Monica of Hippo
Our venerable Mother Monica of Hippo was the mother of St. Augustine. Born in a Christian family, she quietly and patiently nurtured her son while he was enamored with pagan and heretical sects until through the influence of St. Ambrose Augustine was baptized. She is commemorated on May 4.
Monica was born about the year 322 in Tagaste in North Africa, near the present day Souk Ahras in Algeria. Her parents were Christians of Berber descent who raised Monica as a devout Christian. She was married to Patricius an older pagan man who, while a man of kindness, had a violent temper and was prone to adultery. Yet, he did not beat her, a common practice of the time. Initially, her mother-in-law did not like her but through Monica’s gentle disposition and patience, she was able to win her mother-in-law’s respect. She attended church regularly and admonished women who were beaten to restrain their tongues around their husbands rather than proudly standing up to them. Through her prayers, and gentle and understanding demeanor Monica was able to bring her husband and mother-in-law to Christ before their deaths.
Monica and her husband had three children: Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua who were not baptized due her husband’s objections. While Augustine showed early talents as a scholar and teacher, at the same time he lived a life of debauchery - living with a mistress and subscribing to the heresy of Manichaeism. In pursuit of his career as a orator and teacher, Augustine left Africa and moved first to Rome and then to Milan where he met and learned about Christianity from Ambrose. After the death of her husband, Monica followed Augustine to Milan where in 387 her son was baptized on the eve of Pascha, to her great joy.
In his "Confessions", Augustine writes, "my mother shed more tears for me than mothers shed over their dead children. With her deep faith, which was granted to her because of her great piety, she saw me as morally dead. And You, Lord, heard her petition and did not overlook her tears with which she watered the earth wherever she prayed. Her pains to have me reborn through the Spirit were greater than those she suffered for me to be born in the flesh."
Shortly after Augustine’s conversion and baptism, Monica was returning to Africa with her sons, Augustine and Navigius. At Ostia, the port city of Rome, she became ill and died in 387, at the age of fifty six. She was first buried at Ostia before her saintly relics were transferred in the sixth century to the crypt of a local church. In the fifteenth century, her relics were translated to the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.