Marriage & Family Life: St. Monica an example of profound patience

by Adam Storey | August 16, 2020

Adam Storey

On Aug. 27 we celebrate St. Monica’s feast day, a beautiful motherly example for all of us. I think she’s especially important for us today, as so many of us share in the painful experience of family members no longer practicing the faith.

That experience is my own, and I’m often praying for family members and friends who have left the Church.

As I’ve been thinking of St. Monica, a few lessons have stood out to me which I think are important for us all.

The first and most important lesson (and maybe the hardest to live) is that throughout St. Monica’s life, she lived in a way that recognized God was in charge, and she was not. St Monica fervently prayed and fasted for St. Augustine’s conversion, and also the conversion of her husband and mother-in-law, all of whom were eventually baptized. She was tempted to try to take control, like when she initially refused to let St. Augustine stay at her house as a Manichean. Eventually in a dream she was assured that St. Augustine would return to the faith, and from that point on she accompanied him and prayed, even when he tried to literally escape the continent she was on!

I’m often tempted to neglect prayer and instead try to take control of situations though action, foolishly thinking that my will is better than the Lord’s plans. St. Monica shows us a better way.

St. Monica is also an example of profound patience. She prayed for St. Augustine for 17 years, and for her husband and mother-in-law even longer. That is beautiful to us, who know the end of the story, but imagine what it must have felt like during year 16. Lord, are you even listening?!

This is a common experience for anyone devoted to prayer, and as the theologian Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis notes “we must submit ourselves to the long process of waiting, of repeating our request day and night… His silence must gradually become his crystal-clear Word, telling us to ask for better things, infusing into our hearts his own Spirit” (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word Volume 1).

Finally, I am struck by how personal St. Monica’s petitions were. St. Monica had the faith to move mountains, and yet when she prayed, she prayed for her husband, her son, her mother-in-law. This reminds me that God’s will is most often found in the people right next to us, in the communities we’ve been given. We certainly can and should pray for global experiences and for our far away brothers and sisters, but we should never let global concerns distract us from the people, and places, that are right before us.

So this August let’s hold St. Monica up as an example of hope, patience and prayer. St. Monica pray for us, and for our families, that we might know Jesus more deeply and follow him more closely.

Adam Storey

Adam Storey leads the Marriage Ministry Department for the Diocese of Des Moines, which seeks to work with parishes and couples, walking with all families in all their stages, in their joys and sorrows, their celebrations and challenges.