“Woman, the child of so many tears shall never perish.”
These words of Ambrose to Monica proved more than true. And that, my friends, is why we have saints.
Tears are human. When they are sincere, they are the most powerful form of intercession, for God cannot refuse them.
Monica’s tears drenched the soil that would yield not just her son’s conversion, but moreover, the most influential Christian writer in Church history, Saint Augustine.
As a saint, Monica not only serves as a powerful intercessor for mothers, wives, and alcoholics, but also as a model for all the above. Persistence with her son, Patience with her husband, and more importantly, putting her own life in order — she fought the great fight and finished the race.
She could have been a fawning mother, nagging wife, and a drunk, if she let the ordinary events in her life dictate her actions. Instead, she sought her conversion first while desiring the same for her husband and son.
The Church sets the example of Saint Monica before us — mothers, wives, husbands, and sons — as a model of perseverance and hope. I find it interesting that her feast this year followed in tandem after yesterday’s second reading from the Mass:
Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. — Ephesians 5:2132
In this earthly vale of tears, God gives us ordinary things as opportunity for our sanctification. He gives us the gift of tears to express repentance for our sins and compassion and concern for the ones we love. He gives us the example of ordinary men and women who become saints through sacrifice, prayer, and the aid of God’s grace as signs of perseverance in the trials of this life and hope for the reward of the life to come.
Saint Augustine took this all to heart. The aim of all his writing is to turn our hearts to God. That was Monica’s prayer for Augustine. Apparently, her tears were not shed in vain.