Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo

27 Aug

Saint Augustin et Sainte MoniqueToday in the Anglican lectionary is the lesser festival of Monica, the mother of Augustine of Hippo (his own lesser festival is tomorrow, which I will also be blogging about).  Little is known about Monica’s early life other than it was difficult.

Married to Patricius, who is either described as a pagan or nominal Christian, but he was certainly dissolute and violent temper. It is also widely believed that Patricius was frequently unfaithful, though he never physically struck or ill treated Monica. Similarly, her mother-in-law (who lived with Monica) added to difficulties with their heavy drinking. However Monica overcame both of these challenges by her patient persistence leading to Patricius being baptised in 370 that we sadly died the following year.

Monica was the mother of three children: Augustine (of Hippo fame), Navigius and Perpetus. It is through Augustine and his writings in Confessions (Book IX) do we know anything about Monica and her patient treatment over Augustine over many years of anxiety that ended in Augustine’s conversion. from Monica was fundamental in creating the church father known as Augustine, for when he was young she enrolled him as catechumen. When Augustine started heading off as a problem child she turned to prayer, fasten vigils, hoping that they would succeed where argument had failed.

Eventually Augustine got fed up and went to Rome, deceiving her about the time of his departure in order to travel alone. he went on to Milan, but Monica followed him. She was highly esteemed by its Bishop, Ambrose, who also helped Augustine towards a deep moral conversion besides acceptance of the Christian faith. With this profound change of heart Augustine went away with his mother and a few chosen friends for a period of preparation for baptism.the dialogue of this little group of friends is recorded by Augustine in De Beata Vita.

After Augustine’s baptism he travelled with Monaco and his friends Africa but sadly she died on the way at Ostia. Before her death Augustine reports Monica as saying: “nothing in this world now gives me pleasure. I do not know what there is left for me to do all I am still here, will my hopes in this world are now fulfilled all I wish to live forms to see you are catholic and a child of heaven. God has granted me more than this and making you despise earthly happiness and consecrate yourself to a service.”

Monica, through her persistent patience towards her son Augustine is seen as a model of Christian mothers. Her son would go on to be a great Church fathers, establishing foundational doctrine and theology that still has massive impacts on the church today (both universal catholic and Roman Catholic). None of this would have been possible without Monica and her simple faithfulness over many years without fanfare, a profound example for us today when public success and fame at any cost is celebrated.

To end, the collect for the day:

Faithful God,
who strengthened Monica, the mother of Augustine, with wisdom,
and through her patient endurance encouraged him
to seek after you:
give us the will to persist in prayer
that those who stray from you may be brought to faith
in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

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One Response to “Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo”

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  1. Augustine, bishop & teacher of the faith. | Politics, Life and Theology - 28 August 2013

    […] Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo (godlypolitics.wordpress.com) […]

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