Our Prayers for Our Children Not in Vain
This past week the Latin Rite of the Universal Church (that’s us) celebrated on consecutive days the Memorials of Ss. Monica (27th) and St. Augustine (28th), both “of Hippo” in Northern Africa on the Mediterranean coast in what is now Libya. Monica was the mother of Augustine, the greatest teacher of the Latin West in the early Church and possibly the greatest theologian in history.
Augustine wasn’t born a saint, though. A man of great talent and desire for worldly pleasure and success, he made a good living and a name for himself as a public speaker and traveling professor. His mother was a devout and practicing Catholic and it pained her deeply to see her son seeking the honor and pleasure of the world instead of dedicating his life to God. She prayed for him earnestly from his boyhood that she would one day “see him in the Church, the house of God”, but his persistent waywardness once brought her to the brink of despair for his soul. Monica, weeping bitterly while seeking counsel from the saintly Bishop of Milan, Ambrose, about the dire spiritual state of her son, heard the good Bishop say to her, “Leave him be. It is impossible that the son of so many motherly tears should be lost.”
Indeed, Ambrose was right. Augustine’s work, Confessions, is the most famous spiritual autobiography in history. It is the story of his pagan life and his conversion to Catholic Christianity. It has never ceased to be read the world over for well more than a thousand years, even to our own time. In this work Augustine chronicles the diligence of his mother in her Catholic faith and for his salvation. It is a story of intercessory prayer that mirrors and shares in the intercession of the Our Mother, the Holy Catholic Church, typified in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the salvation of her children, even for all the world.
Saint Monica is the patroness of Christian mothers and fathers, then, and by extension a patroness of Mother Church to which we belong and in whose graces and duties we participate. Especially for Christian parents our time is a difficult one, with so many young people forsaking the Christianity of their upbringing as they enter adulthood. For the parents of such children, having to watch this process of “de-conversion” is a profound trial and the cause of much sadness and confusion. The whole Church bears the pain of these times—what I have referred to lately in these pages as the “Secular Age”—and like St. Monica we can be tempted to despair. But also like St. Monica there is a grace available to us that gives us the power not only of hope but of vigor of intercessory prayer for our children, for the age in which we live. We priests see this many times in our ministry: the funeral of a holy mother is attended often by her children who have departed from the faith. It is precisely our love for our children and our trust in the God of Jesus Christ that prevents us from despairing of their salvation and return to the Church.
Here at Holy Cross we are the inheritors, the “children” of a beautiful tradition of family practice of the faith centered in this neighborhood once called the “Polish Quarter”, which name really meant the “Catholic Quarter” of Minneapolis. Let us pray to SS. Monica and Augustine for their intercession, that we at Holy Cross may be a part of the revival of faith here in our world, in Nordeast and the nearby neighborhoods, and for our city.