Saturday, July 4, 2015

St. Monica: An Example for the Catholic of the 21st Century

St. Monica, feast day, May 4th

(The following is based on the book Life of St. Monica by F.A. Forbes, Imprimatur June 1915. available as a free Kindle download HERE)

During the time of St. Monica, the 4th Century AD, the world was pagan, for the most part, but Catholics were no longer persecuted thanks to the Emperor Constantine. There were signs everywhere of the growth of the Faith, but also great opposition. Much like the Catholic of today, living in the midst of the Great Apostasy, St. Monica had to deal with a great many people who were not Catholic, including family members. Although her parents were Catholic, they arranged for her to marry a pagan Roman, Patricius, due to his station in society. She obeyed her parents and married him, suffering greatly at his violent temper and hatred of Catholicism. Her mother-in-law also was pagan and treated Monica badly. How did St. Monica react? Did she hide from her non-Catholic relatives and refuse to associate with them? After all, her husband was a demon-worshiping pagan - should she not leave him and her mother-in-law? Should she sit at the same table with him? Here is what St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians: 
Chapter 7:
[13] And if any woman hath a husband that believeth not, and he consent to dwell with her, let her not put away her husband. [14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy. [15] But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us in peace.
NOTE [14]  Is sanctified: The meaning is not, that the faith of the husband or the wife is of itself sufficient to put the unbelieving party, or their children, in the state of grace and salvation; but that it is very often an occasion of their sanctification, by bringing them to the true faith.
[16] For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
So St. Monica stayed with her violent pagan husband and treated him with kindness and charity, bearing three children, one of which, of course, was Augustine. St. Monica's tenderness with her husband and mother-in-law were accompanied by intense prayer and sacrifice for their conversion and after many years, both were converted and baptized, dying two years later as Catholics. She had saved them by remaining with them, serving them, cooking for them, cleaning for them, and, praying for them.
Nearly everyone knows the story of St. Monica's son, St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest penitents in the history of the Church. What made him such? His mother's presence. When Augustine became a Manichean, St. Monica became angry and, at first, would not allow him to continue to live in her house. However, she was still with him almost constantly. When he decided to leave Carthage and go to Rome, Monica followed him there. At least she tried to do so. Augustine tricked her into missing the ship and he left without her. Did she leave him alone? NO! She went after him anyway. When she finally got to Rome, he had gone to Milan. She followed him to Milan. Finally, through the prayers of St. Monica, and her tenderness and her presence with Augustine, he was converted and baptized. 
Some people believe that when they come to the Catholic Faith, whether it is from the Novus Ordo or some other false religion, that they must shun their families and avoid all contact with them. St. Paul's teaching reveals this for what it is: False. Of course, we must share the Faith with our loved ones; we must not go to their false churches, or share in prayers led by non-Catholics. But we must follow the example of St. Monica in living the teaching of the Church as expressed by St. Paul. He was speaking of spouses, but what he said applies equally to other relatives and friends as well. If they are willing to live in peace with us, we must not shun them, but rather, win them over with kindness, patience, and persevering prayer. Too many families are broken up by misguided Catholics thinking that they must avoid their relatives in order to convert them. But all this will do is make them forget about you and think you hate them because they are not Catholics. We must preach the Gospel, as St. Francis says, using words if necessary. That is, by our kindness and affection we win souls - if they are united to intense prayer and fasting. We must also ask the intercession of St. Monica and St. Augustine for the conversion of our families and friends and ask them to show us what we can do to help save their souls.
Dear St. Monica, please pray for the conversion of our family and friends. Amen.