Saint Monica (322–387) was raised in a Christian home in Tagaste, North Africa. Early in life she struggled with alcoholism, sneaking draughts of wine from the family cellar, before being caught and subsequently giving up the habit. She was later given in marriage to a pagan Roman man named Patricius. He was not an entirely bad man but was licentious and had a violent temper; Monica had to endure this daily as well as live with his ill-tempered mother.
She eventually became a deeply devout woman. Monica suffered greatly, and fervently prayed for long years for the conversion of her family members. Her patience and kindness became a source of encouragement to other unhappy housewives with whom she came in contact. Monica gave birth to three children and was grieved that her husband would not allow them to be baptized.
Her eldest son, Augustine, was the most wayward of her children and caused her the most pain, and for his conversion she prayed fervently for years. Through her persistence in prayer and good example, her husband became a Christian shortly before his death.
When Augustine was caught up with heretical sects and moved away to Milan, Saint Monica followed him. Monica became friends with the Bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose, who eventually led Augustine to convert to the Christian faith. The holy bishop St. Ambrose comforted her, saying, “The son of these tears of yours shall not perish!”
Augustine was baptized shortly before her death, but not before they had spent peace-filled, joyous days together, discussing the mysteries of God, whom they loved so much. I am grateful for the story of St. Monica. While I am certain I will be praying for patience and confessing my lack of it for many years to come, I can look to her and know that her years of patient longing included days of frustrations and even crying out to God for help
Just like the vision I have in my head; we often think of patience as something that only comes with a calm and serene countenance. However, as we contemplate the life of Monica, we can see that it is often accompanied by consternation. Patience means to endure hardships with trust and hope in the providence of God. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes without sweat and tears. As the bishop said: “The child of those tears shall never perish.”
I am extremely grateful that I can look to Saint Monica for holy assistance and intercessory help in the constant practice of patience in my own life struggle. Let us remember that her continual and persistent prayer for her husband and for her son ultimately paid off. Ours will, too by God’s graces.