Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
If not for Sunday taking liturgical precedence, August 27 would be celebrated as the feast of St. Monica. August 28 is the feast of her son, St. Augustine – and also Fr. Eric Silva’s birthday. This mother-son duo is incredibly important in the list of the saints. While St. Augustine is one of the greatest minds in western civilization, an important theologian and philosopher, the inventor of the literary genre “autobiography,” and one of the most prolific Latin writers in history, his eventual conversion to the Catholic faith came about because of the many prayers of his mother, Monica. This holy woman saw the path her son was walking and grieved by his choices and his apparent ignoring of the example she had tried to set for him, turned to prayer. It is said that the tears of St. Monica watered the seed of faith in the heart of her son. However, the full story is not so simple. St. Monica was by no means a perfect person. Her faith developed over time, and as she entered more and more into a relationship with God, she found solace in the faith, especially in difficult moments in her marriage (her husband was a pagan who was also frequently abusive), and in the challenges her children posed to her (Augustine both lived in a way that flew in the face of what she wanted for him and challenged her intellectually with objections to Catholicism). Some stories of the life of St. Monica make it seem that her frequent conversations with Augustine about Christianity may have driven him to go as far as possible (from North Africa to Milan) to get away from her. In fact, he had an opportunity to teach in Milan, but the distance would prove no obstacle to Monica, who simply packed up and moved to Milan. There, however, she enlisted the help of the holy bishop, St. Ambrose. While Monica prayed and prayed, Ambrose befriended Augustine and engaged him in theological and philosophical discussion, gradually dismantling his intellectual objections to the faith. For all the intellectual power at work, though, it was, in the end, the movement of the Holy Spirit in Augustine’s heart that finally brought about his conversion.
All of us can think of a family member or friend who has fallen away from the practice of the faith. One of the most frequent heartaches I hear about is from parents who struggle with the fact that their adult children no longer practice the faith, often despite a lifetime of going to Mass as a family, Catholic school, and more. Still others are pained to watch friends go down a moral path that harms them and others, feeling helpless to stop the destruction. Many of us have experienced the pain of trying to help, of trying to offer advice, of trying to convince someone of the truth, only to have it thrown back in our face or feel that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. As this is such a common experience, we might not be surprised to find out that the Church has a saint who has experienced this all, too. St. Monica stands as an outstanding example for us. A woman, a mother, who cares so deeply for her child and who experiences great distress of heart and mind, but who perseveres in prayer is exactly the kind of intercessor we need. On this feast of St. Monica, we can ask her prayers for our family members and friends who are struggling with faith. We can ask her to pray for us, also, that we might be good examples, sources of mercy and love, and lights in the darkness to those in our lives who find themselves lost and struggling.
Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son.
Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity.
By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church.
Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your own son.
(Mention your intentions here)
With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God.
Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God.
Pray for me, that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.
Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me, that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God.