Are You Augustine, Monica, Both or Neither?

St. Augustine and his mother, St. Monica

I’m at work on an interesting project — a foreword for a devotional book relating to the lives of St. Monica and St. Augustine. While I can’t say too much about the book at this point, suffice it to say that I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this saintly mother/son combo the past few days as I’ve poured over the manuscript.

As a mother, and especially a mother of sons, I can’t help but feel a special kinship with St. Monica. As my own boys mature and become more independent, she’s a regular “go to” intercessor for me. And a recent viewing of the wonderful film Restless Heart has reshaped a few of my previously held perceptions about this patroness of housewives and disappointing children. I now see in her a strength of spirit that supersedes my previously held sense of her as a spiritual (I hate to say it) nag.

I’ll also admit that I’ve never really been able to relate to St. Augustine as well as I have in the past few years as I’ve watch my babies grow into independent men with minds of their own. It’s been a goal of mine to respect their privacy as much as possible in my writing efforts over the past few years, so I won’t dwell on this more than to say I can now see things a bit more clearly from his vantage point too.

So if someone asked me, “Are you Augustine, Monica, both or neither?” I’d quickly respond with a fervant, “Monica!” I’ve always been goodie-two-shoes, so St. Augustine’s circuitous path to salvation is really not one to which I can relate. But some of my closest friends and some folks I greatly admire would definitely fall more into the Augustine camp than Monica’s. And some of you out there are probably equal parts of both saints — you have a path through life that’s led you to a kinship with both of their spirits. And likely too, we’ve got some folks who’d answer my question with a resounding, “Neither!”, and that’s fair too.

So now, I put the question to you. “Are you Augustine, Monica, both or neither?” Why?

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms.

  • Gina

    I am a Monica! She has become a dear friend of mine this year, as I pray for my (still very young) children, and my husband. He is a faithful Catholic, but still his struggles seem to be some that Monica may have similarly experienced with her husband (doubt, struggles to trust in the unseen faith that seems to defy reason…).

    • lisahendey

      Gina, I love your comment — you know, you remind me that far too often I think of St. Monica in her role as mother, and not the struggles (and blessings) she experienced as a wife. You’ve blessed me with your comment. Thanks!!

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    St. Monica. Getting my family to heaven is my highest priority and there are a few family members who, like Augustine, are running in all the wrong directions and, for the most part, all I can do is pray them into Heaven. In that regard, I associate with her a lot. I just can’t chase them around the way she did Augustine. :)

  • http://www.inourmidst.net JL Grabowski

    Augustine, definately. As expressed in the song “Restless” by Audrey Assad and Matt Maher (http://youtu.be/N0B2ybZpDeM), I am so restless, always looking elsewhere than God. God is the only real rest on this pilgrimage home. Too, I thank God for the example of St. Monica — so patient and persistent in her faith-filled prayer!

    • lisahendey

      JL – thank you for your comment, and especially for Audrey’s song. That’s amazing!! I can’t believe I’ve never heard it. Perfection…

  • http:/colleenspiro.blogspot.com Colleen

    A little of both, mostly Augustine because of his conversion.
    Monica. I have been doing a lot of praying for conversion for some members of my family – children, grandchildren, siblings.
    However I can relate to St Augustine’s prayer = “Late have I loved thee”… While I have loved God in some way most of my life, I did not really take it seriously or make it a priority until after converting to the Catholic Church over 20 years ago and then God became a passion of mine. So you might say I had my own conversion experience.

  • Zina

    Ha! I hate to say it but I have always been more St. Augustine than St. Monica. As a housewife and mother now I have more empathy for St. Monica, but the road of St. Augustine speaks so much to me about the idea of redemption. Also, I was always a young kid with a good heart but rebellious nature and bad temper. Children can fail and we may have to watch on, but that does not mean that all hope is lost and that sainthood isn’t still a possibility. I am bracing myself for my children getting older and more independent (EEEK puberty!) but all indications seem to be that my oldest is more Monica than Augustine. Perhaps I get to ease into this. ;-)

  • Suzanne Walsh

    Lisa, this is a great question, it really made me this because you can look at these two from many perspectives.

    I appreciated your comments and my first thought was Monica, as a mother of three boys I too can relate her her experience as a Mom. However Augustine appeals as well for his curiosity and desire to know God better. Finally thinking about Augustine’s relationship to Monica from HIS perspective makes me reflect on my relationship with my Mom who has been a loving and consistent influence on my faith life.

    Wishing you much success with this project!

  • http://sfomom.blogspot.com Barb

    Definitely Monica, and more and more so as my kids grow up! I’m a “rule-follower” from way back and I want my kids to live a faithful life. I have to say that I have definitely begun leaning on Monica more–ever since I first became the parent of a teenager.

  • Ted Seeber

    I am, sad to say I am an Augustine. And to parents who are Monicas- may I humbly suggest four things you can do for your sons between the ages of 10 and 18 that will avoid the issues that I faced:

    1. Be honest with them about human sexuality and the role of fathers before it is too late. Young men are tempted from every direction in our society with sexual sin; a frank discussion on the responsibilities of fatherhood and the Theology of the Body is needed now younger than ever in our history.

    2. Confirmation. It needs to be treated seriously as a promise to stay Catholic, not as just a sacrament you do because all the rest of the people your age are doing it.

    3. Knights of Columbus Squires, and hopefully at age 18, Knighthood. I can think of few lay orders that keep young men out of trouble, and going to weekly mass and saying their rosaries, than this. If my father had made more of an effort in this area, I would never have fallen into an investigation of the occult, for the virtues of charity, unity, and fraternity would have replaced it.

    4. Pray. Your sons are bombarded every day with a culture that desperately wants them NOT to be Catholic, and to fall into the easy lies of the sexual revolution where the only sacrament is the orgasm.

    There is a reason why men stop going to church- and it has a lot to do with catechisis when they are young.

    • lisahendey

      Ted, awesome comment — thanks so much for your recommendations! As a mom of sons, I’m taking note of them immediately. Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://www.equippingCatholicfamilies.com Monica

    Wow…I aspire to be more like my namesake. Her perseverence and dedication and devotion to prayer for her husband and son are awesome. As my kids start filing into the teen years…I’m trying to find my place…effectively (and kindly?) nagging them while trying to reflect Jesus’ Love for them. ugggh. I already fail alot…the nagging part is easy, but keeping their attention and respect …and guidling them with patience and kindness…isn’t.

  • http://www.lifehappenswhen.com/ Leanne

    I have to admit, I didn’t really know much about either saint until very recently. I have come to really love St. Monica and I admire her so much. My husband is nothing at all like her husband and I still struggle with his stubbornness and (sometimes) lack of faith. I have called upon St. Monica many times in the past few months and I’ve found great comfort with her.

    On the other hand, I was once a “rebellious” child. I am also a “goody two shoes” and I was raised in a very strict home, but I still had those moments where I was disobedient and defiant, much like St. Augustine. Even now, I can be hard headed and defiant towards my faith and God. He seems more real to me in some ways.

    I guess I’d say a little bit of both.

  • http://mumsie2five.blogspot.com Laura Pearl

    I am a rule follower from way back, a lifelong “goody-two-shoes” like you. I’ve never been a “fallen away Catholic” or doubted the truths of the Catholic Faith. Motherhood has been my vocation; I have five grown sons and have always believed that my only important job in life is to do my best to see that they get to Heaven. During the teen years, that could be tough. I think we were the only parents who said no to racy PG-13 movies, and our boys sometimes groaned that we were overly strict. (One son’s friend called us “Mr. and Mrs. Pope.”) So I definitely relate more to St. Monica than to her son. (And I pray to her for help!) But I can relate to Augustine, too; because as hard as I work at my Faith, I don’t ever feel like I’m as good as I need to be–and I know I have a long way to go. Sometimes, when I think about trying to eradicate a particularly stubborn fault (why do I always end up talking about the same old sins in Confession?), I wonder if I’ll ever get there. But when I look at St. Augustine’s life, I feel hope that any one of us can become a saint.

  • Nancy

    When I converted to the Catholic Church I had already had two of my three sons. One of the first saints I related to was St. Monica and she has been with me through many of my struggles. Rather than the image of Monica as a “nag” I prefer to think that just the presence of a Monica-mother is a reminder to the son of who he really is, for no one knows a son like his mother. Intercession is a given, but a loving look at a wayward son can bless him in a way that a nagging comment cannot.


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