Mother of Augustine of Hippo


Monica and the Angel
Mother of Augustine of Hippo

By G.dallorto [Attribution], from Wikimedia Commons

Monica deserves to be remembered as much for her own sake as for being the mother of Augustine. We know her almost exclusively through the eyes of Augustine, mainly in his Confessions. She had been brought up as a Christian and married Patricius, a provincial with a taste for things Roman and Latin.

Monica inherited the moral rigour of North African Christianity, with its emphasis on the dread of God and the development of the cult of the dead. In her relations with her husband, she showed remarkable skill. He was given to outbreaks of violent temper and was unfaithful to Monica on occasions, but she eventually persuaded him to accept Christianity before his death in 372.

Monica’s relations with Augustine were much more complex. She and Patricius were both very ambitious for their brilliant son, and scrimped and saved to secure the best education possible for him. Monica was almost obsessively concerned for Augustine. When he became a Manichee for a while, she shut him out of the house, but accepted the wisdom of a bishop she consulted about her wayward son, who assured her that Augustine wwas too perceptive to be deceived for long by Manichaeism, and in God’s good time would turn to the truth. But she never ceased to pray for him.

Augustine however still felt the need to trick his mother when he left North Africa for Italy in 383, leaving her behind. She pursued him to Rome and then Milan, where she came under the influence of Bishop Ambrose. She became deeply involved in the worship and prayer of the church. She continued to try and manage Augustine’s life, persuading him to abandon his common law “wife” in order to make a marriage suitable for an up-and-coming man of great potential.

Before that marriage could take place, Augustine accepted a commitment to an ascetic and disciplined Christian life-style that would preclude marriage. Monica was delighted; her prayers had been answered. Augustine was baptised, and shortly afterwards headed back to North Africa to work out the consequences of his new-found commitment. Monica, having shared fully in some of Augustine’s new thinking, died just after departing for home.

BORN: 331, probably in Thagaste, North Africa (present day Algeria).

DIED:387, Ostia (Ancient Port of Rome), Italy.