Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life there is always the strong and intense prayer of someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, a community…. This is why Jesus said: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest,” that is, God the Father, “to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38). Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only through prayer can they persevere and bear fruit. -Pope Francis
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Monica. Monica is most notably known for illustrating the power of prayer in her motherhood. She was the mother of St. Augustine and a truly faithful woman. Her son, Augustine, was not known as saintly in his young life; he had bought into the Manichean heresy (which teaches that man was not created out of God’s love but by Satan’s rebellion against God) and lived a life of “all things unholy.” Through Monica’s prayer, fasting, and presence in the life of her son, he eventually came to reconciliation with the Church and achieved sainthood through the grace of God.
It is from St. Augustine’s writing that we learn so much about his mother. We learn that she followed him in his travels, constantly praying and fasting for him, sometimes going to the Church numerous times a day to pray. St. Monica’s prayers are not written down and we do not know the conversations she had with the Lord. One could imagine there were days where she would be overcome by sadness and cried hopeful tears that her son would unite himself to the Lord. Still, other days must have been filled with unwavering faith (such as on the day she received a vision assuring her that Augustine would return to the faith). Needless to say, Monica did all of this out of love for her son and the desire that he would reunite with God and find God’s will for his life.
St. Monica was present in the life of Augustine even when he tried to run from her. After he tried to trick her and left her for Rome, she followed him and then to Milan as well. Her constant, loving presence must have served as a reminder to Augustine of God’s presence and how we cannot go anywhere that God is not. As the Psalmist writes, “If I climb into the heavens you are there, if I lie down in the depths, you are there.” (Psalm 139:8)
It is in Milan that St. Augustine was taught and baptized by St. Ambrose in the year 387. Shortly after, St. Monica became ill and passed away. Her life’s mission was to lead her son to the Lord, his vocations, and to sainthood. She was a devoted, faithful, and wonderful mother. Not only was Augustine baptized, but he was ordained a priest and bishop and is one of the most profound figures the Church has ever seen, earning the title of Doctor of the Church.
On this feast of St. Monica, may God give us the grace we need to have unwavering faith, a desire for prayer, and value the gift of presence. May we pray for an increase in vocations, remembering that God calls men to the priesthood – even those who we’d least expect. To echo Pope Francis, “vocations are born from prayer,” they are born from our relationship with the Lord. Let us not ask, “God make so-and-so a priest,” or “God please bless us with x-number of priests,” but
“Lord, we ask you to send laborers into your harvest.
Please send us holy men from within our midst who will consider the priesthood, who will consider a life of service to you and your Church.
Take away their fears or doubts and replace them with faith in you.
Ignite within them the desire to find your will for their lives, their vocation.
May I be an example of living out my vocation with joy so that others may see the happiness that only comes from you, sparking within them the desire to follow your will.
May my life serve as an example of you.
May my desire to be close to you inspire others to do the same.
Lord, answer my prayers according to your will and in your time and please grant me the patience and trust to accept it.”
St. Monica – pray for us.
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