Saint Monica, Praying Her Heart Out – Br. Curtis Almquist
Saint Monica, Mother of Augustine of Hippo
1 Samuel 1:10-20
In the calendar of the church we remember today Saint Monica for her patience, and perseverance, and faithfulness. She was born in north Africa about year 430, and became an ardent Christian. Not so for her husband, Patricius, a Roman administrator known for his temper and infidelities, nor by their son, Augustine, who took after his father. Monica prayed and prayed for them, and a miracle happened. Shortly before his death, her husband converted to Christianity, and thereafter, the wild son, Augustine, also. Some years later, Augustine would write in his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Very autobiographical.
The three lessons from the Bible appointed for today all tell stories about prayer for children. Whether or not we be parents, most likely all of us carry in our hearts people who have garnered our heart’s attention. We carry a deep concern for them, a fear for them, a hope for them, a love for them. We may pray for them, perhaps ardently, either because they have asked us to pray, or because we have been drawn to pray for them. Perhaps we pray because there is nothing else we can do. We are otherwise powerless to make a difference in their lives. So we pray.
Prayer is a mystery, a mystery that begins in God. Our prayer is always in response to God’s initiative. It is God who has caught our attention. Mysteriously, in our prayer for others, we invoke God of the heavens meanwhile being grounded in God’s love, God’s healing light, God’s presence here on earth. It is like we complete a triangle: God, our own self, these other persons for whom we pray. In my own prayer for others I often remember the image given to us by Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th century abbess and mystic. Hildegard said we are like mirrors, catching God’s light and then mirroring that light onto the countenance others. Whatever prompts us to pray for others, we are always responding to God’s initiative.
Who Monica’s son, Augustine, would become held a stature far beyond all that she could have asked for or imagined, especially given what a bad, bad boy he was. Monica sets a very high ceiling for hope in how we and others can change, amazingly, miraculously for the better. So we pray our hearts out.
Blessed Monica, whom we remember today.
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I am curious: “especially given what a bad, bad boy he was”. Was his conversion and repentance never sufficient to allow forgiveness?
I love your sermon about St. Monica and Augustine. I am ardently praying daily for my 12- and 14-year-old grandsons who don’t live in another state, and are “unchurched.” My son, their father, became a Christian as a child, was active as a teenager, but is not actively practicing the religion now by going to church. Their mother is a scientist, maybe a believer, I don’t know.
It gave me hope to learn about the power of prayer for my grandchildren in your sermon.
P.S. I am a member of St. Michael & All Angels in Dallas, Texas, and came to the monastery last fall. I hope to come back sometime soon!