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Monica the Mom

Regular visitors to this blog know that, early in life, St. Monica was fond of visiting the graves of the saints and celebrating their feast days there. Since today’s her memorial, isn’t it the least we can do for her? She’s entombed at the church named for her more famous son, St. Augustine, not far from Piazza Navona in Rome.

Listen, if we can’t make it to Rome by midnight, let’s at least meet at Fr. Z’s place, where he’s posted wonderful photos and information about this great and holy lady. When I’m in Rome, her church is the place where I habitually go to pray. I probably picked up the habit just because I was staying next door. But there are no accidents, and it’s a habit I’ve made no effort to shake. I have six kids. If I could learn parenting from anyone, it would be St. Monica.

Though she was probably only minimally literate, Monica appears in Augustine’s autobiographical works (Confessions and Dialogues) as a teacher of theologians. The lady prayed. Over the course of decades, she prayed her wayward son back into the Church. She went to Mass daily, and she attended funeral Masses of strangers, again almost daily, just so she could hear the Word of God proclaimed once more. No one better exemplifies the maxim of Evagrius: A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian. I count her farewell to Augustine in the Confessions among the most beautiful passages in world literature. At the trinket shop in the back of Sant’Agostino, I bought my wife a sturdy image of the scene, as it reminded me of my own lovely lady and our son, our firstborn. (The painting’s titled “Ecstasy at Ostia.”)

Greater men than I have concluded that that farewell scene is a pivotal moment in the history of mystical theology — and written books to make their case.

Pope Benedict, of course, has had his say.

Another way to celebrate St. Monica’s feast: The Novena to the Great Lady at St. Monica Institute for Patristic Studies.

UPDATE: Links from Jeff Ziegler:

— Today is the memorial of St. Monica (d. 387).
— Today’s readings at Mass: 1 Thes. 1:1-5, 8b-10; Ps. 149:1-6, 9;
Mt. 23:13-22.
— Where the memorial is kept with special devotion, Sir. 26:1-4,13-
16 and Lk. 7:11-17 may instead be read.
— Among Cardinal Newman’s sermons is “Intellect, the Instrument of
Religious Training,” preached on the Feast of St. Monica in 1856, in
which he compares a Catholic university to St. Monica, and students
to Augustines.
— Antonio Vivarini, “Marriage of St. Monica” (1441).