Sunday Reflection

Monnica 27 August
Mother of Augustine of Hippo, 387 — Commemoration

Today we remember Monnica, a woman of fourth-century North Africa and the mother of Augustine of Hippo. She was a devout Christian, regular in her prayers and careful in raising her children to be Christians as well. However, her eldest son Augustine wandered away from the Church in his youth and came under the spell of an outlaw sect known as the Manichees. Monnica refused to give up on her son and tried to get others to argue him out of his infatuation with Manichean teachings. She once approached a bishop who told her that, given time, her son would certainly outgrow his false opinions. But Monnica would not be soothed and continued her entreaties. The bishop finally groaned: “Woman, go away from me now! As sure as you live, it is impossible that a son of such tears should perish!” Augustine was embarrassed by his mother, and when he decided to leave North Africa and seek his fortune in Italy, he tricked her so that she would not come with him. He ought to have known her better, for she eventually showed up on his doorstep. By that time Augustine had at last renounced the Manichees and was slowly moving back towards the Church, Monnica had the supreme joy of beholding the fulfillment of her prayers at the Easter Vigil of the year 387, when Augustine was baptized at the basilica of Milan. Shortly afterwards he decided to return to North Africa with his mother, but while they were waiting for a ship to take them across the Mediterranean Monnica fell ill. It was soon clear that she was dying, and Augustine became anxious, knowing she had always wanted to be buried in North Africa. She told him not to worry, saying: “Nothing is far from God; I need not fear that he will know where to raise me up at the end of the world.” A few days later she died, at peace with God, the Church, and her son.

Collect for Saint Monnica
O God, who heard the prayers and gathered up the loving tears of Monnica for the conversion of her child Augustine, deepen our devotion, we pray, and help us to work in accordance with your will, that we may bring others, even our own kindred, to the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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