Saint Monica for Today
The power of a mother’s love.
by Sabrina Ferrisi | Source: National Catholic Register
ST. MONICA: The Power of a
by Giovanni Falbo
Pauline Books & Media, 2007
142 pages, $14.95
To order: Pauline.org
If you thought that
problems in marriage and child-rearing were something peculiar to the 21st century, think again.
St. Monica: the Power of a Mother’s Love, a beautifully written biography by Father
Giovanni Falbo, shows us that these problems existed even in the fourth century. Her life is a case
study of someone who was able to overcome extreme difficulties through the transformative power of
prayer, love and perseverance.
Monica’s parents, though deeply Catholic, arranged
for her to marry a pagan known as Patricius. Patricius turned out to be an adulterer given to
outbursts of anger. Because married women were considered property, Monica had no choice but to
withstand his bad character.
She dealt with Patricius’ difficult personality
through charity and heroic forbearance. When his behavior became intolerable, she would cease to
speak to him, yet show him love through her actions. Monica refused to be a doormat. If Patricius
committed an injustice, she would wait for the right moment and speak to him about it.
Monica’s prayers and integrity won out in the end. She lived to see Patricius convert before
his death. Yet it was her son who would cause her the strongest grief.
Patricius realized early that Augustine, their first-born, was brilliant. They sent him to a
boarding school in Carthage when he was a teenager because of the superior education. Patricius did
so because he was ambitious for Augustine to appear better than anyone else. Monica intuited that
Augustine’s greatness would spring forth from his knowledge.
While he was in
Carthage, Augustine gave free rein to his passions, met a woman and fathered a son. To make matters
worse, he also joined the heretical Manichean sect.
“A terrible period
followed,” Father Falbo writes. “Monica found no peace and would have died of a broken
heart if God had not comforted her as only God knows how to do. One night, Monica had a hard time
falling asleep, but as soon as she dozed off, God showed her in a dream the wonders he had prepared
for the future.”
This biography, masterfully translated from the Italian, is
gripping and fast-paced. It does not simplify the story. And with few exceptions — as in the
descriptions of the remains of St. Monica — it does not get too bogged down in unnecessary
Father Falbo does a magnificent job of telling us St. Monica’s life story
without ignoring St. Augustine. Yet he keeps the focus on Monica. When appropriate, he quotes from
the great works of Augustine to talk about how God used Monica to bring her son back into the
The final chapter wraps up the book by discussing Monica’s relevance for
“Monica is still a witness for our time, not because she had a
perfect family but because she did not run away from her responsibilities,” Father Falbo
writes. “She did not shut herself up in the ivory tower of her faith and religiosity,
dismissing the practical concerns of her life. Neither did she lose or compromise her Christian
identity, even though she threw herself entirely into the ambiguous situations of her family.”
For Catholic families who try to nurture Godly marriages and children — and who
face apparent failure — this is an inspiring and relevant story.
Ferrisi writes from Larchmont, New York.
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