Yesterday, August 27, was the Feast of St. Monica. St. Monica was the mother of St. Augustine, whose feast would be celebrated by the Church today if this were not a Sunday. St. Augustine grew up with the wonderful example of his mother and her deep faith in God. He also had a father who was a pagan. Augustine followed in the ways of his father and wanted nothing to do with Christianity and the faith of his mother. Augustine chose a way of life that was selfish and filled with sinful habits and choices. He lived with a woman for several years and had a son with her. Even then he did not marry her. Augustine had a brilliant mind and received a great education. His mother made sure he received a Christian education, but at the age of nineteen he rejected this part of his education. He was well schooled in philosophy and rhetoric and eventually went to Rome to teach. After a while in Rome, he took a position teaching rhetoric in Milan, and it was in Milan that he came to hear the preaching of St. Ambrose who eventually baptized Augustine.
After his baptism Augustine continued to study the scriptures and theology and became one of the great writers and teachers of the Christian Faith. Throughout his live his mother Monica prayed for him that he would turn to God and be baptized. After some 20 years of praying for her son, her prayers were finally answered.
The faith of St. Monica and her example of steadfast prayer is a fitting example to all of us and specially to parents whose children abandon or reject the Catholic Faith for a variety of reasons. Most of the time it seems to center on the example of the world we live in. Our world is filled with secularism and relativism. I called it a “Burger King world” because so many people want things their way no matter what anyone says even God Himself. Many people think they can decide who lives and dies (abortion and assisted suicide), who can marry whom (same sex marriage), what is right and wrong in any issue at all. It seems that what the individual thinks is all that matters. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called it the dictatorship of relativism and that is what we are living under at the present time.
There are many parents of adult children who feel very much like St. Monica and pray for years and years that their children would return to the Church. Many times, they blame themselves for their children wandering away from the Church. In most case it is not their fault at all; they did the best that they could. We must remember that as our children get older the influences of the world and their peers grows stronger. These are not always good influences especially when it concerns faith and religion. When they go off to college, they encounter certain teachers that are very much opposed to religion and God and this thinking becomes very much a part of the classroom experience. These are the very same influences that St. Augustine encountered in his life. His mother’s example and pleading were not enough, but because of her prayers her son encountered St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and it was Ambrose and his preaching that finally got through to Augustine.
I often tell parents something I heard a long time ago concerning children who have left the faith; it is better to pray for someone to come into their life that will lead them back to the Church than to pray for the words that will help you to convince them to return. Often one returns to the Church because of the influence of someone they meet and not so much because they decided to listen to their parents. Pray that God will send someone to help your adult children return to the Church just like God sent St. Ambrose into the life of St. Augustine.