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Susan Ciancio reviews a new book for moms whose children have strayed from the faith by Catholic Mom writers Patti Maguire Armstrong and Roxane Salonen.

Like many mothers of children who have strayed from the Catholic faith, I have developed a fervent devotion to St. Monica. Monica prayed for nearly two decades that her son, Augustine, would return to the faith she desperately tried to instill in him. Her prayers were ultimately answered, and St. Augustine is now recognized as one of the greatest minds in the Church. 

Knowing her pain, her sorrow, and her grief, many mothers seek her intercession for their own children. I have done so myself. That’s why I was excited to read What Would Monica Do? by Patti Maguire Armstrong and Roxane Beauclair Salonen.

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I was searching for inspiration that would help me during times when I feel hopeless. What I found was so much more! 

The authors explain:

The grief experienced by parents of wandering children cuts to the center of our souls, often leaving us with an empty, hopeless feeling regarding our children’s future. ... There is great pain and grief when we see our children no longer care about or participate in something we know to be so fundamentally important to their lives, both now and for eternity. 


Understanding this, Patti and Roxane wrote What Would Monica Do? to not only offer solace to grieving parents but to offer hope and solidarity. Though we may feel alone in our pain, we are not. Countless other parents feel this same pain. And throughout the pages of this book, we witness this. But through it all, we are assured that God hears our cries and wipes away our tears. 

By sharing their own personal stories, the stories of other moms and dads, and of course some details from Monica’s life—including her writings and the writings of Augustine—the authors wrap their figurative loving arms around us and offer not only advice but hope. 

As parents, we try to do everything right when raising our children Catholic. We baptize them, teach them about the faith, and live our faith lovingly in the hopes that our children will grow to love it too. When this doesn’t happen, we feel like failures. Not only do we feel like we let our children down, but we feel like we let God down too, for He entrusted our children to us, and it is our job to guide them down the path that leads to eternity with Him. When our children stray, it rocks our world. This book helps those who feel like their world has been turned upside down. 

What Would Monica Do? is inspirational, uplifting, and comforting. And sometimes I cried as I deeply felt the pain described by parents of children who have lost their faith. And then I cried harder when those children returned.

There are so many amazing words of wisdom and advice throughout the book, and finding each is like finding a hidden gem that you want to hold close. Three particularly comforting lines stood out to me. First, the authors wrote: “God will not let the desires of a willing heart be wasted.” Then they promised the reader, “God notices how much we would like to see our children back in the faith and will not let this desire go to waste.” And finally, they assure us, “Jesus desires to heal whatever is broken in us and in our loved ones. The good things we want for our children, Jesus wants even more.” 

In these loving words, the reader finds hope that our prayers and sacrifices for our children are heard and noticed by God. 

Repeatedly as I read the book I felt a sense of peace and comfort that God is in control and that He is working in ways I cannot even imagine in my child. 

What Would Monica Do? has many examples of mothers who also feel this ache. One of my favorite stories was of Fr. Donnie Calloway. Through both his words and the words of his mother, we learn of Donnie’s troubled teen and young adult years. We learn of his mother’s unconditional love and her unceasing prayers. And we learn of the night Donnie felt compelled to pick up a book about Mary—a book that changed his life forever and that ultimately led to his becoming a priest.   

What Would Monica Do? stresses the importance of prayer, fasting, and of never apologizing for our faith. It leaves the reader feeling refreshed and renewed to persist in prayer, knowing that God’s compassion and love are guiding their children to Him. 

For those who have cried many tears for their children, this book is for you. To you, I leave an encouraging story. When Monica begged her bishop to intercede on her behalf, it is said that he “lost his patience with Monica and, weary of her nagging, brusquely told her, ‘Go away now; but hold on to this: it is inconceivable that he should perish, a son of tears like yours.’” 

Let us hold onto these words and onto the promise of God that our children are in His hands. And let us find solace in the fact that, as the authors said, “not a drop of our tears is wasted. The tears we cry for our children are especially precious to God, for He gave us our children as gifts, and the tears we shed in their name reveal our love for them. God promises that if we wait in trust and fidelity, our tears will be replaced someday with joy.”

This book is now available for preorder through the publisher, Ascension Press, and will ship to readers in September.

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Copyright 2022 Susan Ciancio
Images: Nheyob, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Canva