Monica was a remarkable woman that is numbered among the mothers of great men. Her son was Augustine, who became the foremost of the Latin Church Fathers and one of the most influential Christians of all times. The church and the world owe a great debt to Monica for giving us her brilliant, holy, and mighty son.
Monica was born in 332 A.D. to Christian parents who were moderately wealthy. Her home was at Tagasta in North Africa and she was cared for by an old Christian maid servant, who had also cared for Monica’s father as a baby, and it is by this sweet woman that Monica is said to have been brought up in the Christian faith.
Monica was given in marriage to Patricus, an unbeliever, who was later found to have a violent temper and given to an adulterous, immoral life. While she must have suffered greatly in this relationship, Monica is never known to have been impatient or reproachful of her husband. Following the advice in 1 Peter 3, Monica sought to win Patricus to the Lord by her conduct rather than her words. By her loving behavior and perseverance, Monica won her mother-in-law to Jesus Christ, and Patricus, too, became a Christian near the end of his life.
Being a peacemaker at heart, Monica was well known for healing rifts between people. She was also well esteemed by her acquaintances for a sterling character which included forsaking bitterness and gossip and ministering to those who were teachers or pastors of churches. But she had one great burden on her heart; the salvation of her family.
Being a wife of a unbeliever, Monica prayed that her family might eventually all become Christians. She attempted to pass on her faith to her children, but because of the negative influence of their father before he came to Christ, she saw many of them stray from the truths of God’s Word that she had taught them. Her most promising son, Augustine, was given an excellent education, and Monica hoped he might use his knowledge to bring others to Christ. When sending him to Carthage to finish his education, Monica begged him to lead a pure life in the midst of the danger and immorality of the great city. But Augustine ignored his mother’s warnings against youthful lust and followed a life of pleasure-seeking and immortality. He lived with a woman that wasn’t his wife and fathered a child. Monica mourned over him with yearning grief and while she couldn’t convince Augustine to turn his life over to God, she continued to pray for him.
Becoming restless in Africa, Augustine went to Italy to teach. Monica, who by then was a widow, followed him there. In Milan she attended the church pastored by Ambrose, who in turn befriended Augustine. It was under the influence of this man that Augustine eventually became a Christian.
Monica’s closing years were filled with joy at seeing the great powers of her son wholly given to the service of God. His writings are a constant testimony to her character. In his “Confessions”, Augustine spoke of his grief and weeping for his mother, recognizing her part in his salvation. In his later years, Augustine could look back on his life and recognize the importance of his mother’s perseverance in prayer in winning him to the Christian faith.