Saint Monica - 27th August

Augustine is her biographer. Let us let him talk to us; because what he tells us is more than a biography; he as her son gives us a sweet hym of praise to the Lord.

Girl. Brought up to be humble and prudent (Confessions 9, 9).

“You created her; her mother and father were unaware of what a daughter they were going to have. The staff of your Christ brought her up in your fear, with the guidance of your only Son, in a loyal house she she was a good member of the body of your Church” (Conf. 9,8,).

Wife. Full of goodness, patience, and generosity towards her husband (Conf. 9,8).

Showed respect, tolerance and sweetness towards her mother-in-law (Conf. 9,8). She used to sow peace (Conf.9,8). She won her husband to the faith and she used to serve everybody (Conf. 9,8).

“When she grew up and reached marriageable age, they married her to a man whom she served as if he owned her. She sought to win him over for You and used to speak to him through the exemplerary way of life with which You blessed her; You drew towards her the respect, love and pleasure of her husband” (Conf. 9,9).

“She also became your servant. All those who knew her praised her greatly, loved her and kept her aloof, because to those who witnessed the fruit of her good life, she was a means for them to feel You in their hearts” (Conf. 9,9).

Mother. She used to take great care of the christian life of her children. (Conf. 9,9).

A mother who greatly loved her son Augustine (De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 16). She sowed the seed of faith in his heart and she enrolled him with the cathecumens (Conf. 1,11).

Augustine drank Christ’s name together with milk from his mother (Conf. 3,4). Monica overcame the negative influence of her husband on their son’s formation (Conf. 1,11). Due to the effect of the education given him by his mother, Augustine always believed in God, in Jesus Christ, in Providence and in life ahead (Conf. 6,5 u 6,16). His conversion was a voyage back to the faith that his mother had inculcated in him from an early age. (Accademic books 2,2,5). When Augustine became sick as a young child he asked to be baptised and, in a confused state, his mother Monica considered arranging for him to be given the sacrament of salvation (Conf. 1,11). Advice from a mother (Conf. 2,3). Worried about her son’s studies, Monica also thought about how her son can continue his studies after his father’s death (Conf. 3,4).

“Because for ever faithful to her husband, she gave her parents was was due to them, she ran her household as best she could, and she gave ample evidence of her good deeds. She brought up her children and suffered for them birth pangs every time that she saw then distance themselves from you” (Conf. 9,9).

A protective mother. Monica used to cry for Augustine’s conversion (Conf. 3,11). A dream that consoled her (Conf. 3,11). Hopes inspired by a bishop (Conf. 3,12). Augustine deceives his mother in Carthage and goes to Rome (Conf.5,8). He falls sick in Rome: his mother, although not present, accompanies him with love, prayer and with her tears (Conf. 5,9). She goes to meet up with him in Milan (Conf. 6,1). Augustine tells his mother that he has left the Manuchine sect (ib.). The love that Monica has for Bishop Ambrose (ib.). In Milan Monica continues to live the same religious life she had lived in Africa (Ep. 36). She continued her habit of placing food on the graves of the martyrs but stoppoed on the advice of  Bishop Ambrose (Conf. 6,2). She participates with zeal in the church of Milan (Conf. 9,6). Ambrose shows his esteem for Augustine’s mother (Conf. 6, 2). Monica insists that her son gets married (Conf. 6,13).

“This good, unblemished and saintly widow, as You yourself cherish, believed in hope but did not tire to weep and to sigh, all the time in her prayers she continued to shed her tears for me before you” (Conf.3,11).

“Leave me, because as surely as You are present, the son of so much weeping cannot be lost”. As she would tell me so often whilst talking to me, she felt these words were coming from heaven” (Conf. 3,12).

“My mother is full of goodness, she crossed over land and sea seeking me and she found me. You put her mind at rest from every fear’...” (Conf. 6,1).

“(Ambrose) loved her for her saintly life. Amongst so many other good deeds she used to go to church with such great eagerness, that the Bishop, whenever he met me, frequently used to praise her and to commend me for having such a mother” (Conf. 6,2).

A victorious mother.  Augustine relates to his mother the decision he has made (Conf. 8,12). Augustine says he is convinced that his conversion was brought about by his mother’s prayers (De beata vita 1,6; De Ordine 2,20; De dono persev. 20,53).

“We went inside near my mother happy and told her everything. We explained to her what happened to us, and she started jumping with joy. And she blessed You, who has the power to do everything, much more than we can ask for or think about, because she saw that You had given us much more than she ever prayed for with tears and with her humble pleadings”(Conf. 8,12).

“I believe, without any doubts and I declare, that with your nprayers (of a mother) God gave me the intentions that I do not propose, that I do not want, that I do not think about, that i do not love anythink other that I attain the truth” (De Ordine, 2,20).   

A teacher. An industrious and lively housewife (Contra acad. 2,5). Today Augustine wants his mother to participate in an philosiphical discussion (De Ordine 2,1). Monica says that the truth is food for the soul (De beata vita 2,8). Monica gives an explanation of true happiness (ib.). She observes that where there is a lack of wisdom there cannot be happiness (ib. 4,27). She also says that only faith, hope and love can lead to a blessed life (ib. 4,34-35). Augustine declares that he is Monica’s disciple (De Ordine 1,11)… And he trusts that his mother’s prayers for him, and thanks to so much prayers, he is already aspiring to gain wisdom (ib., 1,11; 2,50). A mother and servant of the servants of God (Conf. 9,9).

“My mother was also there. Because we had been living together for a long time, I had long noticed her constant attention and wonderful qualities and the eagerness she had for everything coming from God. However, in the course of an important argument I once had with some of my guests on my birthday, and which I related elsewhere [in the dialogue Sulla Beata Vita] I saw her intelligence in such a way that she made me admit that there was nobody more suitable for true philosophy” (De Ordine, 2,1).

Mystic. Visions (Conf. 6,1; 6,13). The estasy at Ostia (Conf. 9,11). A wish to die. (Conf. 9.10). She had no fear of dying away from her birthplace (Conf. 9,11).

“When the moment arrived for her to leave this world, a day known to You but not to us, this I think happened and I believe that it is You who wanted this to happen, according to your hidden plan. My mother and I were alone together, with her arm resting on the sill of the window that overlooked the garden of the house where we lived, there close to Ostia Tiberina, away from the noisy crowds; we were resting from the endurance of a long voyage by sea. We talked together with such sweetness, we forget the past and we trained our thoughts on what we thought lay ahead of us. We kept before us the truth, that is You, and we started asking one another what will be eternal life with the saints; that life that eyes have never seen and no ear has heard and which has yet to be begotten in the heart of humanbeings. We drew closer the mouth of our hearts thirsty for the heavenly river flowing from Your source, the source of life that is found in You, so that we are nourished with as much water as we can and that we understand through such an amazing way.

Our conversation turned to the happiness of the body’s senses, and we realised that this happiness, however great and blessed with the greatest light of this world, can never be compared with the happiness of that life, not only, but this is not worthy of mention. Then a surge of happiness lifted us towards that is in itself, and there passed through our minds, one after the other, all creations including the sky, from where the sun and the moon and the stars pour their light on this earth .....Whist we were talking on wisdom and longed for this, with a wholesome leap in our hearts we reached it and were able to touch it. Then with a sigh we left it tied to it the first fruit of the spirit and we returned to the utterings coming out of our mouths where our words begin and end” (Conf. 9,10).

“My son, on my part, nothing makes me happy in this life. I do not know what I am doing here. Now has ended my hope in this world. There was only one thing for which I wished to remain longer in this life, that is, to see you a Christian Catholic before I die. My God gave me more than I asked Him for, because now I can also see you find fault with the happiness of this earth so as to serve him. What am I doing here?” (Conf. 9,10).


Death and burial. (Conf. 9,11)

“When the time came for her to be taken away, she gave no thought to have her body dressed in opulent clothing or to be embalmed with frangrances; she did not have a chosen grave or to be buried in her land of her birth; she wanted nothing of this but she wished to be remembered in front of Your altar which she did not fail to honour for even one day. She knew that at the altar we receive the Blessed Victim with which to make good our indebtedness” (Conf. 9,13).

“After an illness lasting nine days, when she was fifty six year old and I was thirty three years old, that good and religious soul left her body” (Conf. 9,11).


*taken literary from ‘St. Augustine. My mother’, by Agostino Trapè, Milan 1975

(Translation from the book by Fernando Rojo Martinez, Il fascino di Dio, Profili di agiografia agostiniana, Roma 2000, pp.21-29).

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