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Lightly esteeming all earthly ornaments, she sought diligently to beautify her soul with virtue ; and thus grew into blooming maidenhood, to the joy of her family. Agreeably to the wishes of her parents, she married a much respected and wealthy man of her native town, named Patricius; and in this union she enjoyed the opportunity to exercise practically the virtues which she had cultivated. Her husband, whose main trait was generosity and kindness, was also a very passionate man, not able to bridle himself, and by this weakness often offended others. Remembering that together with firmness of character, which is also desirable in woman, gentleness must ever be prominent, she ever met his passionate disposition with the tenderest forbearance and most unwearied mildness. Thus armed, she calmed his stormy nature, and trained him silently and gradually to self-government. When, in later years, other women expressed their wonder that she could have succeeded in these circumstances to preserve the peace of the family, she was accustomed to say: “When my husband scolds, I pray; when he gets angry, I forgive him, or speak kind words to him. In this way I have not only allayed his passion, but also led him forward, that he has become a Christian."
Her position was rendered the more difficult by her mother-in-law, who, during the first years of her marriage, lived with her under the same roof; and by whom, all that her daughter-in-law did was viewed with mistrust, and falsely interpreted. But Monica confined herself only the more silently to her duties, diligently attended to the affairs of her house, governed with the tenderest love among the little ones whom God had entrusted to her, showed the best example of a house-mother to all in the family ; so that her mother-in-law was compelled to respect her. Thus the peace of the family, which is only too easily disturbed when older anthority sets itself up to cast the younger into the shade, was preserved.
One great gulf between her and her husband yet remained to be removed. She was a christian in the fullest sense of the word ; while Patricius was as yet attached to heathenism. O, how often did she wish that she could kneel with her husband at the same altar. How often did she pray that the Lord would convert him to christianity, and let her become the instrument of such conversion; and how wisely did she labor without weariness, toward this end! She bestowed all her care on the instruction of her children ; early impressing upon them the fear of God; taught them to pray; sought carefully to free them from all little faults; and in this way so impressed the mind of her husband, that he yielded to her entreaties and was baptized !
Monica had to experience the grief of weeping at the grave of her husband. This grave was to her à cherished spot. She expected one day to rest by his side; and all thoughts of a second marriage she put far from her. She lived in pious widowhood. Twice a day, morning and evening, she took part in the public worship of the congregation. At the graves of the martyrs she kindled the flame of her faith, and learned to overcome the world. The poor loved her as an unwearied benefactress. But especially did she devote herself to the christian education of her children, earnestly watching and praying that they might be preserved in the paths of virtue and piety. Thus she was the "widow indeed" which St. Paul describes, " that is desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day; that is well reported of for good works, that hath brought up children, lodged strangers, washed the Saints' feet, relieved the afflicted, and diligently followed every good work."
Truly touching is the care which Monica bestowed upon the moral and religious culture of her beloved son, Augustine. The pious spirit of the mother had made the deepest impression on the son ; so that though a wicked youth, yet once, during a severe spell of sickness he longed for baptism, which, according to the custom of that time was often deferred till old age, because it was falsely supposed there was no remedy for sin committed after Baptism. With the most affectionate blessing, his parents had permitted him to leave home, in order that he might pursue his scientific studies in a distant city. Here, however, the spirited youth was led into all kinds of evil ways; and when, after his father's death, we went over to Carthage, he yielded himself to the most unbridled spirit of profligacy, as he himself afterwards informed the world in his
Confessions." This degeneracy of her son, almost broke Monica's heart; and her grief was greatly increased when she heard that he had also forsaken the true faith of the Church, and united himself with the sect of the Monicheans, who at that time made great progress, burying the truth under the rubbish of heathen ideas and the blossoms of sensual philosophy, which were well adapted to captivate the youthful mind. Her tears did not move Lim, he sought rather, though in vain, to bring her over to his views. Monica shuddered in view of the wicked life of her son; and, taking severe measures, forbid him to return to her until he had changed his course of life.
But maternal love did not die out. She prayed for the deliverance of her son. Once she had a beautiful dream. She saw herself in tears, when an angel came to her, and asked for the cause of her sorrow. "I weep,” she said "on account of the ruin of my son.” The angel er. horted her to be silent, and told her to look up; for where she was, was also her son. She looked up, and Augustine stood beside her. The next morning she requested that her son mignt be brought into her presence. Though he laughed at her dream, she took him back again to her own house. But her tears, as yet, effected no change in him. At one time a pious bishop found her weeping, and encouraged her in her despairing grief, with the words: “It is impossible that the son of these tears should be lost !"
Augustine had now determined to go to Rome to enter a pon the call. ing for which his studies had prepared him, as Teacher of Rhetoric. His mother did all in her power to persuade him from this step, because she feared the temptations to which he would there be exposed. But one evening, he stole away secretly and went on board a ship in order to sail for Rome. His mother followed him to the ship, and besieged him with her entreaties. Augustine pretended to yield; but in his own heart he was at the same time maturing an unhallowed scheme. He requested her to go into a chapel and there await him, while he would take his leave of a young friend on board the ship. When, after some time, his mother left the chapel, she saw in the distance the departing
ship in which her son had, after all, fled from her. In fearful astonishment she stood in her loneliness and grief; but God gave her grace to return again to her duties at home.
Whilst her son, restlessly driven about, finds not in Rome the place he sought, but hastens to Milan, there to teach Rhetoric, Monica felt herself impelled by maternal love to follow him to that city. In company with her son, Navigius, she braved the dangers of a sea voyage and arrived safely at Milan.
Here she found Augustine in a wonderfully excited state of mind. The sermons of the divinely eloquent Ambrose bad attracted his attention, and he had looked into the abyss over which he was hanging. He now felt that peace was to be found by him only in pure christianity. Monica saw the inward struggle of her son; and when he poured out his heart before her, she said: "Has God promised all, He will also supply what is lacking. My faith is firm in the Lord, that before I shall leave this country, I shall see you a truly believing christian."
At one time in deep distress he hastened to a garden, threw himself down under a fig-tree and wept bitterly. Here, he heard from an adjoining garden, the lovely voice of a child, in whose pious hymn the words: “Take and read,” were frequently repeated. He sprang to his feet, brought a Bible, opened it, and his eyes fell on the words in Romans xiii: 13, 14 : "Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in clambering and wantonness, not in strife and envy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." These words took deep hold on him. What joy, when he informed his mother that he had found grace with God, and would show his gratitude to Him by a pious life.
Several months before his baptism, Augustine, with his brother and his son, withdrew to the villa of a friend near Milan, in order to devote himself to meditation. Monica, who also accompanied them, was the soul of the little community. She attended to the domestic affairs; and as she found herself edified by their instructive conversations, she felt herself also drawn out by the freeness of faith which dwelt in her. At one time, she came in at the close of one of these conversations, and her name was mentioned by the one who wrote down these conversations; she said : “How is this ? does the name of a woman also properly appear in the books of the learned ?" To this Augustine answered : "Your name, at least, is properly so recorded, for you are a true teacher of philosophy! Philosophy is nothing else than love of wisdom. But the true wisdom is Christ, and you love Christ more than me, although you have loved me to such an extent that for my sake you ventured your life on the sea. Behold for this reason I am gladly your son, and your papil." He knew how much he was indebted to his mother. "Truly," he once said, “Truly do I believe, my dear mother, that in answer to your prayers God has given me the disposition which I have, to value nothing so high as the search of wisdom, that I desire nothing else, think of nothing else, and love nothing else."
At Easter, in the year 387, she saw the blessed hour. She was present as a witness to the baptism of her son, in the church in Milan. Inwardly and deeply moved, she clasped to her glad and gratetfal heart her regenerate son! He now determined to accompany her to Africa, that her anxious wish, one day to rest by the side of her husband, might be fulfilled.
Let now Augustine himself give us an account of the last days and the closing scene in the life of his mother, Monica. She stood with her son at the window, in Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, in the quietude of evening, looking out into the fruit garden. “Here we spake sweetly with one another.* Forgetting the past, and looking only toward the future, we asked ourselves in the presence of the Truth, which Thou art, what the eternal life of the saints will be. And we opened longingly the mouths of our hearts to receive the celestial overlowings of Thy fountain, the fountain of life, that is with Thee, that being bedewed from it according to our capacity, we might meditate carefully upon this solemn subject. When now our discourse had reached that point, that no pleasure of corporeal sense, regarded in what brilliant light soever, durst for a moment be named with the glory of that life, much less be compared with it, we mounted upward in ardent longing, and wandered step by step through all the material universe—the heavens, from which sun, moon and stars beam down upon the earth. And we rose yet higher in inward thought, discourse and admiration of Thy wonderful works, and going in spirit, we rose above these also, in order to reach yon sphere of inexhaustible fulness, where Thou dost feed Israel to all eternity upon the pastures of Truth, where life is, and Truth by which all was made, that was there and will be. But it itself was not made; it is as it was and always will be ; for to have been and to be are not in it, but being, because it is eternal. For to have been and to be are not eternal
. Whilst we were thus talking and desiring, we touched it gently in full rapture of heart, and left bound there the first-fruits of the Spirit, and turned again to the sound of our lips, where the word begins and ends. And what is like Thy Word, our Lord, who remains unchanged in himself, and renews all ?' We spake thus : If the tamalt of the flesh were silent, and the images of earth, sea, and air were silent, and the poles were silent, and the soul itself were silent, transcending its own thoughts; if dreams and the revelations of fancy, and every language, and every sign, and every thing represented by them were silent; if all were silent, for to him who hears, all these say, we have not made ourselves, but He who made us dwells in eternity; if, at this call, they were now silent, with ear uplifted to their Creator, and He should speak alone, not by them, but anmediated, so that we heard His own word, not through a tongue of flesh, nor through the voice of an angel, not through the roar of thunder, not through the dark outlines of a similitude, but from Himself, whom we love in them, and whom, without them, we heard as we now mounted, and with the rapid flight of thought touched the eternal truth that lies beyond them all; if this contemplation should continue, and no other foreign visions mingle with it, and if this alone should take hold of, and absorb, and wrap op its beholder in more inward joys, and such a life as that of which, now recovering our breath, we have had a momentary taste, were to last for ever : would
* In the quotations here given from St. Augustine's confessions, we have followed the translations as given by Dr. Schaff in his life of St. Augustine; and have also left them stand connected by his words.
not then the saying, 'Enter into the joy of your Lord,' be fulfilled ?" In the presentiment that she would soon enter into the joy of her Lord, Monica, struck by the inspired words of her son, said : "Son, what has befallen me ? Nothing has any more charms for me in this life. What I am yet to do here, and why I am here, I do not know, every hope of this world being now consumed. Once there was a reason why I should wish to live long, that I might see you a believing Christian before I should die. God has now richly granted me this beyond measure, in permitting me to see you in His service, having totally abandoned the world. What yet have I to do here?”
Five or six days after this conversation and foretaste of the eternal Sabbath-rest of the saints, the pious mother was attacked by a fever, which in a short time exhausted her vital powers. Her two sons were continually at her bedside. Augustine was now indeed more than ever bowed down with grief, that he had caused her so many tears and pains, and sought, by the last tender offices of love, to make as much amends as possible. Monica read his heart, and assured him with tenderer affection, that he had never spoken an unkind word to her. Before, it had always been her wish to die at home, and rest beside the grave of her husband. But now this natural wish was merged into loftier resignation to the will of God: "Bary my body somewhere here," said she, "and do not concern yourselves on its account; only this I beg of you, that you will be mindful of me at the altar of God, where you will be." To the question, whether it would not be terrible to her to be buried so far from her fatherland, she replied, “Nothing is far from God; and there is no fear that he will not know at the end of time, where to raise me up." Thus, in the fifty-sixth year of her age, on the ninth day of her sickness, this noble-hearted woman expired in the arms of her son, at the mouth of the Tiber, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, which separated Italy from her earthly home. Yet, long after her death, has she consoled and comforted thousands of anxious mothers, and encouraged them in patient waiting and perseverance in prayer. Her memory remains for ever dear and blessed to the Church. Adeodatus cried aloud. Augustine himself could scarcely restrain by force the gush of tears, and quiet the overpowering feelings of grief which were rushing into his heart. He believed it was not becoming "to honor such a corpse with the tearful wailings and groans, which are usually given to those who die a miserable, yea, an eternal death.” For his mother had not died miserably; she had merely entered into the joy of her Lord. When the weeping had subsided, Evodius took the psalter : "I will sing of mercy and judgment; unto Thee, O Lord, will I sing,” (Ps. ci: 1); and the whole house joined in the response. After the corpse had been buried, and the Holy Supper celebrated on the grave, according to the custom of the age in the consciousness of a communion of saints uninterrupted by death, and Augustine found himself at home alone with his God, then he gave his tears free vent, and wept sorely and long over her who had shed before God so many tears of maternal love and solicitude on bis account.