by Adam Thomas
Jesus said, “When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.” (John 16:21)
Today is the feast of St. Monnica, whose name does indeed have a pair of N’s in the middle. Known to Christian history as the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, Monnica basically invented the virtue known as ‘perseverance.’ Knowing Monnica’s story, I find Jesus’ words during his farewell discourse quoted above to be a bit funny. If he had been a mother, I doubt he would have used childbirth as a metaphor for the renewal of creation.
I’m not a mother either, so I more than likely have no idea what I’m talking about – but judging by Monnica, by my own mother, and by the mother of our nearly two-year-old twins, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the pain doesn’t end when labor does. The intensity of a mother’s love continues to bring pain and heartache even as it brings the apex of joy. Whenever I left for college, my mother would cry; and then she’d say, “If I weren’t crying, you’d know there was a problem.”
In Monnica’s case, I bet there were tears a plenty as she saw her son Augustine wasting his life. But she persevered. She never stopped loving him toward the goodness of God that she knew in her heart. And God never stopped loving her toward her mission, which was not just the conversion of her son, but the awareness and proclamation that God is everywhere. As Monnica lay dying far from home and was asked if she’d like her body brought there, she replied in the negative, saying, “Nothing is far from God; neither am I afraid God will not find me.”
Each day of her life, Monnica demonstrated the long-suffering but ever hopeful love of God. For her perseverance and the heart-breakingly beautiful love of mothers, may we give abundant thanks and praise to God.
What person in your life inspires you with his or her perseverance? (This person doesn’t have to be your mother.) How might you seek to emulate his or her resilience and constancy?