“Miracles happen. But prayer is needed!” said Pope Francis. “Prayer that is courageous, struggling, and persevering, not prayer that is a mere formality.”
If you’ve ever prayed really hard for a miracle and felt discouraged by the response (or lack of) that you received from your pleas, take your cue from St. Monica, who celebrates her feast day today, August 27.
St. Monica is an inspirational woman who showed us that through love and prayers—the courageous, struggling, and persevering kind that Lolo Kiko mentioned—we can move mountains, or in her case, move members of her family to change for the better. (Read: Young Couple Shares Their Secret to Instilling Faith in Kids)
Here are three motherhood lessons we can learn from St. Monica, patron saint of wives, mothers, difficult marriages, disappointing children, and abuse victims.
#1: Be true to yourself.
Monica, born into the Christian religion, was married off to Patricius, a Roman from her hometown of Tagaste, North Africa. Patricius’ paganism was the least of her problems—he had a temper, was promiscuous, and though he respected his wife, mocked her virtues of piety and charity. And it certainly didn’t help to have a mother-in-law that didn’t like her.
In time, Monica’s pious nature and unceasing prayers led to the conversion of her husband and mother-in-law. Sadly, Patricius passed away a year after his baptism.
#2: Find it in your heart to forgive.
Monica was not only forgiving to her husband, but also to the eldest of their three children, St. Augustine.
Augustine, who was never baptized after recovering from a serious illness as a child, grew up to be a lazy and stubborn teen. Sent to study in Carthage, he became a believer in Manichaeism, an ancient religion that supposedly rivaled Christianity. A displeased Monica promptly sent him away after he came home to share his thoughts on his new belief. (Read: 5 Saints Who Are Also Real-Life Parents)
But a mother can only hold anger for her child for so long. Spurred by a dream of her weeping for her son, as well as the words of a bishop (“Go thy ways and God bless thee, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish”), Monica forgave Augustine and pursued him in Rome, where the two would forge a strong bond.
#3: Have patience and be open to change.
All in God’s time, as the old saying goes. For Monica, God’s time happened after 17 years of fervent praying for Augustine’s conversion!
But he was not the only one converted. Through the advice of Bishop (and eventually Saint) Ambrose, Monica let go of her habit of offering wine to altars and instead, according to The Confessions of Saint Augustine, “she had learned to bring to the Churches of the martyrs a breast filled with more purified petitions, and to give what she could to the poor.”
Upon Augustine’s baptism by Ambrose, mother and son journeyed back home, but sadly they didn’t make it together: Monica passed away en route to Africa. It was a bittersweet finish for a woman who devoted her entire life to family and God—and got what she prayed for, and more, in the end.