May 4: Monnica, Mother of Augustine of Hippo, 387
May 4, 2011 25 Comments
Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.
Monnica’s life story is enshrined in the spiritual autobiography of her eldest son, in The Confessions of Saint Augustine. Born in North Africa about 331, of Berber parents, Monnica was married to a Latinized provincial of Tagaste named Patricius, whom she won to the Christian faith before his death. In her earlier years she was not without worldly ambitions and tastes. She grew in Christian maturity and spiritual insight through an ever-deepening life of prayer.
Her ambition for her gifted son was transformed into a passionate desire for his conversion to Christ. After his baptism in Milan in 387, by Bishop Ambrose, Augustine and his mother, together with a younger brother, planned to return home to Africa. While awaiting ship at Ostia, the port of Rome, Monnica fell ill.
Augustine writes, “One day during her illness she had a fainting spell and lost consciousness for a short time. We hurried to her bedside, but she soon regained consciousness and looked up at my brother and me as we stood beside her. With a puzzled look, she asked, ‘Where was I?’ Then, watching us closely as we stood there speechless with grief, she said, ‘You will bury your mother here.’ ”
Augustine’s brother expressed sorrow, for her sake, that she would die so far from her own country. She said to the two brothers, “It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord.” To the question, whether she was not afraid at the thought of leaving her body in an alien land, she replied, “Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to ﬁnd me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.”
Recent excavations at Ostia have uncovered her original tomb. Her mortal remains, however, were transferred in 1430 to the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.
I. O Lord, who through spiritual discipline didst strengthen they servant Monnica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we beseech thee, and use us in accordance with thy will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II. O Lord, through spiritual discipline you strengthened your servant Monnica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Luke 7:11–17* or John 16:20–24*
Preface of Baptism
* In some years this passage will occur at the Daily Ofﬁce on this day.
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
* * *
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
To post a comment, your first and last name and email address are required. Your name will be published; your email address will not. The first time you post, a moderator will need to approve your submission; after that, your comments will appear instantly.