Wednesday, December 10, 2014

158.mother of St Augustine

158. Mother of Saint Augustine



Anybody who has read ‘Confessions’ (1) cannot help being touched by the holiness of Monica, mother of Augustine. We have glimpses of her life and even her actual words as narrated by her son in his book. She died in Italy in 387 A.D. 

Her husband was a man of short temper and unfaithful to her. Wife beating was a common practice during those days but her husband, 

 ‘ respected, loved, and admired her……….many women, whose faces were disfigured by blows from husbands would complain the behavior of their men-folk……They used to remark how surprising it was that they had never heard, or seen any marks to show……….any domestic disagreement……even for one day ’(1) 

Her mother-in-law was at first prejudiced against her, but she won her over by ‘… dutiful attention and constant patience and gentleness’ (1)

Her greatest desire in life was that her son should turn to God. St Augustine writes:


“My mother, your faithful servant, wept to you for me, shedding more tears for my spiritual death than other mothers shed for the bodily death of a son”.


 Augustine was leading a sinful life and had a concubine.

One night she had a dream:


“She dreamt that she was standing on a wooden ruler, and coming towards her in a halo of splendor she saw a young man who smiled at her in joy, although she herself was sad and quite consumed in grief. He asked her the reason for her grief and her daily tears…………….When she replied that her tears were for the soul I had lost, he asked her to take heart for, if she looked carefully, she would see where she was, there also was I. And when she looked, she saw me standing beside her on the same rule.”

“She always said that by some sense…….she was able to distinguish between Your revelations and her own natural dreams” 

This was a divine revelation. Augustine argued that it meant that she should not despair to be like him, one day.

‘She said at once and without hesitation “No! He did not say ‘Where he is, you are’ but ‘where you are, he is’. 

This dream gave her great reassurance. She never doubted the veracity of the dream. She became certain that her son Augustine would, one day turn to God, although it took close to nine years. Despite the dream,

“ ……….never ceased to pray at all hours and to offer to You the tears she shed for me…………but she gave no rest to her sighs and her tears. Her prayers reached Your presence and yet You still left me to twist and turn in dark”. 

While she was crossing the Mediterranean Sea on a ship, the ship came in danger. 

“ It was she who put heart in the crew…………She promised them that they would make the land in safety, because You had given her this promise in a vision” 

Once she kept on begging a Bishop to talk to Augustine and show him the right path, but the Bishop kept on refusing. He said, 

“Leave him alone and just pray to God for him”.  

But Monica would not stop her entreaties. 

“At last he grew impatient and said ‘Leave me and go in peace. It cannot be that the son of these tears should be lost”. In later years she used to say that she accepted those words as a message from heaven” 

Augustine turned to God by a strange set of events, which I will narrate in detail when I write about him. Her mother was overjoyed to hear it.

Five days before her sickness which resulted in her death, after a long and tiring journey, mother and son started talking about the eternal life of saints. It was a serene and peaceful conversation. They talked of the material things and of heaven and of love of God. Here are some excerpts:


“As the flame of love burned stronger in us and raised us higher towards the eternal God……..up to the heavens themselves, from which the sun and the moon and the stars shine down upon the earth. Higher still we climbed………At length we came to our own souls and passed beyond to that place of everlasting beauty…... There life is that Wisdom by which all things that we know are made………But that Wisdom is not made: it is as it has always been and as it will be forever…………..” 

“And while we spoke of the eternal Wisdom, longing for it and straining for it with the strength of our hearts, for one fleeting instant we reached it and touched it. Then with a sigh …we returned to the sound of our own speech…” 

“And then my mother said: ‘My son. For my part I find no further pleasure in this life……. What I am still to do or why I am here in this world, I do not know, for I have no more to hope for in this world. There was one reason, and one alone, why I wished to remain a little longer in this life and that was to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. God has granted my wish and more ………..What is left for me to do in this world?” 

It was about five days after this that she developed fever and died after nine days of sickness. 

She had expressed her wish to be buried beside her husband in Africa, in a grave which she had provided and prepared herself. Because they had lived in the greatest harmony, she wanted this extra happiness.

But she renounced her wish while she was sick, and told her son as follows: 

 “You will bury your mother here (Ostia)And then, speaking to both of us, she went on, ‘It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you! All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord’

She was not frightened at the thought of leaving her body so far from her own country. ‘Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that He will not know where to find me when He  comes to raise me to life at the end of the world’


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ (1) ‘Confessions’ by St Augustine, Penguin Edition


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