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We have discussed in the past that not all the saints burst into the world as the holiest of holy people, and many started out as rather sinful individuals. One such Saint is Augustine of Hippo. He is the patron saint of beer brewers because of the habits of his life prior to his conversion. Yet, he is is now considered one of the preeminent Doctors of the Church and it would be difficult to find anyone who has influenced Christianity more than him outside of the Holy Scriptures. So, how did he go from bad boy to Saint? There were many contributing factors, but if you were to ask Augustine, he would likely say, “Momma.” We know her as Monica. However, Monica was not always a saint either.
She grew up in a Christian home, but not all the virtues seem to have been present in her life, and it was one area of concern which finally brought her to a more complete faith. It seems that she had the chore of going down into the cellar for the wine for family meals. As a child, she did not partake, but one day out of curiosity, she took a sip. Later, the sip became a cup and then the cup became as much as she could drink. She was eventually found out by one of the servants who referred to her as a “wine-bibber,” a drunk. The remark made Monica so ashamed, that she never touched liquor again, but she must have passed that taste onto her son Augustine.
At first she would raise a fuss with him and chastise him, but he only ignored her pleas. However, with the help of a priest, she realized that this wasn’t going to do anything but frustrate her and drive a wedge between her and Augustine, so the priest had her try a different tack, which involved intercessory prayer, fasting, and vigils on behalf of her son. She later had a dream where she was weeping over her son’s downfall, when suddenly an angel appeared and said to her, “But your son is with you.” When she told Augustine the dream, he laughed and told his mother that they could be together if she would give up her Christianity, to which she replied, “The angel did not say that I was with you, but that you were with me.” That gave her the hope she needed and she continued to pray. It took several years, but eventually Augustine converted and went on to become one of the greats.
There is an incident in Mark’s Gospel where a young boy is said to have a demon that casts him down and harms him. The boy’s father brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples and asked them to heal his son. They tried, but were unsuccessful, so the man brought his son to Jesus who was able to heal the boy. Later, in private, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting.”
This being the first Wednesday of the month, we will take part in the sacrament of unction, healing. It would be wonderful if every time we offered up intercessory prayers of healing that the person was healed immediately—and that can happen!—but more often, the healing (which comes in many different forms: physical, spiritual, emotional) takes time. That was a lesson that the disciples and Monica both had to learn and it is one that we also must be taught. And then, in faith, believe that—no matter the perceived result or lack of—God is working, hearing the prayers of his people and fulfilling those prayers according to his purposes.
Monica did not become a saint because she performed great deeds or died violently as a martyr. Monica became a Saint because she prayed and she believed in God’s promises. That is a practice that we can all emulate.