Monica was a devout Christian woman from North Africa (region of Algeria with Berber/Amazigh heritage) married to a promiscuous Roman pagan man named Patricius. She knew what it was like to have a drunken husband come home smelling like the perfume of bad decisions, and the pain of being slapped in the face (figuratively and literally I am sure). She bore three children; sons Augustine and Navigius, and a daughter, Perpetua.
The proverbial fruit didn’t fall far from the tree when young Augustine took after his father and became quite the thorn in everyone’s side. He was an extremely intelligent young man, easily moved to boredom and laziness, aiding in his bad behavior and I’m quite sure, his mother’s aging. He was easily persuaded by his friends into stealing, something he later said scared him because he enjoyed the thrill and adrenaline rush so much and could care less that he stole from his neighbors. As a young adult, he eluded his mother and fled to Carthage from Hippo (Algeria) where he fell into the ways of promiscuity and had an illegitimate child with a Roman woman, quite the scandal at the time. And Monica did the only thing she knew could help her son, pray, and pray hard.
Monica couldn’t get her children baptized when they were born and prayed Augustine would come to his senses and choose a Christian life on his own regardless. But prayer doesn’t work without action right? Monica followed Augustine to Carthage and set out on a quest to redirect her son from the darkness of debauchery into the light of decency and virtue, a life with meaning, a life with promise of salvation. Monica’s prayer of tears worked and Augustine had a change of heart after hearing the voice of a child say “take up and read.” He took up Paul the Apostles’ teachings from Romans 13 and read, or rather, consumed the words: “13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” He quickly moved from professor of rhetoric to preacher of God’s word after forming a strong relationship with Bishop Ambrose, someone Augustine respected and looked up to. After Augustine’s father died and Ambrose adopted him as his spiritual son, Augustine later said of Ambrose: "That man of God received me as a father would, and welcomed my coming as a good bishop should."
Augustine went on to become a bishop himself, making his mother so proud (and quite relieved). He is one of the most influential Saints in history, a Doctor of the Church. His writings and teachings are studied and dissected to this day. Monica’s tears flowed for her son, wishing more for his life than his own father accomplished. She kneeled to pray for Augustine so much that she bore bruised knees and a torn heart. If not for her veracity and buckets of prayerful tears, who knows where Augustine would be, probably lost to the sands of time with no story to tell centuries later. This is why Monica and Augustine’s stories are told together, if not for Monica, both her womb and her will, Augustine wouldn’t be the Saint we know and love today. And if not for Augustine, we wouldn’t know Monica’s story and the role she played in his life as a prominent bishop, theologian, and Christian.
Monica is the patron Saint of wives, mothers, and abuse victims and her feast day is August 27th.
Augustine is the patron Saint of printers, brewers, and theologians and his feast day is August 28th.