She struggled with drinking too much wine, married an unbeliever, lacked a proper education, and raised a challenging child – yet her influence is still felt today.

What we know about Monica mostly comes from the writing of her son – earthly church father Augustine. She lived from 333-387 in a time when most women had no more than basic literacy – just enough to write a grocery list and read the signs in the market. Yet she was an intellectual who took part in her son’s conversations on philosophical and theological matters. She made the effort to share his intellectual life and he often gave her the last word in a conversation.

Her husband wasn’t a Christian and Augustine was a challenging child – brilliant but difficult.  He questioned everything.  In young adulthood, he fell in with a heretical group that believed there were 2 equal principles – good and evil. It was useless to argue with him because he was the smartest person in the room.

So, Monica prayed for her son. And then she prayed some more. She tried to get a church leader to talk to Augustine and show him the error of his ways – but that leader said that he was unteachable. She cried and this leader assured her that God heard her prayers and saw her tears.

At one point, Augustine lied to her about going to Rome – she prayed he wouldn’t go – but the Lord was answering her greater prayer of bringing him back to true faith. He went to Rome where Church father Ambrose answered his questions and helped him see the errors in the heresy he was believing. Eventually, Augustine found his way back to God and to the Church. Monica’s persistent example, love, and prayers were part of the process of turning Augustine into the man who wrote his great works– Confessions and the City of God. These works shaped Christian thought and the practice of biblical exegesis.

He wrote in his Confessions that it was his mother – Monica – more than any of the great philosophers that impacted his life and faith. Her joy, contentment, and ability to detach herself from material things of the world spoke volumes to Augustine.

Monica was faithful, but not without flaws. In her young life, she fell into the habit of drinking too much wine. One of her servants was angry with her on a particular day and called her a drunkard.  This insult cured her. The sting of the accusation made her realize her bad habit, and she gave up wine completely.

Augustine wrote much about her death at age 56. He chronicled how at the end she longed for heaven and felt assured that Christ would raise her up to new life.

Monica’s example helps us remember to pray when people we love stray from the truth of God’s Word. She prayed with persistence and continued to provide a godly example and steady stream of love while she waited.

She also challenges us to keep engaging our minds to stay intellectually sharp to dialogue about spiritual things – no matter what kind of education we’ve had.