A Patient Perseverance (Christian Men and Their Godly Moms)

It was God’s good plan to use the patient and persistent prayers of Augustine’s mother to draw her son to faith.

When looking to ancient history it can be difficult to separate fact from legend. But we do know that Monica responded to her son’s rebellion with prayer—earnest, pleading, tear-filled prayer and fasting. One bishop who knew of Monica’s prayers comforted her by saying, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” She prayed for Augustine and also remained close to him, accompanying him when he moved.

 

In each generation, there are countless men who rise to fame because of their widespread impact. But there are only a select few who are remembered far beyond their day, who leave such a mark on the course of the world that their names are forever written in history. We know one such man as Saint Augustine of Hippo. Born Aurelius Augustinus, he was first a professor but, following a dramatic conversion, became a pastor and theologian. He is arguably the most significant of the Church Fathers and unarguably the one whose works are most familiar to us today. We cannot understand the history of Christian faith without accounting for his legacy.

We encounter Saint Augustine in the series “Christian Men and Their Godly Moms” because it is impossible to tell his story without telling about his mother. It was God’s good plan to use the patient and persistent prayers of Augustine’s mother to draw her son to faith.

Faith and Patience

Aurelius Augustinus was born on November 13, 354, in the North African municipality of Tagaste, which today is Souk Ahras, Algeria. That area of North Africa had been deeply impacted by Christianity and was the seat of much Christian fervor. Augustine was born into a family of respectable Roman citizens and received many advantages, not the least of which was a fine education. While his father, Patricius, was a pagan with a violent temper, his mother, Monica, was a Christian of godly virtue. She was a Berber and had been raised in a Christian home before she was given in marriage to the much older Patricius. She suffered deeply through his violence and adultery, but endured with faith and patience. She turned her attention to her three children and committed herself to motherhood. One biographer says, “Augustine drank of Christ with his mother’s milk … As soon as he could speak, she taught him to lisp a prayer. As soon as he could understand, she taught him, in language suited to his childish sense, the great truths of the Christian Faith.” She was his first teacher, his first instructor in Scripture and sound doctrine.

Of the three children, Augustine caused Monica the most grief. From a young age, he was rebellious and rejected both the faith and the ethics of his mother. For a time he even gave himself to hedonism, pursuing carnal pleasure and gleefully bragging of conquests both real and imagined. When he was 19, he began a relationship with a young Carthaginian woman whom his parents considered far below his station and who soon bore him a son. Though his parents continued to disapprove of his relationship, he remained with his lover for 15 years.

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