Anyone who knows even a little about St. Augustine of Hippo is also most likely aware of his mother, St. Monica. Her sainthood is due to her fidelity to Christian love, as she was given in marriage to a domineering husband, a cantankerous mother-in-law and her son, all of whom were the subjects of her constant prayer. Augustine, her eldest child, led a life of debauchery until he was nearly thirty years old. At first, she would not allow Augustine to eat or sleep in the family home but after a vision in which she was told that he would return to the faith, Monica stayed close to him – even following him to Rome and to Milan in his attempts to escape her surveillance. If one can speak of “success” in such matters, Monica certainly achieved it. Augustine became a bishop and one of the most noted theologians of the early Church.
Mothers shepherd their children to adulthood in various ways great and small – worrying, praising and correcting, giving advice (welcomed or not), and, perhaps for many, praying constantly for them and placing them in God’s hands as they, themselves, prepare to leave the earth. Some of us are lucky enough to have been graced with mothers who knew the balance of all the above behaviors. Other mothers need to be forgiven for holding their children too tightly or not close enough. On this feast of St. Monica, let us give thanks for the greatest gift our mothers have given to us: the gift of life, opening to all that it can mean for our growth each day.