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Statuary St. Monica

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St. Monica

St Monica (331 – 387) born in Algeria, was an early Christian saint and the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. She is honoured in the Roman Catholic Church where she is remembered and venerated for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly the suffering against the adultery of her husband. She is patron saint of difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of adultery and verbal abuse.

She led a prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, who wrote extensively of her pious acts and life with her in his Confessions. Popular Christian legends recall Saint Monica to have wept every night for her son Augustine.

Life

Because of her name and place of birth, Monica is assumed to have been of Berber origin. She was married early in life to Patritius (or Patricius), who held an official position in Tagaste (present-day Souk Ahras, Algeria). Patritius was a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name; his temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica's married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius's mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. There was, of course, a gulf between husband and wife; her alms deeds and her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence. Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a good example amongst the wives and mothers of her native town; they knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.

Monica had three children: Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and she experienced much grief when Augustine fell ill. In her distress she asked Patritius to allow Augustine to be baptized; Patritius agreed, but on the boy's recovery withdrew his consent.

All Monica's anxiety now centered in Augustine; he was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. He was sent to school at Madaurus.

Her husband Patritius subsequently became a Christian. Meanwhile, Augustine had been sent to Carthage, to prosecute his studies, and here he lived dissolutely. Patritius died very shortly after converting to Christianity and Monica decided not to marry again.

At Carthage Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he shared his views regarding Manichaeism Monica drove him away from her table. However, she is said to have experienced a strange vision that convinced her to reconcile with her son.

It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, "the child of those tears shall never perish." Monica followed her wayward son to Rome, where he had gone secretly; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance.

In his book Confessions, Augustine wrote of a peculiar practice of his mother in which she "brought to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread, and wine." When she moved to Milan, the bishop Ambrose forbade her to use the offering of wine, since "it might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink". So, Augustine wrote of her:

  In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor - so that the communion of the Lord's body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.

  — Confessions 6.2.2

Mother and son spent six months of true peace at Rus Cassiciacum (present-day Cassago Brianza) after which time Augustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. Africa claimed them, however, and they set out on their journey, stopping at Civitavecchia and at Ostia. Here death overtook Monica and the finest pages of Augustine's Confessions were penned as the result of the emotion he then experienced.

Veneration

Saint Monica was buried at Ostia, and at first seems to have been almost forgotten, though her body was removed during the 6th century to a hidden crypt in the church of Santa Aurea in Osta. Monica was buried near the tomb of St. Aurea of Ostia. It was later transferred to the Augustinian Basilica of Sant'Agostino in Rome.

Anicius Bassus wrote Monica's funerary epitaph, which survived in ancient manuscripts. The actual stone on which it was written was rediscovered in the summer of 1945 in the church of Santa Aurea. The fragment was discovered after two boys were digging a hole to plant a football post in the courtyard beside Santa Aurea.

A translation from the Latin, by Douglas Boin, reads as:

  Here the most virtuous mother of a young man set her ashes, a second light to your merits, Augustine. As a priest, serving the heavenly laws of peace, you taught the people entrusted to you with your character. A glory greater than the praise of your accomplishments crowns you both - Mother of the Virtues, more fortunate because of her offspring.

About the 13th century, however, the cult of St. Monica began to spread and a feast in her honour was kept on 4 May. In 1430 Pope Martin V ordered the relics to be brought to Rome. Many miracles occurred on the way, and the cultus of St. Monica was definitely established. Later the Archbishop of Rouen, Cardinal d'Estouteville, built a church at Rome in honour of St. Augustine, the Basilica di Sant'Agostino, and deposited the relics of St. Monica in a chapel to the left of the high altar. The Office of St. Monica, however, does not seem to have found a place in the Roman Breviary before the 16th century.

The city of Santa Monica, California, is named after Monica. A legend states that in the 18th century Father Juan Crespi named a local dripping spring Las Lagrimas de Santa Monica ("Saint Monica's Tears") (today known as the Serra Springs) that was reminiscent of the tears that Saint Monica shed over her son's early impiety. As recorded in his diary, however, Crespi actually named the place San Gregorio. What is known for certain is that by the 1820s, the name Santa Monica was in use and its first official mention occurred in 1827 in the form of a grazing permit. There is a statue of this saint in Santa Monica's Palisades Park by sculptor Eugene Morahan; it was completed in 1934.

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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