No one can love quite like a mother, as the Virgin Mary attests. And no one quite imitated the Mother of God's sorrowful love of her sinful children as much as St. Monica, whose daily tears for her son Augustine bore the fruit of a magnificent Doctor of the entire Church and a pillar of the Latin tradition. Truly, St. Monica was a suffering mother, even a martyr for the cause of her son's salvation; and as the Blessed Mother Mary is the cause of our salvation by giving birth to God the Word, so is Monica the mother of many souls in Christ by giving birth to the great Father Augustine, whose teachings have saved many.
Born in 333 to Berber Christian parents in North Africa, St. Monica married a pagan Roman official of the town of Tagaste. He seems to have been a cruel husband, but St. Monica bore her suffering with patience and ministered to other unhappy wives in the city. She had three children, the oldest of whom was Augustine. For a long time, Monica's pagan husband held out against their baptism. While Augustine was away studying at Carthage, however, the first fruits of Monica's tears blossomed: her husband became a Christian. He soon died, and St. Monica vowed to be a celibate widow and not remarry. However, her son Augustine was to cause her more pain than her husband ever had.
When he returned from Carthage, Augustine was a Manichean heretic, which sent Monica into tears of woe that persisted for seventeen years while he languished, moving between lustful living and heretical teachings. She followed him to Rome and then to Milan, a beleaguered and mournful mother crucified by the impious infidelity of her son. At last, under the auspices of St. Ambrose of Milan, she saw her son converted and even baptized after almost two decades of his waywardness. Soon after, she died in Ostia on the return trip to North Africa, exhausted by her years of supplication finally fulfilled. Her cult took a long time to become popular, but her relics eventually found their way to the Basilica of Saint Augustine in Rome.
In this short biography of an illustrious saint, find the moving and inspiring story of a mother so dedicated to her Faith and to her son that she spent her life in tears for both. Those tears were not in vain, and they produced bountiful fruit in due season.
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