The tears and prayers of a Mother

You may--or may not--have noticed that my recent Sunday posts have been focused on the subject of prayer. Continuing with that Sunday focus, and in the spirit of Mother's Day, giving some attention to the story of Monica and her son Augustine, that is St. Augustine of Hippo, would be appropriate.

Augustine was born in North Africa in 354 AD. According to his Confessions, he became a wild young man on a "pitiful fall into the depths of hell, as I struggled and strained for lack of the truth." Meanwhile, his mother Monica was praying. And crying.

To God Augustine later wrote, "But you sent down your help from above and rescued my soul from the depths of this darkness because my mother, your faithful servant, wept to you for me, shedding more tears for my spiritual death than other mothers shed for the bodily death of a son. For in her faith and in the spirit which she had from you she looked on me as dead. You heard her and did not despise the tears which streamed down and watered the earth in every place where she bowed her head in prayer." The bishop of Monica's church assured her, "It cannot be that the son of these tears should be lost." She later told Augustine that she "accepted these words as a message from heaven."

Years past. One day Augustine found himself under a fig tree "weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart." The nearby singing of a child interupted his tears. "Take it and read, take it and read," were the words being sung. Augustine took this as "a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eye should fall." His eyes fell on Paul's Epistles to the Romans, "Not in revelling and drunkeness, not in lust and wantoness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature's appetites." Augustine continued, "I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled."

This section (Book VIII) of his Confessions ends with, "Then we went in and told my mother, who was overjoyed...And you turned her sadness into rejoicing, into joy far fuller than her dearest wish."