St. Monica was born around 332 in Tagaste, Roman North Africa. She was a Christian woman and wed Patricius, a pagan official in Tagaste. The marriage was arranged and her husband was many years her senior. She was a victim of her husband’s domestic violence. Her husband’s mother lived with them and frequently made St. Monica’s life even more difficult. She gave birth to three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua.
St. Monica was a religious woman whose prayer life annoyed her husband. He did not allow St. Monica to have her children receive the sacrament of baptism. Her son, Augustine, became ill at a young age and her husband stated he would grant permission for him to be baptized. However, when Augustine recuperated, his father recanted. St Monica continued to fervently pray.
Her elder son, St. Augustine, became wayward as a teenager. He had a son at a young age and then joined a cult for several years. The domestic abuse at her husband’s hands, her meddling mother-in-law, and St. Augustine’s lifestyle could have made St. Monica very bitter. But rather than wallow in misery and self-pity, St. Monica chose to embark on a journey of prayerful intercession for the conversion of her entire family. Her prayers led to the conversion of her husband and his mother. Her 2 younger children also converted and then entered religious life.
St. Monica’s greatest faith challenge was her older son, Augustine. After her husband’s death, she followed St. Augustine to Milan because she wanted to be close to her him as she continued her prayers and fast on his behalf. By that time, St. Augustine has fallen under the mentorship of St. Ambrose, who had become the bishop of Milan. St. Monica also began following the spiritual direction of St. Ambrose and would beg St. Ambrose to talk to St. Augustine about his lifestyle. Instead, St. Ambrose told her she should continue to pray for St. Augustine and that the son of her tears would not perish. She became the leader of a group of devout women in Milan. After St Monica’s decades of perseverant intercession and the through the influence of St. Ambrose, St. Augustine’s conversion began to take place. St Ambrose baptized him, ordained him a priest and then St. Augustine was eventually appointed Bishop of Hippo.
St. Monica died shortly St. Augustine’s full reception into the Catholic Church. It is written that she told St. Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.”