This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27 -- Feast of Saint Monica

Berber-looking version of Monica, by John Nava
Last year, I dodged Saint Monica, thinking I would fold her neatly into a post about her son, Saint Augustine of Hippo.  I totally failed to say anything substantive about her, and largely failed to say anything sensible about Augustine.  I'll dodge him this year in the hope that I might learn enough to someday post a coherent appreciation of him.  For now, I will content myself with this post about his mom.

Monica was a Berber and a Christian, the wife of a pagan Roman soldier.  What we know of her comes from Augustine's recollections.  Patritius, her husband, was a difficult fellow, cantankerous even.  His foul temperament was offset by Monica's patience and sweetness.  She worried that he and the kids were not baptized.  He had a deathbed conversion, which comforted her some.  By the time of their deaths, her children had apparently all become Christians.  Most pleasing must have been Augustine's conversion, for she followed him to Italy, praying for him as he worked his way through the trendy philosophies of his day, notably Manichaeism and Neo-Platonism.

The Death of Monica by Benozzo Gozzoli
She joined her son in refining her religious understanding in Italy.  She had been in the habit of offering bread, porridge, and wine at the oratories of the saints in Milan.  Saint Ambrose, her son's mentor and then peer, instructed her not to do this, as she was abetting ne'er-do-wells and drunkards.  [He might have put up signs at the oratories that said Please Don't Feed the Winos.]  She continued to pray at the oratories of the saints, with the understanding that "a heart full of purer petitions" was the proper offering.  The food and wine were given to needy (but presumably deserving and responsible) folks.

Augustine and Monica set out for Africa, which must have pleased her.  Even though she was successful in her goals and respected for her piety in Italy, I do not imagine it ever felt like home to her. They stopped at Ostia, the port of Rome, probably to arrange passage.  Unfortunately, she died and was buried there.  Augustine of course returned to Africa, became the Bishop of Hippo, wrote a best seller, and was posthumously recognized as a Doctor of the Church.

Monument to the saint in Santa Monica, CA
A couple hundred years after her death, her remains were moved to the Church of Saint Aurea in Ostia.      After another eight centuries or so, Pope Martin V ordered her remains brought to Rome.  The spot where she had been buried in Ostia was forgotten until around 1945, when a couple of boys were digging a hole for a football goal post and discovered her tombstone.

Monica, a patient and devoted mother, carefully watched over her son until his death.  She put up with a lot, before and after his conversion.  Most parents aren't saints, but they too put up with a lot, and perhaps by reflecting on Monica we can appreciate them more.

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