Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur reviews What Would Monica Do?, a new book by Catholic Mom contributors Patti Maguire Armstrong and Roxane Beauclair Salonen.
If I had to describe What Would Monica Do?, the new book by Patti Maguire Armstrong and Roxane Beauclair Salonen, in one word, it would be “hope”. The “Monica” in the title refers to St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. She had a pagan husband and a son (Augustine) who turned away from the Church as a young man. After seventeen years of prayer, her faith was rewarded and Augustine returned to the faith, ultimately becoming one of the Church’s greatest saints. The Church celebrates St. Monica’s feast day on August 27th and St. Augustine’s on August 28th.
What Would Monica Do? is especially geared towards parents like me who have had children leave the faith. The authors are trudging that same road. It is a sad consolation, but there are a lot of parents in the same situation. The authors quote a 2021 survey that found 41% of Millennials don’t know if God exists, don’t care, or don’t believe if God exists. I’d be willing to bet that the numbers for Gen Z are even higher. It can make a Catholic mom want to give up in despair. Armstrong and Salonen, channeling the example of St. Monica, encourage us not to do that.
The authors discuss the grief Catholic parents may feel when a child abandons the Faith. We may also feel a sense of failure and self-blame. As one mother shared in the book, “There is a piece of my heart that is always broken.” But even in the midst of that pain and sorrow, we can move forward in faith. In these pages, the authors hope to offer “an eternal perspective that can help ease your worry and deepen your relationship with God.”
Armstrong and Salomen share their own stories as well as the stories of other parents who were willing to share their trials and experiences of prayers answered. They acknowledge the pain we may be experiencing but also offer ways to find God even in the heartache. We are all broken, but “it is through our brokenness that we come to experience our need for salvation—and seek healing and freedom in Jesus.” Even in the midst of our struggle, especially in the midst of our struggle, we need to turn to the Lord. This cross can offer us the opportunity to deepen our faith. Even as we pray for our children (whom the Lord is also seeking as lost sheep), the Lord is also working on us, helping us grow closer to Him.
Ultimately, we need to trust that God wants our children close to Him even more than we do. We can and should pray and sacrifice for our children, but saving them is not within our power. That is God’s job. We may never get to see the fruits of our prayers (although I hope that we do), but there are many stories of late-in-life conversions, some of which are shared in this book.
Trusting in God is hard, especially when it comes to our children, but as the authors remind us, “We can’t always see what God is doing, but he is always doing something.” God can bring good for us and our children out of this difficult road we are walking. There is hope.
The chapters in What Would Monica Do? are short which makes this a great book to read in bite-sized chunks. I highly recommend it for any Catholic parent going through the heartache of having a child away from the Faith. Those praying for other family members away from the Faith may also find hope in these pages.
I wish that this book wasn’t so needed in this world, but it is. Armstrong and Solonen have provided a great service in sharing the stories, advice, and what we can learn from the example of St. Monica in these pages.
Copyright 2022 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
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About the Author
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a master’s degree in applied theology and is the author of The Power of Forgiveness, Our Lady of La Salette: A Mother Weeps for Her Children, and The Life and Lessons of St. Zelie Martin. A mother of three, she is the editor of TodaysCatholicHomeschooling.com as well as a freelance writer and editor.