Social media makes it too easy to fall into the trap of believing how a marriage--and life in general--should appear. We scroll through our feeds seeing perfectly curated images of smiling faces and sweet captions. Everyone’s lives appear blissful.
What if you came across the account of a woman whom you learned had an unfaithful husband, an abusive mother-in-law, a promiscuous son, and a grandchild born out of wedlock? What if you knew she was a former alcoholic, or that she cried daily over her husband and son? Would you consider her overly dramatic if you heard she followed that same son to a different country when he ran away?
This is all part of Saint Monica’s story.
Monica is popularly known as the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo. She is the patron saint of difficult marriages, wayward children, victims of adultery or unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, and the conversion of relatives. Born in 332 AD in Thaghaste, now present day Souk Ahraus, Algeria, she was raised by Christian parents. But as a young adult, she was married off to Patricius, a Roman pagan and city official.
She suffered greatly throughout her marriage. However, she remained steadfast in prayer and was considered a pious woman. Despite his mistreatment of her and his disdain for her prayer life, it is said Patricius still admired his wife. Many women in the city sought out Monica’s advice and friendship if they also experienced mistreatment by their husbands.
God provided Monica great consolation. He answered her many years of prayer when she witnessed her husband convert to Christianity a year before his death, followed by Augustine’s conversion years later, with the help of Saint Ambrose. Augustine went on to be a priest and bishop. His numerous writings have significantly influenced both the Catholic Church and Western Civilization; today we know him as a Doctor of the Church.
While all of us may not be in Monica’s exact circumstances, that doesn’t void our lives from seasons of great suffering.
When we first say our wedding vows, it is by God’s mercy that he does not fully reveal what trials we will endure throughout our vocation. If we knew how many tears we might shed--much like Saint Monica--over the course of our marriages, we might despair or walk away in fear.
If we are afflicted by a loved one or find ourselves in a time of desolation, it can feel incredibly lonely and unfair. We can only imagine there were many times the cross felt extremely heavy and burdensome for Saint Monica, as well. If there is something the life of this woman can teach us, it is this: we are not alone, and God hears our prayers.
With great dedication to the salvation of her loved ones, she persevered in the hope of knowing that he would bring about the graces of healing and conversion. At any point, Monica could have just quit her prayers and given them no more thought. But she did not.
Because of her perseverance, her husband and son not only found Christ, but Monica’s intercession bore the gift of Saint Augustine and the work he did for God’s Church. Saint Monica teaches us that if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our cries will not be vain. Our prayers will ultimately bear fruit.
Litany of Saint Monica
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. / God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us. / God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us. / God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. / Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us. / Holy Mary, conceived without stain of original sin, pray for us and for our children. / Holy Mary, glorious Mother of Jesus Christ, pray for us and for our children.
Saint Monica, pray for us and for our children. / Model of wives, pray for us and for our children. / You who converted your unbelieving husband, Mother of Saint Augustine, pray for us and for our children. / Strict and prudent teacher, guardian of your son in all his ways, pray for us and for our children. / You who carefully watched over his conduct, pray for us and for our children. / You who were sorely distressed at his erring from the right, pray for us and for our children. / You who were untiring in your petitions for his soul’s safety, pray for us and for our children. / You who still hoped on amid the bitterness of your heart and your floods of tears, pray for us and for our children. / You who were filled with consolation upon his return to God, pray for us and for our children. / You who died calmly after faithfully fulfilling your duties, pray for us and for our children. / You who are the prayerful intercessor of all mothers who pray and weep as you did, pray for us and for our children.
Preserve the innocence of our children, we beseech you, Saint Monica. / Protect them against the deceits of evil men, we beseech you, Saint Monica. / Protect them from the dangers of bad example, we beseech you, Saint Monica.
Watch over the movements of grace in their hearts. Let the Christian virtues strike deep root in their hearts and bear much fruit. Redouble your intercession for youth approaching manhood. Obtain for all in mortal sin true contrition and perfect conversion. Obtain for all mothers to fulfill their duties steadily and perseveringly.
Commend all mothers to the protection of the ever-blessed Virgin Mother of Our Lord. Favorably incline the heart of your beloved son Augustine to the salvation of our children.
Saint Augustine, holy son of a saintly mother, pray for us and for our children. / Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord! / Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord! / Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O Lord!
Pray for us, O holy Saint Monica, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.