For this daily reflection, I asked my oldest daughter, Anna, to write a little bit about Saint Monica, since she chose her for her confirmation saint. I was simply going to add her part to the end of my part. But what she wrote was way better than anything I could have written, so I am turning over the reins to her for the day. I hope you find as much inspiration from her writing as I did! Brian
As a 13 year old preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, I began my search for a saint. To be honest, I approached it like a good number of my friends did—I looked up a list of saints and began to read. As I was scrolling through an online directory of saints, in search of one that resonated with me, I stumbled across Saint Monica. At the time, I was completely unfamiliar with her story, but when I read through it, I knew my decision was made. Now, almost 8 years later, I still believe I chose the right saint. As I meditated on this reflection, though, I realized that her story speaks to me in a much different way now than it did back then.
When I was in Junior High, there was a great emphasis placed on leadership. It seemed like everywhere you turned, you were being told to “step up and be a leader.” Naturally, the average 12 or 13 year old interprets this as “you must fight to be in control and boss everyone around.” All of this focus on leadership always bothered me, because it appeared to me that the idea was contradictory. After all, if everyone was a leader, then who would be left to be lead? Can there even be a “leader” without a “follower”? To be honest, I’m not the type of person who enjoys battling for control or telling people what to do. At the time, I just assumed that this meant that I was just never destined to be a leader.
Saint Monica was married to Patricius, a Pagan man. He did not share her Christian beliefs, and often criticized her. This troubled Monica, who wanted her husband and her children to embrace Christianity. On the surface, she was seemingly powerless; she had no way to force her husband to convert or see that her children were baptized or followed the faith. She ended up succeeding at both, not by power, but by example. By living a pious life, she managed to convince both her husband and her mother-in-law to convert. She also stood as a source of inspiration for her son, St. Augustine of Hippo. She even became a leader for devout women wherever she went, not because she demanded their respect, but simply because of the life she led. To this day, I realize that I’m still not very good at gaining control of a group of people, but I try to lead by example and patience, as Saint Monica did.
Now, approaching my junior year of college, I find a new inspiration in the life of Saint Monica. It’s hard to watch good friends make mistakes, especially when you know that you’re going to have to watch them suffer and try to pick up the pieces afterwards. I try to offer my advice and warnings from my own experiences, but time after time, it gets ignored and I’m stuck dealing with consequences. I started to get fed up last year and eventually stopped offering advice in general. I figured that they were going to do what they were going to do anyhow, so I might as well not even bother. I was losing my patience. Saint Monica was getting fed up with her son Augustine. He was ignoring her wishes and living an immoral life. At one point, she even cast him from her house, forbidding him from eating or sleeping there, until she had a vision telling her that Augustine would return to the faith. From then on, she patiently stood beside her son, watching him make mistake after mistake, but never wavering in her dedication. As a reward for her patience and devotion, Augustine was baptized and went on to become one of the greatest theological thinkers in the history of the Church.
Saint Monica’s patience is an inspiration to me in an even deeper way. As hard as it is to be patient with others, I find it much harder to be patient with myself. As we are all human, we have things about ourselves that we’d like to improve. In my quest to be more patient with others, I often find myself falling short. I get frustrated with myself, wondering why I can’t just let certain things go. Saint Monica didn’t give up on Augustine, even after years of disappointment. It’s easy to get caught up in how daunting a goal is and to focus on all of our failures. Just as it’s important to be patient with others, it is equally hard to be patient with ourselves. I believe we can get there, with the leadership provided by Saint Monica as a great source of inspiration.