Loved ones and lost souls

By Joe Tremblay

Through the saved, God very often searches for the lost. Quite often, loved ones of lost souls are the means by which the Good Shepherd finds his lost sheep.

This couldn’t be truer for St. Monica who, in the fourth century, followed her son, Augustine all the way to Italy from her home in northern Africa. At the time, St. Augustine was pursuing a career in teaching rhetoric. He didn’t particularly like her tagging along, so he tried to find ways to lose her. However, she was determined to track her oldest son down so that he could be won over to Christ.

In his younger years, St. Augustine was an intellectual who was given over to false beliefs about God and the world. He was also a worldly and sensual man; as such, he did not have any scruples about “shacking up” with his lover. Living the wild life, he presumed the Lord’s patience by praying, “God, make me chaste…but not yet.” As one might expect, a baby came from this out-of-wedlock union. The boy was given the name of Adeodatus. St. Augustine, being the wayward son that he was, would be the source of much sorrow for his saintly mother.

Mother Teresa once told a friend of mine that for those souls who need to be saved from moral and spiritual darkness–such as prostitution and drug addiction–a price needs to be paid. Jesus said as much to the disciples who failed to exorcise a man possessed with demons: “But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” St. Monica, in a mystical union with our Lord, needed to pay the price for her son Augustine. She carried about in her maternal heart the dying of Jesus. (cf. II Cor 4:10) Indeed, her heart was broken that Augustine did not know Jesus Christ as his savior.

What was true for St. Monica is true for every Christian. And that is, “Christ’s sufferings overflow to us.” (I Cor 1:5) His Passion does not make our sacrifices unnecessary. On the contrary, Jesus suffered for sinners so that we too could suffer for sinners. St. Augustine’s soul was purchased with his mother’s tears; and those tears were mingled with the blood of Christ.

St. Monica, however, was given some relief through a dream she had. This was an indication her prayers were heard. In the book, Confessions, St. Augustine relates the following about what would turn out to be a prophetic dream by St. Monica:

“She saw herself standing upon a certain wooden rule (a measuring rod which symbolized the rule of Faith), and coming towards her was a young man, splendid, joyful and smiling upon her, although she grieved and was crushed with grief. When he asked her the reason for her sorrow and her daily tears–he asked, as is the custom, not for the sake of learning but for the sake of teaching–she replied that she lamented for my (St. Augustine) perdition. Then he bade her to rest secure and instructed her that she should attend and see that where she was, there was I also. And when she looked there she saw me standing on the same rule.”

Soon thereafter, St. Monica arrived in Milan, Italy only to join the company of a great bishop–St. Ambrose. She sought his counsel and how she might save her son from the erroneous sect called Manichaeism. In response, Bp. Ambrose said to her, “Only pray to the Lord on his behalf. He will find out by reading what the character of that error is and how great is its impiety.” She then implored the saintly bishop to talk to Augustine. But St. Ambrose refused by saying that her son needed to be willing to talk to him; that a conversation about the Faith should not be imposed or forced.

Nevertheless, she persisted, with tears flowing, in asking the same favor over and over again. Finally, St. Ambrose got annoyed and said, “Go away from me now! As you live, it is impossible that the son of such tears should perish.” (That’s right. Saints get annoyed too). In any case, instead of getting offended, St. Monica took it as a sign from heaven that her prayers and sacrifices would pay off.

The tears of St. Monica, in a real sense, washed St. Augustine’s soul before his sins were sacramentally wiped clean in the waters of baptism. When a son or daughter strays from Christ, sometimes the tears of a mother make up for the lack of tears we ought to have for our own sins.

St. Monica’s perseverance paid off. St. Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, entered the Catholic Church in the year 387 AD. After being initiated into his new life with Christ, he became the Bishop of Hippo, located in northern Africa. He would go on to lay the cornerstone of Western Civilization with his sanctity and theology. To be sure, St. Augustine is considered one of the most important Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Church. All this was made possible by a mother who did not give up.

Joe Tremblay writes for Sky View, a current event and topic-driven Catholic blog. He is currently a contributor to The Edmund Burke Institute, and a frequent guest on Relevant Radio’s, The Drew Mariani Show. Tremblay is also married with five children.

Copyright © 2011 Catholic News Agency

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