St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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St Monnica

For all the Saints: Monnica

The moral of this story may be: don’t let your mother pray for you if you don’t want to become what she prays for.  Especially is she’s a strong woman!

Monnica was born in 332 in Tagaste, North Africa, a thriving community now known as Souk Arhas, in the Northeast corner of Algeria.  North Africa was a Roman stronghold in those days.  Carthage had been conquered during the third of the Punic wars (149-146 BC), and the Romans had lain waste both the people and the city itself.  By the time Monnica was born, however, it was once again a major seaport but now controlled by Rome.

Monnica married a minor functionary of the Roman government named Patricius, who seems to have had a tendency toward violence and who cheated on her regularly.  Together they had three children and Monnica endured by clinging to her faith and prayer life.  Monnica bonded with other women and became a refuge for those who suffered physical abuse.

Like his father, her one son grew up outside the Christian faith and was, to all extents and purposes, a 4th century juvenile delinquent.  He had a child out of wedlock with a local girl, who died as a toddler.  His life was a great grief to his mother, but she kept on with her prayers on his behalf.  He was a smart boy, however, and went to school in Italy.  Monnica, by now a widow, followed him in hopes of bringing him under the wing of the church, which was quite powerful and popular in the city already known as “holy” by that time, but he skipped off once again to Milan.  She followed again and there met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan and a deeply spiritual leader of the church.  Eventually, after he had run like a dilettante through a number of sects and schools of the day, he came under the tutelage of Ambrose and was baptized.

Monnica died in Ostia, Italy, in 388 before returning to Africa, while she and her son were traveling back home.

St Monnica is commemorated annually throughout the church on May 4.

Oh yes.  Her son’s name?  Augustine, who grew up to become bishop of Hippo in Africa and is revered as one of the great thinkers of Christian history.

In his journal, called The Confessions, he wrote movingly and emotionally about the loss of his mother and her influence on his life.

Published 12 may 07