It can be said that mothers do it all when it comes to their children. They raise them by taking care of their physical, material, emotional, and spiritual needs. They, of course, have the help of their husbands to assist in fulfilling these needs, but ultimately it is the maternal grace given to them by God that helps them fulfill these needs. Mothers in turn grow in the virtuous life especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, by responding to this maternal grace. Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Monica, who exemplifies what it means to be a mother of great faith, hope, and love.
Saint Monica was born in northern Africa and lived a life of fidelity to the Lord in prayer. Her family life presented her with many challenges and sufferings, but she never let these cause her faith to waiver. Because of her fidelity to prayer she was a great witness to her spouse and her children in the virtues of faith, hope, and love. Her son, Saint Augustine, who led a rather dubious life before his conversion, came into the Church in part due to her perseverance in prayer. Saint Augustine, in his Confessions, records some of his mother’s final words:
My mother said, “Son, for my own part, I have no further delight in anything in this life. What I am doing here any longer, and to what end I am here, I do not know, now that my hopes in this world are accomplished. There was one thing for which I desired to linger for a while in this life, that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God has done this for me more abundantly, in that I now see you despising earthly happiness to become his servant. So why do I linger?” (9.10)
With these words, Saint Monica teaches us what it means to live out the theological virtues. She had a heart for the Lord and desired to see him face-to-face in the heavenly kingdom. She grew in faith with her perseverance in prayer. She never lost hope in the Lord or that his grace would bring about her son’s conversion and salvation. She was able to grow in these two virtues because of her love for the Lord and her son. All of the actions and decisions in her earthly life were grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
As an exemplar of maternal virtue, Saint Monica is a model for all mothers. No matter what challenges she may face in life, be they a struggling child or an internal difficulty, if a mother turns to God through prayer, she will find consolation and similarly grow in the virtuous life. God works through our prayers, and Saint Monica definitely teaches us that. Saint Monica, devoted child of Mary, Mother of Consolation, pray for us (Litany of the Three Patrons).
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)