Eventually, she came to a crossroad and needed heaven’s help to decide her next move. That turn of direction eventually helped lead her son home, and offers a profound witness to other parents whose children have left the treasure of the Catholic faith.
Monica had been pursuing her son for years, her purse filled with tissues—or perhaps it was a crying cloth in those days. If she were living now, she’d probably also be carrying an extra tube of water-free mascara in her purse.
But at that crossroad, Monica paused, sensing something had to change; the old way of chasing down her son wasn’t working.
Noticing Monica’s profuse weeping, a bishop whom she’d approached assured her that a mother with so many tears would surely be heard by heaven. This jolted her, but renewed her hope.
The divine nudge was God’s way of helping her redirect and surrender to his love and provision, encouraging her to leave things in his hands, and remember his promises and providence. Now, instead of lamenting each day over her son’s turn from the Lord, Monica began to trust God to do the hard work, believing he could steer him aright.
Instead of living in a time in which Christianity is new, and paganism dying, like in Monica’s day, we are living within the opposite scenario; in a post-Christian culture seeing a revival of paganistic and hedonistic thought. It can be a frightening time to be a parent of young-adult children especially. The world seems to have them in its grasp, as did the ancient world Augustine.
But the world then didn’t have the last say any more than ours today. Like Monica, who began to pour her worries into prayer, we have a constructive way through what can seem overwhelming.
The annals of Christian history tell how Monica’s oldest son eventually left his wild, Godless life to become one of the most influential theologians in Christendom. And that Monica died in peace, knowing he was fully back in the fold. Augustine went on to become a priest, bishop, and finally, a great saint, along with his praying mother.
In the new book, “What Would Monica Do?”, the topic of children and other loved ones away from the faith is examined from the perspective of cultural change, family dynamics, and stories of today’s parents carrying this cross. Rather than despair, the prevailing thrust is hope, held up through examples of saints and the promises of God in Scripture.
When my co-author, Patti Maguire Armstrong, and I began this project, we thought we were writing a book to help console other parents who had known this heartache. But as we dug deeper, we realized that in experiencing the suffering of our children walking away from the gift we’d tried to offer them—an enduring faith in Jesus and his Church—we still had room to grow more in our own relationship with Christ.
One key to hope is simply a change in perspective. In the chapter, “Not the Architect of Our Children’s Souls,” we explore our role in our children’s journey, noting that, as we walk alongside them, “we cannot take the approach we did when they were young and needed a sharp and bold warning about the dangers ahead. They must discover and internalize God’s path on their own.”
By God’s grace and provisions, we are freed from the weight. But we can still pray, fast, and work on healing our own brokenness. We can ask for forgiveness for our missteps, carving a path for trust and relationship. We can surrender, and let God take the reins.
Monica approached her cross with heartache and humility, ultimately relying on others to do the bidding for her. At some point, we came to realize, like her, that our children have free will, and we have to surrender their lives, as well as our worries, to the only One with any power to save them—and us—from the destruction of this world.
Ready to learn more about St. Monica?
In What Would Monica Do?, two mothers, authors, and lovers of St. Monica offer guidance, practical advice, and prayers for navigating the difficulty of losing a loved one to the world through their reflections on St. Monica.
With this resource of inspiration and consolation, readers will learn:
- The story of St. Monica’s faithfulness to God and selfless love for her child.
- How to navigate the grief of watching a loved one leave the Faith.
- Prayers to offer for the conversion of children and grandchildren living contrary to the Catholic Faith.
- How to let go of anger and unforgiveness to allow your heart to be filled with peace and comfort.
- How to set an example of faith that draws non-believers to Catholicism.
- And more!
What Would Monica Do? is the friend and guide that you need to find peace and consolation in a relationship with your heavenly Father even while experiencing tremendous grief and disappointment.
St. Monica, pray for us!
Image: See page for author, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons