’s whole life reminds us that no one is outside the mercy and healing of Jesus Christ. There is no person too great a sinner for the healing and forgiveness of Jesus. We should have faith and take hope in the promise that God sees and knows the depth of every human heart. And He will take care of every single one of us.
Let’s Follow the Examples of Both Sts. Monica and Augustine
The power in the lives of the Saints is that they reveal so much of our own unique stories and experiences through their lives. They are not much different from us. We have similar struggles, issues, joys, and dreams. They are like us in all things, but they never gave up, which is why the Church revers them as an example of the Christian life.
Augustine and Monica are no different.
May we look to them for hope and encouragement.
Do you have a devotion to one or both of these Saints? We would love to hear about their influence on your lives in the comments!Sts. Monica and Augustine: Lessons from One of the Most Famous Mother-Son Duos in the Church #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Patty Breen is a regular contributor to the BIS blog and a devotion writer. She is a full-time lay minister who finds joy in running, strong cups of coffee, and all things Ignatian spirituality. A Midwestern gal from the mitten state, she is constantly learning to find grace in all things. She is passionate about ministry to divorced Catholics and women whose relationships have been impacted by sexual addiction. You can find out more about her here.