St. Monica – From the Liturgical Year
In the company of our Risen Lord there are two women, two mothers, of whom we have often had to speak during the last few weeks: they are Mary, mother of James the Less and Thaddeus, and Salome, mother of James the Greater and John the beloved disciple. They went, with Magdalene, to the Sepulchre, on the Resurrection morning; they carried spices to anoint the Body of Jesus; they were spoken to by Angels; and, as they returned to Jerusalem, our Lord appeared to them, greeted them, and allowed them to kiss his sacred feet. Since that Day, he has repaid their love by frequently appearing to them; and on the day of his Ascension from Mount Olivet, they will be there, together with our Blessed Lady and the Apostles, to receive his farewell blessing. Let us honor these faithful companions of Magdalene, these models of the love we should show to our Lord in his Resurrection; let us, also, venerate them as mothers who gave four Apostles to the Church. But lo! On this fourth morning of beautiful May, there rises, near to Mary and Salome, another woman, another mother. She, too, is fervent in her love of Jesus. She, too, gives to holy Church a treasure: the child of her tears, a Doctor, a Bishop, and one of the grandest Saints of the New Law. This woman, this mother, is Monica, twice mother of Augustine.
This master-piece of God’s grace was produced on the desert soil of Africa. Her virtues would have been unknown till the day of Judgment, had not the pen of the great Bishop of Hippo, prompted by the holy affection of his filial heart, revealed to us the merits of this woman, whose life was humility and love, and who now, immortalized in men’s esteem, is venerated as the model and patroness of Christian Mothers. One of the great charms of the book of Confessions, is Augustine’s fervent praise of Monica’s virtues and devotedness. With what affectionate gratitude he speaks, throughout his whole history, of the untiring constancy of this mother, who, seeing the errors of her son, wept over him more than other mothers weep over the dead body of their children! Our Lord, — who, from time to time, consoles, with a ray of hope, the souls he tries, — had shown to Monica, in a vision, the future meeting of the son and mother; she had even heard a holy Bishop assuring her, that the child of so many tears could never be lost : still, the sad realities of the present weighed heavily on her heart; and both her maternal love and her Faith caused her to grieve over this son who kept away from her, yea, who kept away from her, because he was unfaithful to his God. The anguish of this devoted heart was an expiation, which would, at a future period, be applied to the guilty one; fervent and persevering prayer, joined with suffering, prepared Augustine’s second birth; — and, as he himself says, she went through more when she gave me my spiritual, than when she gave me my corporal, birth. At last, after long years of anxiety, the mother found, at Milan, this son of hers, who had so cruelly deceived her, when he fled from her roof to go and risk his fortune in Rome. She found him still doubting the truth of the Christian Religion, but tired of the errors that had misled him. Augustine was not aware of it, but he had really made an advance towards the true Faith. She found me,” says he, in extreme danger, for I despaired of ever finding the truth. But when I told her, that I was no ” longer a Manichean, and yet not a Catholic Christian, — the announcement did not take her by surprise. She leaped for joy, at being made sure that one half of my misery was gone. As to the other, she wept over me, as dead, indeed, but to rise again; she turned to thee, O my God, and wept, and, in spirit, brought me, and laid the bier before thee, that thou mightest say to the widow’s son: Young man! I say to thee, arise! Then would he come to life again, and begin to speak, and thou couldst give him back to his mother! Seeing, then, that although I had not yet found the truth, I was delivered from error, she felt sure that thou wouldst give the other half of the whole thou hadst promised. She told me in a tone of gentlest calm, but with her heart full of hope, that she was confident, in Christ, that before leaving this world, she would see me a faithful Catholic.
At Milan, Monica formed acquaintance with the great Saint Ambrose, who was the instrument chosen by God for the conversion of her son. She, says Augustine, had a very great affection for Ambrose, because of what he had done for my soul; and he equally loved her, because of her extraordinary piety, which led her to the performance of good works, and to fervent assiduity in frequenting the Church. Hence, when he saw me, he would frequently break out in her praise, and congratulate me on having such a mother. The hour of grace came at last. The light of Faith dawned upon Augustine, and he began to think of enrolling himself a member of the Christian Church; but the pleasures of the world, in which he had so long indulged, held him back from receiving the holy sacrament of Baptism.
Monica’s prayers and tears won for him the grace to break this last tie. He yielded, and became a Christian. But God would have this work of his divine mercy a perfect one. Augustine, once converted, was not satisfied with professing the true Faith; he aspired to the sublime virtue of continency. A soul, favored as his then was, could find no further pleasure in any thing that this world could offer him. Monica, who was anxious to guard her son against the dangers of a relapse into sin, had been preparing an honorable marriage for him: but Augustine came to her, one day, accompanied by his friend Alypius, and told her that he was resolved to aim at what was most perfect.
Let us listen to the Saint’s account of this interview with his mother; it was immediately after he had been admonished by the voice from heaven: We (Augustine and Alypius,) go at once to my mother’s house. We tell her what had taken place she is full of joy. We tell her all the particulars; she is overpowered with feelings of delight and exultation. She blessed thee, O my God, who canst do beyond what we ask or understand. She saw that thou hadst done more for me, than she had asked of thee, with her many piteous and tearful sighs. Thou hadst changed her mourning into joy, even beyond her wishes, yea, into a joy far dearer and chaster than she could ever have had in seeing me a father of children. A few days after this, and, in the Church of Milan, a sub lime spectacle was witnessed by Angels and men: Ambrose baptizing Augustine in Monica’s presence. The saintly mother had fulfilled her mission: her son was regenerated to truth and virtue, and she had given to the Church the greatest of her Doctors. The evening of her long and tried life was approaching, and she was soon to find eternal rest in the God, for whose love she had toiled and suffered so much. The son and mother were at Ostia, waiting for the vessel that was to take them back to Africa. I and she were alone, says Augustine, and were standing near a window of our lodging, which commanded a view of the garden.
We were having a most charming conversation. Forgetting the past, and stretching forward to the things beyond, we were talking about the future life of the saints, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it ascended into man’s heart. And whilst thus talking about it and longing for it, our hearts seemed to bound forward and reach it. We sighed, and left the first-fruits of our spirit there, and returned to the sound of our own voice. Then, my mother said to me: ‘My son! — As far as I am concerned, there is nothing now that can give me ‘ pleasure in this life. I know not what I can do, or why I should be here, now that I have nothing to hope for in this world. There was one thing, for which I desired to live somewhat longer, and it was to see thee a Catholic Christian before my death. My God has granted me this, and more; for I see that thou hast despised earthly pleasures and become his servant. What do I here? She had not long to wait for the divine invitation.
She breathed forth her pure soul a few days after this interview, leaving an indelible impression upon the heart of her son, to the Church a name most dear and honored, and to Christian mothers a perfect example of the purest and holiest maternal affection.
O thou model of mothers! Christendom honors thee as one of the most perfect types of human nature regenerated by Christ. Previous to the Gospel, during those long ages when Woman was kept in a state of abjection, a Mother’s influence on her children was feeble and insignificant; her duties were generally limited to looking after their bodily well-being; and if some mothers of those times have handed their names down to posterity, it is only because they taught their sons to covet and win the passing glory of this world. But we have no instance, in pagan times, of a mother training her son to virtue, following him from city to city that she might help him in the struggle with error and the passions, and encourage him to rise after a fall; we do not meet with one who devoted herself to continual prayer and tears, with a view to obtain her son’s return to truth and Virtue. Christianity alone has revealed a Mother’s mission and power.
What forgetfulness of thyself, O Monica, in thine incessant endeavor to secure Augustine’s salvation! After God, it is for him thou livest; and to live for thy son in such a way as this, is it not living for God, who deigns to use thee as the instrument of his grace? What carest thou for Augustine’s glory and success in this world, when thou thinkest of the eternal dangers to which he is exposed, and of his being eternally separated from God and thee? There is no sacrifice or devotedness which thy maternal heart is not ready to make, in order to satisfy the Divine justice; it has its rights, and thou art too generous not to satisfy them. Thou waitest patiently, day and night, for God’s good time to come. The delay only makes thy prayer more earnest.
Hoping against all hope, thou at length feelest, within thy heart, the humble but firm conviction, that the object of all these tears can never be lost. Moved with mercy towards thee, as he was for the sorrowing mother of Nairn, he speaks with that voice, which nothing can withstand: Young man! I say to thee, arise! And he gives him to his mother he gives thee the dear one whose death thou hadst so bitterly bewailed, but from whom thou couldst not tear thyself. What a recompense of thy maternal love is this! God is not satisfied with restoring thee Augustine full of life ; from the very depths of error and sin, this son of thine rises, and, at once, to the highest virtue. Thy prayers were that he might become a Catholic, and break certain ties which were both a disgrace and danger to him; when lo! One single stroke of grace has raised him to the sublime state of the Evangelical Counsels. Thy work is more than done, O happy mother! Speed thee to heaven; where, till thy Augustine joins thee, thou art to gaze on the saintly life and works of this son, whose salvation is due to thee, and whose bright glory, even while he sojourns here below, sheds the sweetest halo over thy venerated name. From the eternal home, where thou art now happy with this son of thine, who owes to thee his life both of earth and heaven, — cast a loving look, O Monica, on the many Christian mothers, who are now fulfilling on earth the hard but noble mission which was once thine. Their children are also dead with the death of sin; and they would restore them to true life, by the power of their maternal love. After the Mother of Jesus, it is to thee that they turn, O Monica, — thou whose prayers and tears were once so efficacious and so fruitful. Take their cause in hand; thy ten der and devoted heart cannot fail to compassionate them in the anguish, which was once thine own. Keep up their courage; teach them to hope. The conversion of these dear ones is to cost them many a sacrifice; get them the generosity and fortitude needed for their paying the price thus asked of them by God. Let them remember, that the conversion of a soul is a greater miracle than the raising a dead man to life; and that Divine Justice demands a compensation, which they, the mothers of these children, must be ready to make. This spirit of sacrifice will destroy that hidden egotism, which is but too frequently mingled with what seems to be affection of the purest kind. Let them ask themselves, if they would rejoice, as thou didst, O Monica, at finding that a vocation to the Religious Life were the result of the conversion they have so much at heart? If they are thus disinterested, let them not fear; their prayers and sufferings must be efficacious; sooner or later, the wished-for grace will descend upon the Prodigal, and he will return to God and his mother.
– Ven. Dom Gueranger – Liturgical Year
Monday Fourth Week After Easter – Double/White Vestments
St Monica, Widow – Missa ‘Cognovi’
INTROIT Psalm 118: 75, 120
Cognovi, Domine, quia æquitas judicia tua, et in veritate tua humiliasti me: confige timore tuo carnes meas, a mandatis tuis timui. Ps 118. Beati immaculati in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini. Gloria Patri.
I know, O Lord that Thy judgments are equity, and in Thy truth Thou hast humbled me: pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear, I am afraid of Thy judgments. Ps. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.
O God, the consoler of them that mourn and the health of them that hope in Thee, Who didst show Thine acceptance of blessed Monica’s pious tears in the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, by the intercession of them both, to deplore our sins and find the mercy of Thy grace. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE I Timothy 5: 3-10
Lesson from First Epistle of Saint Paul To Timothy
Dearly beloved: Honor widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children, or grandchildren, let her learn first to govern her own house, and to make a return of duty to her parents: for this is acceptable before God. But she that is a widow indeed and desolate, let her trust in God, and continue in prayers and supplications night and day. For she that liveth in pleasures, is dead while she is living. And this give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let a widow be chosen of no less than threescore years of age, who hath been the wife of one husband, having testimony for her good works, if she have brought up children, if she have received to harbor, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have ministered to them that suffer tribulation, if she have diligently followed every good work.
PASCHAL ALLELÚIA Psalm 44: 5
Allelúia, allelúia. Spécie tua, et pulchritúdine tua inténde, próspere procéde, et regna.
Alleluia. Própter veritátem et mansuetúdinem, et justítiam: et dedúcet te mirabíliter déxtera tua. Alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia. With thy comeliness, and thy beauty, set out, proceed prosperously, and reign.
Alleluia. Because of truth, and meekness, and justice: and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully. Alleluia.
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to Saint Luke
Luke 7: 11-16
At that time, Jesus went into a city called Naim: and there went with Him His disciples, and a great multitude. And when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and many people of the city were with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said to her: Weep not. And He came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it stood still. And He said: Young man, I say to thee, Arise. And he that was dead, sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on them all: and they glorified God, saying: A great Prophet is risen up amongst us, and God has visited His people.
OFFERTORY Psalm 44: 3
Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis: propterea benedixit te Deus in æternum, et in sæculum sæculi.
Grace is poured abroad in thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever and for ages of ages.
May the offerings of thy holy people be accepted by Thee, O Lord, in honour of Thy saints, through whose merits they know that they have received aid in time of trouble. Through our Lord.
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
COMMUNION Psalm 44: 8
Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem: propterea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus, oleo lætitiæ præ consortibus tuis, alleluia.
Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore God thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Alleluia.
Having fed Thy family, O Lord, with holy gifts, we beseech Thee, ever to comfort us by the intercession of her whose festival we celebrate. Through our Lord.