Our Church Kalendar today commemorates Monica, the 4th century woman from what is now Algeria, who was the mother of St. Augustine. She was a Christian, but her husband and mother-in-law were pagans and her son Augustine had become a Manichean—a new religion competing with Christianity. Monica prayed for their conversions, providing for them a personal example of faithful devotion to God and care for the poor. Eventually their conversions happened but not overnight—in Augustine’s case he was not baptized until age 31. Her husband and mother-in-law had been baptized sooner.
Given what we know about our own family relationships we can infer that Monica’s longing for the conversion of her husband, mother-in-law, and son and her endurance in persuasion was not a matter of complaining, nagging, and whining. She must have been patient, although not passively so, much less passively aggressive (“Never mind, I’ll just sit in the dark.”). It would have been a kindly patience, infused with hope. St Paul says in his letter to the Romans (5:4) “suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope.” As the years went by Monica never gave up hope. She was sustained and transformed by its continuing. In time even her mother-in-law became a Christian—and we can call that a miracle!
As we live now in times of suffering, with no quick resolution in sight, Monica’s example of perseverance in hope speaks directly to us and our situation. “Blessed Monica, pray with us and for us now, that we may join you in active and resilient patience—in hope that never gives up.”
Even her mother-in-law? . . . wow.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington