When I was a kid, I think my folks must have gotten royally tired of being referred to as “Jeff’s parents”. While they were proud of me (and still are, I think!), I can imagine that they might have appreciated being able to enjoy their own identities a bit more.
Let me tell you about Monica. She was less famous for who she was than for who her son was. She was one of those moms who became identified with her kid instead of being just who she was. She worked hard to raise her son in the Christian faith, despite having a husband who would not support her in that endeavour. Even later on, after her son became a believer, and he fell into error, she never spoke a bad word about him (even though she would not welcome him in her home while he was living in error).
Her persistence paid off. Not only did her son return to the faith, but her prayers for her husband saw him come to faith in Christ as well. Monica was an ardent servant of the Lord. In fact, the Church of Rome saw her as such a hero of the faith that it beatified her. Yet we have no clue, generally, who she was.
Today, our sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic tradition recognize St. Monica’s day. Even among those who do tend to acknowledge saints’ days, there are plenty of people who would hear about St. Monica’s Day being August 27, pause, and respond, “Um…who?”
You see, the unknown Monica was the mother of the much better known Augustine. Known to many as St. Augustine of Hippo, we owe much of the orthodox Christian theology on such topics as grace and original sin to his writing. Augustine wrote The City of God and Confessions, two of the most profound works ever penned in Christian theology. If you’re not familiar with Augustine, pick up a book or even just Google him. There was more than one, so make sure you look for Augustine of Hippo. (By the way, Hippo is where he was from, in north Africa; it has nothing to do with large water-horse creatures!)
Augustine wrote of being able to be with his mother in her dying days, talking about the things of God and enjoying each other’s company. She was able to taste the fruit of her labours from her child-rearing days, and he was able to sit in the presence of one who had lived her whole life in the shadow of the cross.
Now, when I think of Monica, I will think of moms everywhere who have laboured hard to raise their kids to be followers of Jesus.
Nowadays, in my home town, the tide has turned. When I go back to my parents’ place, and I meet someone new, the response tends to be “Oh, you’re Judy’s boy!” or, “You’re Roy’s son.” And that’s all good as far as I’m concerned.
“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20.12, NIV).