Today it seems fitting to talk about not one Saint, but a trio. I’ll begin with the first two: St. Augustine whose feast is today (28 August), and St. Monica, whose feast was yesterday. St. Augustine, of course, is one of the greatest theologians, a bishop, Doctor of the Church, and subject of one of the best-known conversion stories in the history of Christianity. The story of St. Monica is also well-known, how she “stormed Heaven” with her fervent prayer over many years on behalf of her wayward son in his less-than-saintly days, and how after he had at last returned to Christ and His Church she died in great contentment.
St. Monica has long been an inspiration to parents worried about the spiritual welfare of their offspring, and she is a powerful intercessor on their behalf. We need to bear in mind, however, that as essential as her prayers were, they were not enough. She softened Augustine’s heart, and prepared the ground to receive the seeds of his conversion, but she herself was not able to plant those seeds: she could not convince her son to change his life.
Although Augustine was unwilling to be swayed by his mother’s entreaties, it seems that her prayers brought someone into his life to whom he was willing to listen: St. Ambrose, our third Saint. St. Monica’s efforts in the realm of the spirit combined with Ambrose’s eloquence and intellectual brilliance were too much for Augustine’s will to resist. Together they brought him back to communion with the Body of Christ.
It often perplexes and saddens those of us who are parents that however hard we try, sometimes our children simply can’t, or won’t, hear what we have to say. What’s even more maddening, they often treat those same things as the height of wisdom when they encounter them on the lips of a stranger. It’s a hard reality. That’s why when we are Storming Heaven for the sake of our children, whatever else we pray for, we would do well to ask the Lord to send a St. Ambrose.
Image top of page: “St. Augustine and St. Monica in a Sermon by St. Ambrose” by Jaume Huguet, 1470-1486