This upcoming Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s the day when Americans remember and celebrate the contributions and sacrifices their moms have made on their behalf.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to tell you a story about one mother whose devotion shaped not only her son’s life but countless others, as well.
Her name was Monica. A Christian, she was married to a prominent man who wasn’t a believer. He was unfaithful and even beat her at times. Monica’s response was to go to church every day and pray for his conversion. She hoped that by setting a godly example, even in the midst of her mistreatment, she might win him over. And that’s exactly what happened.
The suffering and anguish caused by her husband paled before what Monica’s oldest son put her through. He lived a dissolute life, devoted to pleasure. He left one mistress and took up with another. His only son was born out-of-wedlock.
His lack of faith and rejection of Christian truth hurt Monica even more. He belittled her beliefs and seemed to go out of his way to embrace Christianity’s competitors for the hearts and, especially, minds of his contemporaries. He later recalled how his being “dead [to] that faith and spirit which,” as he put it, “[my mother] had from you . . . O, Lord” made her weep.
Still, Monica never gave up. The greatest preacher of the time, knowing of her prayers and tears for her son, told her that “it is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish.”
That preacher, Bishop Ambrose of Milan, was right. At the age of 35, Monica’s son, Augustine, became a Christian and was baptized, along with his son, Adeodatus, by Ambrose. A few months later, on the way home to Hippo with Augustine and Adeodatus, Monica fell ill and died.
Monica could not have known that her prayers and devotion would affect not only the life of her son but also the course of history. Her concern was that her son believe “the truth which is in Jesus.”
This devotion to the spiritual welfare of her son is why Monica is regarded as the model for all Christian mothers. Like Susannah Wesley, her zeal for the salvation of her son had an impact far beyond anything she could have imagined.
But there’s another reason why Monica’s story should resonate with “BreakPoint” listeners and readers. Her concern was not only that her son give up his debauchery, as important as that was. Monica was determined that he embrace the truth of Christianity. She prayed that he would renounce false worldviews and put his sharp mind to the service of Christian truth.
And that’s exactly what he did. Augustine championed the Christian worldview against the false alternatives of his day. Much of what Christians believe today was first and best articulated by Monica’s son. His writings, the Confessions and the City of God, are considered classics, not only of the Christian faith, but also of all of Western culture and civilization. Those books have profoundly shaped me and my ministry.
While there can be only one Monica and Augustine, every Christian mother—and father, for that matter—should be concerned with their kids’ worldviews. Praying for them and teaching them to seek after Christian truth is a solemn duty on our part and a contribution they will always remember, whether it is Mother’s Day or any other day of the year.
|For Further Reading and Information|
Read more about Saint Augustine.
St. Augustine, City of God.
Read St. Augustine’s Confessions.
Jessica Steinmetz, “Feast Day—August 27,” (about Saint Monica), About.com.
Read more about Saint Monica.
“Monica of Hippo,” Wikipedia.
Roberto Rivera, “If We Meet Again: Roberto Reflects on the Passing of His Mother,” BreakPoint Online, 17 November 2003.
Matthew B. O’Brien, “Motherhood . . . and the Meaning of Marriage,” To the Source, 9 May 2006.