I'll Never Be Saint Monica

I have a problem with persistent prayer. 

I don't mean constant prayer, or even making time for prayer, although I find both of those difficult. I mean perseverance in prayer. Despite turmoil and distraction, despite droves of prayer requests and passing time, I want to be persistent in asking the Lord to move hearts. 

Most long-term illnesses are not suddenly relieved by some miracle. Financial struggles rarely end in a windfall. People do not convert to Catholicism overnight. Few make complete turnovers when they do convert or come home to the Church. For most of us, it is a daily struggle to pursue the way of the Lord amidst trial. As Catholic author Colleen Carroll Campbell wrote in her novel My Sisters the Saints: 
"The waiting is the cross."

Fortunately, the saints in Heaven have already run the race, to borrow the words of St. Paul. One particular saint heroically endured years of seemingly unanswered prayers before calmly and graciously receiving immeasurable blessings from God. She inspires me to grow in sanctity myself by praying for others. 

That heroic woman is St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine (and patron saint of patience). 

St. Augustine, now a giant among saints and a Doctor of the Church, once led a life of sin and heresy. For years, he traveled around northern Africa and southern Europe partying, pursuing worldly ambitions, studying, actively promoting heretical beliefs, and eventually converting to Christianity and becoming a priest, then bishop. 

St. Monica prayed vigilantly during the many years that her son was gallivanting around the Mediterranean. She even followed her son during his travels and advocated on his behalf. How was she able to trust wholeheartedly in the Lord while watching her son stray farther and farther from the Church?

She was confident in the Lord. She never despaired. She knew that God would prevail in her son's heart. After sharing with her that he had turned from the Manichean heresy, St. Augustine said of Monica's disposition that 
"[h]er heart was not shaken with some tumultuous exultation when she heard that what she had sought of the Lord daily with so many tears was in so great a part already accomplished...she was confident that you [God], who had promised the whole, would one day give the rest, she replied to me most calmly and with a heart full of faith, that she believed in Christ that before she departed this life she would see me a Catholic believer." 
And she did. 

She sought help from other Christians. St. Ambrose, for one. Monica knew she couldn't do this alone. A mother grieving for her son's eternal soul, Monica wept "copious tears," according to Augustine. It was for this reason that St. Ambrose spoke to her his iconic words: 
"The child of those tears shall never perish." 
She kept her request at the forefront of her mind. She was physically close to her son during his trials and struggles to embrace the faith. Augustine wrote of this time in his Confessions, addressed to the Lord: 
"I sought you outside myself and did not find the God of my heart. I had come into the depths of the sea, and distrusted and despaired of ever discovering the truth. By this time my mother had come to me, strengthened by her piety, following me over sea and land, and trusting you through all danger."
In her lifetime, Monica saw her son through a hundred evils before she saw him turn from them to sacrifice his life in priestly service. Shortly after Augustine's conversion and baptism, she said to him: "Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled." 

I draw strength from St. Monica, whose infinite patience and hope came to fruition in St. Augustine's conversion and priesthood. Someday she and I will be great friends. I encourage anyone struggling with a long-term trial, especially the lack of faith in family members, to ask St. Monica for her intercession. 

And, as always, ask for the Blessed Virgin Mary's intercession. She, another model of hope, trust, and patience, awaits the pleas of her children. Unite yourself to Mary, from whom "we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone," says St. John Paul II. 



  1. That's neat that you mention St. Monica seeking help from other Christians-I've never thought of that before! Oftentimes, I think of St. Monica as rather solitary and independent as she prayed for St. Augustine-but it is very true that she didn't and couldn't do it alone :)

    1. Honestly, I didn't think about t until I sat down to write this post! I, too, always pictured her as a completely independent woman, but Christians are made to be dependent on each other and she, a good and faithful woman, knew she had to lean on others!


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