Saint Augustine and his mother, Saint Monica (painting from 1846)
Saint Monica, Mother of St. Augustine
Memorial of Saint Monica
Reading 1 2 thes 3:6-10, 16-18
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to shun any brother
who walks in a disorderly way
and not according to the tradition they received from us.
For you know how one must imitate us.
For we did not act in a disorderly way among you,
nor did we eat food received free from anyone.
On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked,
so as not to burden any of you.
Not that we do not have the right.
Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you,
so that you might imitate us.
In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that
if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.May the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times and in every way.
The Lord be with all of you.This greeting is in my own hand, Paul’s.
This is the sign in every letter; this is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.
Responsorial Psalm ps 128:1-2, 4-5
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Gospel mt 23:27-32
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You build the tombs of the prophets
and adorn the memorials of the righteous,
and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’
Thus you bear witness against yourselves
that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1120.
Saint Monica is patron saint of married women, alcoholics, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse.
Saint Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. She is honoured in the Roman Catholic Church where she is remembered and venerated for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly the suffering against the adultery of her husband, and a prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, who wrote extensively of her pious acts and life with her in his Confessions. Popular Christian legends recall Saint Monica to have wept every night for her son Augustine.
Monica was born a Christian at Thagaste, North Africa, around the year 331, the daughter of devout parents who educated her in the faith. Augustine gives only one incident from her youth, obviously relayed to him by Monica herself, of how she was in danger of becoming a wine bibber, but was corrected when her secret sips in the wine cellar were discovered and a maid, in a moment of anger, called her a “drunkard.” This stinging rebuke prompted her to change her behavior and develop perseverence. Perhaps this is why recovering alcoholics are among the many groups who intercede to Saint Monica.
Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Monica
Dear St. Monica,
Troubled wife and mother, many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime. Yet, you never despaired or lost faith. With confidence, persistence, and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius, and your beloved son, Augustine; your prayers were answered. Grant me that same fortitude, patience,and trust in the Lord. Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, that God may favorably hear my plea for (Mention your intention here.) and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
She was married early in life to Patritius, who held an official position in Tagaste, He was a pagan, his temper was violent, and he appears to have had bad behavior outside the marriage. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one. Her mother-in-law was as bad as her husband. Her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence.
Monica had three children: Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and she experienced much grief when Augustine fell ill. She asked Patritius to allow Augustine to be baptized; Patritius agreed, but on the boy’s recovery withdrew his consent.
Eventually her husband became a Christian but died shortly afterwards. She decided not to remarry.
All Monica’s anxiety now centered in Augustine; he was promiscuous and partied all the time. And, as he himself tells us, he was lazy. Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he shared his views regarding Manichaeism Monica drove him away from her home. However, she is said to have experienced a strange vision that convinced her to reconcile with her son.
It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Monica followed her wayward son to Rome, where he had gone secretly. She met St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance.
In his book Confessions, Augustine wrote of a peculiar practice of his mother in which she “brought to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread, and wine.” When she moved to Milan, the bishop Ambrose forbade her to use the offering of wine, since “it might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink”. So, Augustine wrote of her:
In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.
— Confessions 6.2.2
Mother and son spent six months of true peace and then he was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan.
At the port of Ostia, Monica fell ill. She knew that her work had been accomplished and that life would soon be over. She had such a joyful disposition that her sons were unaware of the approach of death. As Monica’s strength failed, she said to Augustine: “I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God granted me even more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service.”
The finest pages of Augustine’s Confessions were written as the result of the emotion he experienced after his mother’s death.
The “weeping” springs outside Santa Monica, California were named for Saint Monica.
- Celebrating Mothers: Saint Monica (cloisterwalk.wordpress.com)
- Saint Monica’s grief and joy (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Carissimi; Today’s Mass: St Monica, Widow (frjeromeosjv.wordpress.com)
- The Problem of Evil: Saint Augustine (igniting1passion.wordpress.com)
- The Joy of St. Augustine (theficklefarce.wordpress.com)
- Death has no Sting: Augustines View (igniting1passion.wordpress.com)
How St. Augustine Recalls Monica in his “Confessions”
He describes her childhood and how she began sneaking wine from the cask when she was sent to fetch it; a servant cruelly taunted her about this habit, and she immediately gave it up. As a married woman, she was obedient to her husband and diplomatic in dealing with him. Her mother-in-law at first was hostile toward her, but Monica’s patience and gentleness won her over. While Augustine and Monica were at Ostia, they talked one day about eternal life, and together they experienced a vision of that joy. When Monica was ill, she abandoned her former desire to be buried with her husband in Africa, because her true home was in God. Augustine is overwhelmed by grief at her loss, even though he knows that her death is a good event. He does not weep, even at her funeral, but later, he weeps for Monica, for which God will forgive him. Augustine asks God, through Christ, to forgive Monica’s sins and asks the readers to remember his parents in prayer.
Art: Jesus at the Wedding Feast at Cana
First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
Maybe we all know a saint like Saint Monica!
She prayed and prayed for both her husband and her son. Both might have driven a lesser woman crazy — but Monica. She turned to God and saved them both!
St. Augustine “started wrong but finished strong” like Mary Magdalene and others. He’s one of our favorite saints because he invented “The Not Yet Prayer.”
Augustine is one of those Olympian Sinners of faith history. His short story goes something like this: He’s living with his slave/pregnant girlfriend while still living under the roof of his Mom’s house. He is what today we would consider a lawyer or an advocate. He actually wins the case of a man accused of planning a murder. After the trial his client is set free and completes the murder he had been planning. Augustine shows no remorse but instead he is filled with pride because he won such a difficult trial! In his part time after the day’s drinking and frolicking, he is writing attacks of the followers of Jesus Christ.
But St. Augustine’s Mom (Saint Monica) is instructing him on Jesus and constantly prays that Augustine will “get it.”
So Augustine starts to pray “Oh God, I know I have to clean up my life and follow your way — BUT NOT YET!”
I call “The Not Yet Prayer.” I prayed it often myself!
Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) also “started wrong but finished strong.” When he was knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus, he saw a bright light and was never the same.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
• Matthew 23, 27-28: The seventh, ‘Alas for you…¡ against those who are like whitewashed tombs. You appear upright on the outside, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”. The image of “whitewashed sepulchres” speaks for itself and needs no commentaries. Jesus condemns those who have the fictitious appearance of upright persons, but who interiorly are the total negation of what they want to appear outside.
• Matthew 23, 29-32: The eighth ‘Alas for you…’ against those who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of the upright, but do not imitate them. The doctors and the Pharisees said: “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our ancestors’ day”. And Jesus concludes saying: The persons who speak like this “confess that they are children of those who killed the prophets”, then they say “Our fathers”. And Jesus ends saying:” Very well then, finish off the work that your ancestors began!” In fact, at that moment they had already decided to kill Jesus. In this way they were finishing off the work of their ancestors.
• Which image of myself do I try to present to others? Does it correspond, in fact, to what I am before God?
who walk in his ways!
Your own labours will yield you a living,
happy and prosperous will you be. (Ps 128,1-2)
COMPASSION FOR OTHERS BY BEING TRUE TO OURSELVES
SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 TH 2:9-13; MT 23:27-32
When we read the gospel readings these past few days, we cannot but be taken aback by the harsh words that Jesus reserved for the scribes and Pharisees. This does not seem to be the Jesus we know; one who is compassionate, forgiving and reassuring to sinners and the weak. So how can we explain the no-holds barred reprimands of Jesus? I believe His apparent callous words were meant to wake up His listeners, in this case, the scribes and the Pharisees. To understand the real concern of Jesus, we must understand the relationship between the two indictments against them.
Firstly, Jesus denounced them for their hypocrisy. He labeled them as “whitewashed tombs” that look beautiful and impressive on the outside but inside full of bones, corruption and filth. Yes, the Jewish religious leaders appeared good and holy people to others but their own lives were not in order. But was this the real reason that Jesus condemned them? The truth is that very few of us would be able to say that the condemnation of Jesus does not apply to us. All of us are hypocrites in some ways. We observe the rituals and attend the sacraments regularly, but we know that we are far from being what we should be. We have our skeletons hidden behind our “holier than thou” front. But we know ourselves better. Does it mean therefore that we should stop going to church and practicing our faith since we are hypocrites in some ways?
The truth is that Jesus is not so much condemning the Jewish leaders and us for our hypocrisy but for our lack of awareness of the state that we are in. The greatest sin in life is not to have sinned but to sin and yet not know about it. For when we are ignorant, there is no possibility for growth. But if we are aware of our sinfulness, then correction is at least possible. As a result of our lack of self-awareness, we become judgmental and self-righteous. This co-related sin is an even greater sin than simply being hypocritical. Hence, if Jesus reacted strongly to the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, it was because their inability to recognize their hypocrisy had led them to be judgmental of others, making them at the same time, self-righteous people, disdaining fellow sinners.
Indeed, this is what the second indictment is all about. The Jewish leaders could not see themselves as sinners. They thought that they were very holy and good people. Such blindness to their own sinfulness is demonstrated by their thinking that they would not have killed the prophets of God the way their forefathers did. Yes, they passed judgment on their ancestors and thought that they would be exonerated and different from them. In other words, like us, they were saying, “Not me! How can I? ”. But we know very well, they would be the very people who would also crucify Jesus. What is true for them is also true for us. Very often we pass remarks and judgments on others, especially priests, when they fail in their Christian virtues. We criticize and denigrate them and say, “How can?” And we say to ourselves, “I will never do such a thing.” But we must be careful because we might have to eat up our words. This is because very often, the mistakes of those whom we criticize will be the same mistakes that we will make in the future. It is an irony in life that those whom we condemn for the way they manage the affairs of the Church or their lives would be the very way we will live our lives when we are put into similar situations. It is easy to condemn others when we are not in their shoes, but when we are facing the same problems; we might not even be able to handle them half as well as they do.
But this self-righteousness would not have happened if only we recognize our own weaknesses. We need to admit to ourselves that we are hypocrites as much as others are. It is not for us to be judge over others, condemning what others are doing or not doing. More importantly, we must be judge of ourselves. It is sufficient that we try to purify our own lives instead of trying to purify the lives of others. For when we look at our sins, especially our past and hidden sins and weaknesses, we find that we are no better than others. The only difference perhaps sometimes is that their sins have been exposed whereas ours are still hidden, although there is no guarantee that they will not be made known one day. Hence, it behooves us to be humble instead and confront our own sinfulness. This is what St Paul is advising us in today’s reading. The Thessalonians were running away from their responsibilities in life by focusing on the second coming of Christ. Instead of making themselves useful, they were idle, gossiping and creating trouble. We too must not run away from our own inadequacies by focusing on others’ weaknesses. Let us deal with our own problems instead of gossiping about the failures of others.
This means that we must try to be true to ourselves as much as we can. Precisely today, we are challenged to be like St Paul. He was certainly a man who was true to himself. He did not simply follow the traditions of his fathers but he interiorized them as well. He was no hypocrite because we know that St Paul was always very much aware of his sinful past and his current conflicts in trying to live the life of Christ. But at the same time, St Paul tried to set a good example. In today’s second reading, we are told of how Paul laboured for his own bread on top of his service to the people so that he might not be a burden to his people. St Paul is one who could say with confidence, we “make ourselves an example for you to follow.” We too therefore must strive to imitate St Paul’s example of fidelity to self with the help of the grace of God.
And if we have done our best, then like St Paul, we should not feel too worried or depressed simply because we fail to be always true to ourselves and to know that now and then we live hypocritical lives. What is important is that we have tried. God only expects us to give our best and not that we need to be perfect. Even then, even in our hypocrisy, our actions and words are not totally useless. Even if we are whitewashed tombs, it does not mean that whitewashed tombs have no purpose at all. For in the time of Christ, the tombs were whitewashed so as to alert the pilgrims who were on their way to Jerusalem. In this way, they could avoid stepping on the tombs accidentally and not risk getting themselves contaminated, which would make them unclean to perform the rites at the temple. Similarly, even in our hypocrisy, there will be some people who will be inspired by our external lives even if we fail to live up entirely to what we say and believe in. And even if one day they find out the truth about us, they also can learn to avoid the mistakes that we made. So, being whitewashed tombs is not necessarily all together bad.
Truly, what is important is that we know who we are and are making attempts to cleanse the interior of our tombs. In this way, we will not fall into the greater sins of self-righteousness and being judgmental. When we try to live our lives according to the gospel and even if we have failed, people will be compassionate with us because we have been compassionate with them. So let us beware if we like to condemn our fellow Christians, especially our leaders, for their infidelities and weaknesses, because if they find out that we ourselves are also not living in the truth or behaving in an even worse manner, they will not only not forgive us but will denounce us as the real hypocrites of our time.
Tags: 2 thes 3:6-10 and 16-18, alcoholics, alcoholics anonymous, appear upright on the outside, Augustine’s Confessions, “started wrong but finished strong", Bill W., Bill Wilson, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness, Christianity, Confessions, difficult marriages, disappointing children, Manichean heresy, Mary Magdalene, Monica's wine drinking, Mother of St. Augustine, Mt 23:27-32, North Africa, Not Yet Prayer, Patron saint of alcoholics, Pharisees, Psalm 128, Saint Monica, sneaking wine from the cask, St Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Monica, the not yet prayer, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, What doesn’t kill us truly does make us stronger, whitewashed tombs