St. Monica — Offering Hope for Mothers

As a woman who persevered in a difficult marriage, dealt with a cantankerous mother-in-law who shared her home, and prayed unceasingly for a wayward son, St. Monica serves as a wonderful role model for wives and mothers who are struggling in their vocation. St. Monica was born to Christian parents in 333. She was married at a young age to a pagan. Her husband Patritius was a government official in Tagaste. He had a violent temper and was unfaithful. As a result, her marriage was very unhappy. Her equally unpleasant mother-in-law also lived with them and did all in her power to make Monica’s life harder. Monica’s difficult home situation was well-known and she served as something of a role model to other suffering wives and mothers in Tagaste as she patiently endured.

Monica had three children: Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. She wanted to have them baptized, but Patritius refused. Ultimately, through her prayer and patient example, both Patritius and his mother converted to Christianity. Patritius died one year later. By this time, however, Augustine has been sent to Carthage to continue his studies. Here, he fell into serious sin and became a Manichean. Monica was so disgusted that she banished him from her table, but after having a vision, she changed her mind and welcomed him back. Still desperate, she sought the advice of an unknown bishop who reassured her with the famous statement that “the child of those tears shall never perish.” As a result, she stuck close to Augustine, perhaps a little closer than he liked.

At the age of twenty-nine, Augustine told his mother he was going down to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. He actually took off for Rome where he was planning to teach Rhetoric. Monica was not deterred. She followed him there, only to discover when she arrived that Augustine had gone on to Milan. She followed him there as well. She was a woman who was not going to give up, and her persistence was rewarded. At Milan, she received her heart’s greatest desire and saw Augustine baptized by St. Ambrose after he had fought baptism for seventeen years. Augustine and Monica set out for Africa soon after, but Monica would not make it. She died in Ostia in 387. Her death prompted Augustine to write his “Confessions.”

St. Monica is a role-model for all of us who feel we pray in vain. In a world which cries out for immediate gratification she reminds us of the importance of patience. God does not always answer our prayers in the time frame we hope for. Sometimes, we need to pray and pray and pray for years and trust in God’s timing. St. Monica is the patron saint of alcoholics, married women, abuse victims, and mothers. Her feast day is August 27th .

Prayer to St. Monica

Exemplary Mother of the great Augustine, you perseveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day so that they may learn to draw their children to God. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray. Amen.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic, she blogs at

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  • Suzanne

    Thank you, Patrice, the timing of this article is perfect. I have been praying for two years now for our son who left the Church and is living a disordered life. Now his brother (who not long ago had a very fervent faith that inspired my husband and me) has decided that the Church is no longer a priority in his life.

    When my husband read in St. Augustine’s “Confessions” about Monica’s vision and the inspiration that she had to welcome him at her table, he was inspired to do likewise with our sons, especially the first wayward one. We believe that that gesture of love and welcoming will touch their hearts somehow.

    I love St. Monica because she is such an example of perseverance in love and prayer. I hope I don’t have to hang in there praying for conversion for seventeen years, but I know I have a heavenly friend to accompany me!

  • Maria V. Gallagher

    Beautiful reflection. Thank you for writing it!