Today is the feast of Saint Monica. She has a special place in my heart. First of all, Saint Monica was the first parish I served as a priest. It was a wonderful experience for me. Not only is Saint Monica a great parish with good people, but the priests I worked with were so kind to me. My pastor was a man who practiced charity in his actions each day. He was generous with the goods God had given him, and he was solicitous in paying attention to the people whom he was called to serve. Father taught me to be available to people, especially the sick and dying, because that was a crucial time for them and their families. Many people would remember how you treated them when their loved one was dying, and that might give them the courage to turn to the Lord and to the Church. When I was moved from Saint Monica, I was sad, not only to leave a parish I had grown to love, but because I would never again be able to serve under Father's guidance in that way. (It was not just him, it was also the other priests that were there also.)
Second of all, Saint Monica is special to me because of her particular life situation. Her husband was unfaithful to her and her son was unfaithful to the Lord, seeking the Truth in bizarre ways. Yet she never gave up praying, nor did she cut them off because of how they must have hurt her. In my family, as in many others, there are those who have fallen away from the practice of their Catholic faith. They are not evil people, but sometimes it hurts that we cannot all worship together in the way we were raised. Sometimes unfortunate things are said which are hurtful or at least confusing. But when I think of Saint Monica, her story gives me courage to continue to pray and to trust and to love. I am not the Lord, Jesus is the Lord and He can heal any wound and reconcile any division in His holy passion.
Third of all, although Saint Monica prayed hard to God to convert her son Augustine, although she never shrank from telling him the truth about his actions so that he might change, her heart was really not set on this world. She correctly saw her true homeland and her true goal to be heaven. And any remembrance of her in this life, she wanted to be during the Holy Mass, when we pray for the dead.
With God's help, we will also persevere in our prayers and someday get to meet both Saint Monica and her son Saint Augustine in the joys of heaven. I hope that she prays for me and my family too (not just my immediate family, but my spiritual family as well).