For the commemoration of Monica today, we read a devotion from Saints and Angels All Around.
There are no typical saints. Monica proves that point. You might picture the average saint as a tall, pale-skinned, European holy man, with a patient and placid temperament. Monica was a tiny, dark-skinned African woman, with grim determination and ready tears. She meddled in her children’s lives and seemed to wear out her welcome wherever she went. But in God’s economy her liabilities became assets.
Monica had many personal obstacles to overcome in her life. Born in North Africa to Christian parents near the start of the fourth century, she was married off at an early age to a pagan named Patricius. Marriage at that time was often much less than a partnership; wives often found themselves cheated on, beaten, or deserted. But Monica held to her faith and her hopes, living a life of devotion and dedication to her family. Shortly before his death, her husband converted to the Christian faith—as did his mother, who had been less than charitable to Monica for many years. Needless to say, Monica rejoiced.
If being a Christian wife challenged Monica, being a Christian mother, especially to her oldest son, Augustine, proved a greater challenge. His behavior so completely clashed with her Christian ideals that for some time she refused to let him into the family home. Yet she always kept praying that he would find in Jesus Christ a true direction for his life. When she confided her hopes and her sorrows to her bishop he said, “It is not possible that a son of so many tears should be lost.” Monica’s life testifies to the value of prayer to God, who hears our prayers and concerns, no matter how difficult the situation.
Monica’s prayers for her son received a ready answer. Wanting to leave Africa behind, Augustine set off for Italy where he became a teacher, first in Rome and then in Milan. Shadowing his every move and tracing the path with her prayers, Monica followed him across the Mediterranean Sea and set up housekeeping for him, evicting the woman he had lived with for many years (and the mother of his son). After a special encounter with God’s Word, Augustine’s life turned around. He and his son were baptized at Milan in 387. (His many years of service to Christ as a hero of the early church were just beginning. He would become the church’s great proclaimer of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ alone.) . . .
With Augustine’s life now devoted to the Lord, Monica felt that her mission on earth was accomplished. She died in Italy that same year, never again seeing her native Africa.
Make me a saint in your service, Lord. I know that I have my weaknesses and my faults, and yet I pray that I can bring you glory somehow. Direct my life, and help me to rejoice in living for you. This I ask in the name of Jesus, the great forgiver. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are from Saints and Angels All Around, pages 104–06 © 1996 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.