Put Out into the Deep

Two Saints of Perseverance and Zeal

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

On Aug. 27, the Feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, will be celebrated. Monica is a great example of a mother who never lost confidence in the possibility of conversion for her son.

Born a Christian, Monica was married to Augustine’s father, a non-Christian who later converted and who died early in life. She was left with the care of Augustine who had not been baptized. In the fourth century, it was the custom that young men became catechumens, and infant baptism was not the rule.

Augustine was a slave to his passions. He fathered a child and flirted with the Manichean heresy. Yet, Monica never lost faith in her son. Her only recourse were tears and prayers, as she never stopped praying for his conversion. Truly, at a time unexpected to her, Augustine was baptized at Easter of 387.

St. Augustine’s feast is celebrated on Aug. 28, the day after his mother’s feast day. Undoubtedly, Augustine was one of the greatest minds that the Church has ever had. His influence on Christian theology remains to this day. While not always in concert with other theologians, his contribution is truly unique.

Augustine wrote that at age 32, he was converted. After reading the Scriptures, he was drawn to a new way of life and dismissed his concubine, and the mother of his son. Later, he was ordained a priest in Hippo, part of Algeria, where he became a bishop. His long tenure as Bishop of Hippo allowed him to reflect on the life of the Church as it developed in the early centuries.

His “Confession” was really his life’s story. Augustine produced many great masterpieces such as the “Christian Doctrine,” which was a catechism for catechumens; “The City of God”; and his treatise on the “Trinity.” He died at the age of 76 on Aug. 28, 430, just as the barbarians were laying siege to Hippo.

Augustine’s baptism was at the hands of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, where he had gone to teach the Roman classics. Both Monica and Augustine could form the plot of a modern-day soap opera. His life and moral conflicts would be ample material for a fairly long series. And yet, the persistence of Monica in prayer brought about Augustine’s conversion.

Many times I hear mothers and fathers lamenting the lack of the practice of our faith in the lives of their children. All I can say is that they must keep praying for their children and not to give up hope. It sounds so easy and trite.

Yet, how true it is that certain things are only accomplished through prayer and sacrifice. Were it not for Monica’s prayers and tears which converted Augustine, our Church today would be all the poorer.

Monica and Augustine both put out into the deep: Monica through her perseverance and Augustine through his zeal. These two great qualities are much needed today.

Perhaps as we celebrate their feast days, we can pray to St. Monica and St. Augustine for their intercession, that our Church will be filled with the spirit of perseverance and a zeal for the Kingdom of God.

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