Faithfulness in prayer

Daily Reading for May 4 • Monica, Mother of Augustine of Hippo, 387

After a year’s stay in Rome, which somewhat disappointed his high anticipations, Augustine was invited to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric. The pious bishop of Milan, Ambrose, was disturbed at the prospect of Augustine’s arrival, knowing his opposition to Christianity, and the pernicious influence he would be likely to exert, and publicly warned his people against him. Nevertheless he behaved most charitably towards Augustine, receiving him with much kindness, and the latter was so charmed by the urbanity of the bishop, that he consented to hear him preach, and from being fascinated with the eloquence of his discourses, became interested in the truths which they inculcated, and at length an earnest inquirer into the doctrines of Christianity. . . .

At this period Augustine was still far from acknowledging the truth. But he was no longer a Manichean, and this was a comfort to his mother, although she longed for more. “Assured that God would not fail to finish his good work, according to his promise, she replied to me with the tranquility of a heart strong in faith, that she hoped that before she left this world, Jesus Christ would grant her the blessing to see me a faithful child of the Church.”

Monica could not but entertain the profoundest gratitude and affection towards Ambrose, who was the instrument of whatever spiritual benefit her son had already received, and from whose holy influence she hoped much in the future. And Ambrose seems to have been deeply impressed with the piety of Monica. Augustine records: “He could not help repeating his praises of her whenever he saw me, congratulating me, that heaven had granted me such a mother.” . . .Monica seems herself to have been enlightened by the pious teachings and example of Ambrose, and to have been led to a greater simplicity of practice in religion. . . .

We know that Augustine’s whole life [after her death] was sanctified by the memory of his mother, and the hope of their reunion in heaven—that the great things which he did for the Church, and for all time—in fact all that he became, were traceable, under God, in great measure to her faithfulness in prayer.

From “Monica, the Mother of Augustine” in The Boston Review, Devoted to Theology and Literature, vol. 1, no. 4 (Boston: John M. Whittemore and Co., 1861).

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