Editor's note:

Mon­i­ca of Hip­po was an ear­ly Chris­t­ian saint and the moth­er of St. Augus­tine of Hip­po. She is remem­bered and hon­ored in most Chris­t­ian denom­i­na­tions, albeit on dif­fer­ent feast days, for her out­stand­ing Chris­t­ian virtues, par­tic­u­lar­ly the suf­fer­ing caused by her hus­band’s adul­tery, and her 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 weep­ing every night for her son Augustine.

As we approach Moth­er’s Day this week, we hope that read­ing Augustine’s ten­der trib­ute to the faith­ful tenac­i­ty of his moth­er will bring some com­fort to trou­bled moth­ers (and fathers) who are wor­ried about their chil­dren, and help the rest of us to appre­ci­ate anew how effi­ca­cious the cease­less prayers of our par­ents have been. 

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Confessions


19. And now thou didst stretch forth thy hand from above” and didst draw up my soul out of that pro­found dark­ness [of Manicheism] because my moth­er, thy faith­ful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than moth­ers are accus­tomed to weep for the bod­i­ly deaths of their chil­dren. For by the light of the faith and spir­it which she received from thee, she saw that I was dead. And thou didst hear her, O Lord, thou didst hear her and despised not her tears when, pour­ing down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed. Thou didst tru­ly hear her.

For what oth­er source was there for that dream by which thou didst con­sole her, so that she per­mit­ted me to live with her, to have my meals in the same house at the table which she had begun to avoid, even while she hat­ed and detest­ed the blas­phemies of my error? In her dream she saw her­self stand­ing on a sort of wood­en rule, and saw a bright youth approach­ing her, joy­ous and smil­ing at her, while she was griev­ing and bowed down with sor­row. But when he inquired of her the cause of her sor­row and dai­ly weep­ing (not to learn from her, but to teach her, as is cus­tom­ary in visions), and when she answered that it was my soul’s doom she was lament­ing, he bade her rest con­tent and told her to look and see that where she was there I was also. And when she looked she saw me stand­ing near her on the same rule.

Whence came this vision unless it was that thy ears were inclined toward her heart? O thou Omnipo­tent Good, thou carest for every one of us as if thou didst care for him only, and so for all as if they were but one!

20. And what was the rea­son for this also, that, when she told me of this vision, and I tried to put this con­struc­tion on it: that she should not despair of being some­day what I was,” she replied imme­di­ate­ly, with­out hes­i­ta­tion, No; for it was not told me that where he is, there you shall be’ but where you are, there he will be’”? I con­fess my remem­brance of this to thee, O Lord, as far as I can recall it — and I have often men­tioned it. Thy answer, giv­en through my watch­ful moth­er, in the fact that she was not dis­turbed by the plau­si­bil­i­ty of my false inter­pre­ta­tion but saw imme­di­ate­ly what should have been seen — and which I cer­tain­ly had not seen until she spoke — this answer moved me more deeply than the dream itself. Still, by that dream, the joy that was to come to that pious woman so long after was pre­dict­ed long before, as a con­so­la­tion for her present anguish. Near­ly nine years passed in which I wal­lowed in the mud of that deep pit and in the dark­ness of false­hood, striv­ing often to rise, but being all the more heav­i­ly dashed down. But all that time this chaste, pious, and sober wid­ow — such as thou dost love — was now more buoyed up with hope, though no less zeal­ous in her weep­ing and mourn­ing; and she did not cease to bewail my case before thee, in all the hours of her sup­pli­ca­tion. Her prayers entered thy pres­ence, and yet thou didst allow me still to tum­ble and toss around in that darkness.


21. Mean­while, thou gavest her yet anoth­er answer, as I remem­ber — for I pass over many things, has­ten­ing on to those things which more strong­ly impel me to con­fess to thee — and many things I have sim­ply for­got­ten. But thou gavest her then anoth­er answer, by a priest of thine, a cer­tain bish­op reared in thy Church and well versed in thy books. When that woman had begged him to agree to have some dis­cus­sion with me, to refute my errors, to help me to unlearn evil and to learn the good — for it was his habit to do this when he found peo­ple ready to receive it — he refused, very pru­dent­ly, as I after­ward real­ized. For he answered that I was still unteach­able, being inflat­ed with the nov­el­ty of that heresy, and that I had already per­plexed divers inex­pe­ri­enced per­sons with vex­a­tious ques­tions, as she her­self had told him. But let him alone for a time,” he said, only pray God for him. He will of his own accord, by read­ing, come to dis­cov­er what an error it is and how great its impi­ety is.” He went on to tell her at the same time how he him­self, as a boy, had been giv­en over to the Manicheans by his mis­guid­ed moth­er and not only had read but had even copied out almost all their books. Yet he had come to see, with­out exter­nal argu­ment or proof from any­one else, how much that sect was to be shunned — and had shunned it. When he had said this she was not sat­is­fied, but repeat­ed more earnest­ly her entreaties, and shed copi­ous tears, still beseech­ing him to see and talk with me. Final­ly the bish­op, a lit­tle vexed at her impor­tu­ni­ty, exclaimed, Go your way; as you live, it can­not be that the son of these tears should per­ish.” As she often told me after­ward, she accept­ed this answer as though it were a voice from heaven.

Excerpt­ed from Con­fes­sions by Augus­tine of Hip­po, in the pub­lic domain via Catholic Spir­i­tu­al Direc­tion.

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