In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
OPENING PRAYER TO SAINTS MONICA AND AUGUSTINE
(For the conversion and sanctification of ourselves and our loved ones)
Lord our God, ever merciful to all who hope in you, you adorned your servant Monica with the priceless gift of reconciling her husband and children to you; you listened to her fervent and continuous prayers calling Saint Augustine from the ways of error to serve you in holiness, making of him a sign in the world of the power of the grace of Christ and of the intercession of the saints on our behalf; renew, O Lord, in your Church and in our hearts the spirit you gave to Saint Augustine and Saint Monica; grant that in our thirst for true wisdom we and our loved ones may never cease to search for you, and may our hearts rest united in you, the living fountain of unending love. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
A SHORT MEDITATION ON THE LIVES OF SAINTS MONICA AND AUGUSTINE
(PART 6: ST. AUGUSTINE)
Augustine the Priest
At Thagaste, Augustine, Adeodatus (his son before his conversion), and several companions lived an intense life of prayer, work, and fellowship, sharing their insights about Scripture and the Christian vocation. After three years, however, while on a visit to the city of Hippo in the year 389, about fifty miles distant from Thagaste, Augustine was called to become a priest, contrary to his wishes, but disposed, nevertheless, to accept what he believed was God’s will for him. In Hippo, too, he established a monastic community, which he directed while assisting the bishop, Valerius. While in his lay community at Thagaste in the year 389, Augustine went to Hippo to see a friend who was interested in setting up a similar community there. Thirty-five years later, he recounted in Sermon 355 how greatly this visit changed his life. In Hippo “I was grabbed,” he explained. Augustine was not exaggerating; he was pressed into becoming a priest.
It had not been his intention to become a priest. Indeed, he had been avoiding it because he wished to lead a private life in his community of lay people at Thagaste. When he was at Mass in Hippo the aged bishop, Valerius, saw Augustine in the congregation. In his homily, Valerius was describing the urgent need of the local Catholic minority, which was surrounded by sects such as the Donatists. And then, without warning, Valerius added, “This congregation is in need of more priests, and I believe that the calling of Augustine to the altar would be to the honour of God.” Willing hands propelled Augustine forward, and the bishop and congregation prevailed upon Augustine to say yes. The only condition that Augustine sought and was granted was that he be allowed time for study and preparation beforehand. Although not wanting to give up his life of study and prayer as a lay person in a community, Augustine nevertheless agreed to the request of the people. In a sermon much later in life, Augustine said to his people:
“A slave may not contradict his Lord. I came to this city to see a friend, whom I thought I might gain for God, that he might live with us in our community at Thagaste. I felt secure, for the place already had a bishop. I was grabbed. I was made a priest . . . and from there, I became your bishop.” In his book, City of God, he said “No one should be so given to contemplation that in this condition he gives no thought to the needs of his neighbour; nor so given to activity that he allows no time for the contemplation of God… The love of truth seeks out holy leisure, but the compelling force of love takes on necessary activity. But if no one imposes this burden, time should be passed in searching out and looking into truth. If, however, the burden is imposed, it ought to be borne because of the compelling force of love. However, not even in this case should the delight for learning be entirely abandoned, lest that delight be lost and the burden crush him.” [City of God, 19, 19]
Before becoming a bishop. Augustine had five years of priesthood (391-396). He began this ministry not later than the Easter of 391, when he preached to the candidates for baptism in Hippo. Valerius had insisted that he preach, in spite of the custom in Africa of reserving that ministry to bishops. These years as a priest were quite a formative time for him. As a priest, Augustine devoted himself to the study of Scripture in a different way than before, and even successfully sought otium (“study leave”) from Bishop Valerius of Hippo in order to do so. He prepared himself for the years ahead. There would be struggles with heretics and a huge amount of writing that he would undertake. During this period he wrote the first of his treatises against the Manichees. The dialogues that Augustine wrote at Cassiciacum the year following his conversion and preceding his baptism showed few substantial signs of a theological understanding that was decisively or distinctively Christian.
By the time of his ordination to the presbyterate, however,the basic lines of a comprehensive and orthodox theology within him were firmly laid out. Augustine neglected to write about what had happened in his thought between 385 and 391. He had other questions, more interesting to him, with which to wrestle. While he was a priest Augustine combated heresy, especially Manichæism, which in earlier years he himself had followed. Partly because of this past experience with it, his success against Manichaeism was notable. Fortunatus, one of their scholars and a Manichean priest at Hippo, whom Augustine debated in a public conference in 392, was so humiliated by his defeat that he fled from Hippo. Other details of this period are that Augustine appealed to Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, to suppress the custom of holding banquets and entertainments in the churches. By the year 395 Augustine had succeeded, through his courageous words, in abolishing this custom in Hippo.
As well, his treatise De fide et symboli (“About Faith and symbols”) was prepared to be read before the bishops of the region assembled at the Council held at Hippo on 8 October 393. After that he travelled to Carthage, which was to become the most frequent destination of all of his subsequent journeys. Augustine remained there for a while, perhaps in connection with the synod held there in 394. In summary, the time which Augustine spent in the presbyterate (391-396) were the last years of his formative period. His earliest written works from the year 396 onwards reveal the fully developed Christian thinker of whose special teaching we think when we speak of Augustinianism. This demonstrates that his five years of priesthood had been, therefore, an important time of intellectual growth for him. As a very new priest, Augustine placed before Valerius, his bishop, a respectful demand. Augustine thought that Valerius had almost no choice when responding; the only realistic answer to the letter from Augustine was that his request be granted. Valerius knew that Augustine had been “grabbed” for priesthood – as Augustine himself had described it – by the Hippo congregation, even possibly with the connivance of Valerius himself; this unexpected and muscular persuasion had caught Augustine not only by surprise but also unprepared.
Augustine had suddenly been transferred from his dedicated lay membership in the church to the sacrament and ministry of priesthood. He did this without moving gradually through any of the intermediate clerical grades such as lector, subdeacon, or deacon.; he may have been concerned that others would not have approved his rapid promotion through these grades of Holy Orders. Even if that were not so, Augustine himself in any case was clearly aware of the inadequacy of his hurried preparation for his ministry. This would have been especially true of the role of preaching into which Bishop Valerius promoted Augustine while he was still a priest and not yet a bishop. For a priest to preach was quite exceptional in the church in North Africa until Augustine broke that pattern. From what is known of his style of preaching, Augustine certainly sought further time for the otium (“holy leisure”) of absorbing the Scriptures.
Another motivation open to Augustine was that as a lay person he had himself been a vocal critic of clergy who were inadequately trained for duty. Now he suddenly felt he was in that situation himself. He now experienced the real dangers and actual demands of priestly ministry, and as a result proposed a two-fold remedy to his bishop. The first part was already happening: he had learned virtue by recognising his weakness (a task that his Confessions would show future ages soon after he became a bishop). The second part of his remedy could only be addressed by an intense study of the Scriptures, which in his letter to Valerius he called “the medication of God.” He wrote to Valerius, “I ought to carefully consider God’s medication in the Scriptures. I can do this by prayer and reading, in order that strength sufficient for such dangerous obligations (as priesthood) may be granted to me.” (Letter 21,3) Studying the Gospel, praying them, and translating them into deeds: this was the preparation that Augustine saw himself as needing. He thus respectfully asked Valerius to grant him a period of time free of pastoral duty, a request that apparently was granted. (To be continued…)
Silent Prayer and Reflection…
EVERYDAY PRAYER TO SAINTS MONICA AND AUGUSTINE
Dear Saint Monica, troubled wife and mother, you endured many sorrows, difficulties, and humiliations. However, you never despaired or lost faith. Grant me that same fortitude, patience, and trust in the Lord.
Today we pray for those whose sins make them feel unworthy to come to God. May they feel the warm embrace of Our Father’s loving forgiveness.
Dear St Monica, troubled wife, and mother, many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime. Yet you never despaired or lost faith. With confidence, persistence, and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius, and your beloved son, Augustine. Grant me that same fortitude, patience, and trust in the Lord. Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, that God may favorably hear my plea for (mention your petition here).
And grant me the grace to accept his will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
O holy Saint Augustine, who has famously declared that “Our hearts were made for you, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.”, aid me in my own search for our Lord that through your intercession I may be granted the wisdom to determine the purpose God has planned for me. Pray that I be blessed with the courage to follow God’s will even at times when I do not understand. Ask our Lord to lead me to a life worthy of His love, that I may one day share the riches of His kingdom. Petition our Lord and Savior to ease the burden of my problems and grant my special intention, and I will honor you all of my days.
Beloved Saint Augustine the miracles you have performed for the greater glory of God have caused people to seek your intercession for their most pressing concerns. Hear my cries as I invoke your name to petition God for an increased faith and to aid me in my present distress. (State the nature of your problem or the special favour you seek)
Glorious Saint Augustine I boldly ask for your intercession confident in your boundless wisdom and compassion. May this devotion lead me to a life dedicated to fulfilling the will of God that I may one day be deemed worthy of sharing His Kingdom with you and all the saints for all eternity.
- Lord, you gave Saint Monica the strength to overcome the difficulties of her marriage, help all spouses who experience trouble in their marriage to be a consolation to one another.
- Lord, you comforted Saint Monica in her prayer for the conversion of her son, help us not to despair in times of trial, and to place all our hope in you.
- Lord, you granted Saint Monica the grace of bringing her husband and her son to you, may all wives and mothers be instruments of your love in their families, so that they know how to lead their husbands and children to you.
- Lord, through a true conversion of heart you led Saint Augustine out of the depths of sin to your love, come to our heart, so that we will forget our sins and we will be embraced by you, our one and only good.
- Lord, you inflamed the hearts of Saint Monica and her son Saint Augustine so that they would aspire to heavenly things, may we also long for the supreme source of life.
Full of confidence we pray to our heavenly Father in the words Christ taught us. Our Father… Hail Mary (X3)… Glory be…
PRAYER OF PETITION
Blessed Saint Monica, please add your prayers to all those mothers who are concerned and worried about their children, especially those who have turned away from Christ and His Church. Take them under your protection and give them the courage to walk in the ways of the Lord despite the temptation and false values they find in today’s world. Please also, take my personal request to God for my loved ones with the same fervour and persistence with which you prayed for your own son. Amen. Blessed Saint Augustine, we entrust to your powerful intercession our hearts and those of our loved ones, so that we will all be faithful to the Love and Grace of God who invites us to conversion, to live and rest in Him, to live in the communion of love with all our brothers and sisters and to spread his love to all our neighbours. Amen.
Saint Monica and Saint Augustine, lead me to true conversion.
Saint Monica and Saint Augustine, lead me to true conversion.
Saint Monica and Saint Augustine, lead me to true conversion.
O Saint Monica, who through prayer and tears achieved the conversion of your son and your husband to God, look into my bitter heart. I pray now for this person who causes so much trouble and suffering to my heart and to my whole family… (Name the person you pray for)
Saint Monica, may your prayers join mine to move the Good God, so that He, the living and true God may make this person for whom I pray for, return to the right path. Santa Monica, let the Father in Heaven call this prodigal son back to his father’s home. Give me this joy and I will be forever grateful.
LET US PRAY
O God, comforter of the afflicted, health to those who wait on You, who mercifully accepted the pious tears of the blessed mother Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine and her husband Patricius, grant us through Your Intercession, that we may weep for our sins and find indulgence of Your grace. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
St. Augustine, pray for us!
Santa Monica, intercede for us!
Through the intercession of Saints Monica and Augustine, may the Lord bless + us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
Compiled from various sources by Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo, Brazil
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?