Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, was born in 332 of a Christian family of the ancient city of Tagasta in northern Africa. After a girlhood of singular innocence and piety, she was given in marriage to Patricius, a pagan. She at once devoted herself to his conversion, praying for him always and winning his reverence and love by the holiness of her life and her affectionate forbearance. She was rewarded by seeing him baptized a year before his death.
When her son Augustine went astray in faith and habits, her prayers and tears were incessant. She once begged a learned bishop that he would talk to her son, in order to bring him to a better disposition, but he declined, despairing of success with a young man at once so gifted and so headstrong. At the sight of her prayers and tears, he nonetheless bade her be of good courage, for it could not happen that the child of those tears should perish.
Augustine, by going to Italy, was able for a time to free himself from his mother’s importunities, but he could not escape from her prayers, which encompassed him like the providence of God. She followed him to Italy; and there, by his marvelous conversion, her sorrow was turned into joy.
At Ostia, shortly before they were to re-embark for Africa, Augustine and his mother sat at a window conversing on the life of the blessed. She turned to him and said, My son, there is nothing now I care for in this life. What I shall now do, or why I remain on this earth, I know not. The one reason I had for wishing to linger in this life a little longer was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. This grace God has granted me superabundantly, seeing you reject earthly happiness to become His servant. A few days afterwards she had an attack of fever and died at the age of fifty-six, in the year 388.
Reflection. It is impossible to set any bounds to what persevering prayer may do. It gives man a share in the Divine Omnipotence. Saint Augustine’s soul lay bound in the chains of heresy and an illegitimate union, both of which had by long habit grown inveterate. They were broken by his mother’s prayers.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 5; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894)