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Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, ponders the value in the life of a child of a mother's witness to faith.

A mother’s hope is to hear these words from their children: “I cannot sufficiently express the love she had for me.” Saint Augustine’s witness to Monica’s love for him was based on her fidelity, her unceasing prayer, and her trust in God’s mercy. “How she travailed for me in the spirit with a far keener anguish than when she bore me in the flesh…. In her unceasing prayer she presented to You Your bond of promises. For your mercy is forever….”  

Saint Paul describes how mothers, like Monica, bear children again, this time in the spirit through travailing prayer. “Oh, my dear children!” wrote Paul, “I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.” (Galatians 4:19 NIV) St. Monica imparts her motherly witness reminding us that unceasing prayer is the best way to show genuine love, “Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God.” (Romans 1:9 NIV) 

After years of inability to communicate with her son or have him join her in prayer, there is a record of one exceptional conversation.  It took place while he and his mother waited with friends at the port of Ostia in Italy for a boat back home. Augustine recorded this conversation in his Confessions: 

In the cool of evening mother and I gaze together through the window overlooking a garden.  It is peaceful. Neither of us need to speak about things past or even of the future. We are in the present, in quiet contemplation. After a while I share with mother how this pause reminds me of the utter silence in which God may be heard once the clamor of the flesh, the appeals of the world, and even the sounds of the heavens and soul are stilled.  

My mother praises God who is true to his promises.  She wonders about the landscape of eternal life, do the saints live in a place of beauty like this garden? We are both thirsting for those supernal streams of God’s fountain, the fountain of life. There is urgency in our spirit because we cannot settle for less than real love.  In the silent pauses of our conversation, we hear God’s word, not spoken by someone, not spoken by an angel or in the sound of thunder – God’s word uttered by what we love, the One we love. If only we can sustain this ravishing joy. When might that be? When we all rise again; “when all shall be changed.”   

“Son, it is so pleasing to be with you. Your wisdom and eloquence have found the most eloquent theme to speak on. My greatest prayer has been that I might see you a Catholic before I die. God has exceeded this request abundantly….”  At this wondrous moment with my mother, I give thanks that we have the time to repair what I may have broken in our relationship. She has loved me the same throughout my life. Only I didn’t comprehend this description of love.  


St Monica remind us that a mother’s love is unconditional. A mother in love reflects St. Paul’s attitude,

I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your sakes. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (2 Corinthians 12:15).


This is heroic love. It is the love that Monica showed her son. Right before her death in Ostia she had the consolation a conversation that has been memorialized in Augustine’s Confessions. Every mother can pray with her, 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)



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Saint Augustine’s witness to Monica’s love for him was based on her fidelity, her unceasing prayer, and her trust in God’s mercy. #CatholicMom


Copyright 2023 Sr. Margaret Kerry FSP 
Images: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons