Augustine’s mother, Monica, has to rank as one of the most well-known matriarchs in Christendom’s history. She lived with her husband, Patricius, whom Augustine describes as a “poor free man” and a minor official in the North African town of Thagaste. Patricius was a pagan, worshiping the Punic gods of the region, but Monica was a devout Christian. However, her name is derived from that of a Punic god, Mon, so we might guess that she came from a pagan family and was a convert to Christianity.
Monica bore two sons and probably several daughters. She suffered through Augustine’s growing pains, relentless in her determination to see that “the son of so many tears” would become a good Christian. She always clung to her belief—encouraged by a dream—that before she died she would see Augustine convert to Christianity.
When he took his professorship in Milan, Monica joined him there and set about finding him a high-society wife. In Milan, she attended the church of Bishop Ambrose; she may have seen in Ambrose a model of what Augustine could become—a successful politician-turned-churchman. Monica was overjoyed when Augustine told her of his conversion—it was quite literally a “dream come true.” After his conversion, she seems to have managed the retreat house that Augustine set up in Cassiciacum with his close friends.
On their return to North Africa, Augustine and Monica and the friends with them were waylaid in Ostia. While there, Augustine relates, he and Monica shared a “vision of eternal wisdom,” a foretaste of the life to come. Nine days later she died. Augustine and his brother buried her in Ostia; recently a fragment of her burial inscription was found there.


Augustine’s closest and most enduring ...

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