How should we approach family or friends who have lost their faith? Learn from the example of Saint Monica on this episode of Your Next Mission From God!
Born in North Africa at a time when Christianity was finally made legal and accepted in the Roman Empire, Saint Monica learned of faith from her maidservant. As a teenager, her family arranged for her to be married to an alcoholic, pagan, and often abusive man. Despite years of difficulty, she eventually won over her mother in law’s respect.. She was incredibly devoted to her faith, going to church twice a day. As someone who never gossiped and could keep confidence, Monica’s neighbors often came to her for advice and mediation.
Monica had three children, including her oldest, the future Saint Augustine. A child prodigy, Augustine went to Carthage to study at 17. During that time, he completely lost the faith that Monica had tried to pass on to him. 5 years later, Augustine returned with a mistress and child. Seeing that Augustine was leading his siblings away from the faith, Monica banished him from her house.
Around this time, Monica received a great consolation when her husband converted a year before his death. Monica also dreamed that Augustine would come back to the faith, prompting a reconciliation as she continued to try to bring him back. Later when her other children were grown, Augustine agreed to take her along to Rome. But in a port city while she was praying in a chapel, Augustine deceived and abandoned her.
Undeterred and assisted by local Christians, Monica followed Augustine to Rome and then to Milan. During a storm on the sea voyage, the passengers came to her for solace. While living in Milan, Monica became part of a community of Christians led by Saint Ambrose. After seeing her distress and prayers for Augustine, Ambrose famously told her that “The son of so many tears must not be lost.” He also gave Monica the advice of talking less to Augustine about God, and talking to God more about Augustine.
Monica continued her prayers for her son, although with less direct confrontation than in the past. Through his debates and friendship with Ambrose, Augustine underwent a powerful conversion and reformed his life, becoming a great Doctor of the Church. He came to appreciate his mother, writing of his love for her in his Confessions. They had a very beautiful relationship until the end of Monica’s life.