St Monica (322-387) The image comes from Catholic Online.
Feast Day: August 27
Patron Saint for: housewives, difficult marriages, alcoholism, mothers, lasted Catholics, wives, widows, abuse victims, victims of adultery and disappointing children.
St Monica, was born in North Africa, in what is today called Algeria. Early in life she suffered from what we might identify today as alcoholism. Although St Monica did not stop drinking, until after she was caught drinking from the family wine cellar, she recognized the loss of control wine gave her. She turned to prayer and did not drink wine, from that day forward. It is from an example like this we could say St Monica from an early age demonstrated perseverance and a strong faith.
St Monica was raised Christian, but was married to Patricius, a Pagan Roman Official, who was said to be ill tempered and adulterous. In addition to the challenges from her husband, St Monica also suffered from the ill manner of her mother in law who lived with them. The devotion that St Monica showed even in the face of constant struggle within her home, helped to encourage others toward faith by her living example.
St Monica had three children, Augustine, Navigias (who became a nun) and Perpetua. Patricius refused her to Baptize any of the children. Although, he did say the eldest Augustine could be Baptized, after falling ill. However, once Augustine began feeling better Patricius removed his permission, for the Baptism.
Even though, she was the outcast in her family, by living and believing differently than anyone else that she lived with, St Monica continued to pray. She held on to prayer and devotion, seeing the genesis of her faith, when just before Patricius’ death, he was Baptized. Despite the struggle with her her husband and mother in law, it was Augustine who offered St Monica the most worry. Augustine was living as a heretic, having a mistress and a child out of marriage. After the death of her husband, St Monica moved to Milan, where Augustine had moved with a group of heretics.
While in Milan she befriended the Bishop of Milan, St Ambrose, who was eventually able to convert Augustine. It was within the year after the conversion and Baptism, of Augustine, his son and a friend, that St Monica died. Later, St Augustine along with St Ambrose, became two of the first four Doctors of the Catholic Church.
The formal canonization process for a saint did not come around until the 11th Century. At the time of St Monica’s death, people were stated to be a saint, much in the old understanding of the definition. St Monica, certainly is someone who helped bring others toward a virtuous life of faith, even without being a part of a cloistered community. She lived by example, while sharing kindness and compassion with others.
The life of St Monica reminds me of the Apostles Creed, which is suspected to have first appeared, from a letter written by St Ambrose.
It is toward the end that the Apostles Creed states;
“I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen”
The communion of saints is where St. Monica lives and perhaps was her strong faith that attracted more to faith around her. The life of St Monica is a reminder that we are a part of the communion of saints and it makes me wonder if part of the Apostles Creed that St Ambrose wrote, might have been influenced in some way from St Martha’s virtuous life. St Martha recognized the mercy of God and that we are not defined by the worst thing we have ever done, because forgiveness offers newness into our lives. This is one of the ways in which we are saints, even without formal canonization.
For someone to become canonized today there has to be no fewer than two miracles attributed to the person, either before or after death. It was when the relics of St Monica were moved to Rome from Ostia (outside of Milan), by the order of Pope Martin V (Pope 1417-1431), that many miracles were attributed to her.
In our fast paced lives today, we can feel alone and apart from most people or groups. In the communion of saints, we are able to stretch beyond the immediate circles of our community, to find connections from others who walked the Earth before us. Perhaps our community might be to stretched into history, to find a common link to the life of another saint. It might take that connection to a saint, to find those traits in a saint you might meet while walking down the sidewalk or riding the elevator.