The Model of Monica

Catholic theologian Louis Bouyer wrote that “[m]an, the male, never finds himself except by a process of discovery blemished by narcissism, and, except by and in women, he never meets the world in an encounter which is real communion, rather than a simple confrontation. The world is never real for the man except by symbioses with women.”

Bouyer may overstate his case, but it is not difficult to find examples of women who were clearly central to the spiritual lives and growth of men, some of which men are regarded as among our most revered saints. When one thinks of St. Francis, St. Claire comes immediately to mind. The same is true of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marrilac and of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Availa.

St. Augustine was enormously influenced by his mother, St. Monica, whose memorial the Catholic Church celebrates today. Although Monica was “neither a monk nor a scholar,” Augustine himself recognized that she “was more advanced in her Christian life than he.”

Monica served as a model for her son. She is also a model for all of us when dealing with people who do not live up to our expectations. It was many years before her pagan husband converted to Christianity and also many years before Augustine gave up his wayward life for God. Through that time, she persevered with love and integrity, with prayer and support.

St. Monica, pray for us.