by Fr Richard Heilman | August 27, 2019 5:14 PM
Many parents lament as their teenager starts to stray away from the faith. Many of these parents, who are devout themselves, begin to blame themselves, just as St. Monica would do. Some of these parents have come to me to ask “what they can we do?” I tell them they need to go “Full-On Monica!”
But, first, I tell them not to heap coals on themselves. The world, and all of it’s allurements, are extremely strong. I even had a homily, not too long ago, that could have been entitled, “Wait until they are 23.” The homily was meant to give parents hope. I said, once they reach their mid to late teen years, their children want to individuate … they want to be free to make up their own minds; do their “own thing.” Add to this that most Universities are places that thrive on being counter-cultural (counter-God), yet they end up being slaves to the trends of their times. Young people, trying to figure it out, are very susceptible to all of this … they are easily manipulated, and they want to “fit in.”
St. Augustine was one of those who was swept away by the worldliness of his day. Did you know that at 16 years old, as he puts it, “the frenzy gripped me and I surrendered myself entirely to lust.” The condition grew with him and he continued to battle his out of control sexual appetite all the way into his 30s. As a university student he moved in with a woman and although their relationship continued for almost a decade, he didn’t marry her. He fathered a child out of wedlock, and his mistress left him.
After being left by the mother of his child, Augustine arranged to get married to a young woman. The problem was, she was so young that she had to wait two years to actually be of marriageable age. In the meantime, Augustine lost his nerve and took another mistress. He writes that he was, “impatient of the delay,” and “a slave to lust.” At this point, he was feeling desperate, realizing he had lost the ability to distinguish between physical desire and actual love.
Augustine’s mother never gave up on her son. One could say, she was obnoxious. Much of what St. Monica is known for is her persistence in prayer. St. Monica cried many times over her son’s transgressions, but received affirmation from God on several accounts.
St. Monica had a dream in which she wept over her son, and a figure told her that he was still with her. In his autobiography, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, St. Augustine wrote, “that it was my soul’s doom she was lamenting…” The figure told her to be at peace, and “see that where she was there I was also.”
She also received encouragement from a local bishop, who told her that “God’s time will come.” He added, “Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”
When I think of St. Monica, I think of the Parable of the Unjust Judge:
Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. There was also a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but later on he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor have regard for people, yet because this widow keeps on bothering me, I will give her justice, or in the end she will wear me out by her unending pleas.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says! Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them? (Luke 18:1-7)
St. Monica wept, prayed and sacrificed for her son for many years. Her greatest desire in life was to see her son’s conversion to Catholicism, and once this happened, she believed her purpose in life had been fulfilled. She said to Augustine just a few days before she came down with a fever that caused her death:
“My son, speaking of myself, nothing earthly delights me any longer. I do not know why I am still here or why I should remain here. I have no further earthly desires.”
Moms (and dads), don’t give up on your children, and don’t give up on God. I tell parents, “Get in ‘Begging Mode’ … Go ‘Full-On Monica!'” Get in a state of grace, pray the rosary, fast continuously, do novenas, recruit saints, especially St. Monica. Be obnoxious before God!
St Augustine’s conversion occurred at the age of 31, and he went on to be one of the greatest saints of the Church. “Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?”
By the way, I know my mom prayed me out of my own worldliness and into seminary. She died not too long after I was ordained. Maybe she felt she had finished her mission.
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