Today, May 17, that is, May 4 according to the Julian calendar, the Church honors the memory of Saint Monica. Like Emilia of Caesarea (+375), Nonna of Nazianzus (+374) and Anthusa of Antioch (324-?) - the mothers of Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom - Monica was one of those great wives who brought up great teachers of universal Christianity. Without them, the history of the Church and the world would have been different. The holy mothers of the Church Fathers are truly worthy of veneration.
The mother of the greatest of the western Fathers of the Church was born in Thagaste, modern Algerian Souq-Ahras, in 331. At the age of 22, she gave birth to Augustine, being 40 years old, she was widowed in 371.
Monica's husband, Patricius, or, in modern transcription, Patrick, was baptized before his death. Such a tradition, in fact, turning sacramental baptism for the remission of sins into a washing before death, was widespread in antiquity. Paradoxically, it was the future teaching of the late Augustine that contributed to the abolition of this practice.
The death of the father did not change the attitude of the future Father of the Church towards Christianity. He was in religious delusions, and, like the Apostle Paul before his conversion, but intellectually, he persecuted the Church (1 Cor.15:9), denying the meaningfulness of Christianity and mocking the biblical Old Testament foundations of faith in Jesus Christ. Saint Monica prayed for her son, her prayer then was based on the conviction of the Christians of the Carthaginian Church that God, by the power of grace, can change the will of a person, break it by transforming it into a Thirst for Good (cf. Luke 14:23). Faith, prayer, and patience of St. Monica did not remain without fruit.
In 387, on the night of Easter, April 24, Augustine was baptized in Milan by Saint Ambrose. A few months later, on November 13, Monica reposed in the Lord in Roman Ostia.
In addition to her first child, Augustine, Monica gave birth to a son, Navigius, and a daughter, Perpetua (+423). The latter is also canonized in the saints.
Augustine's conversion to Christianity was the result of a personal search and the most complex spiritual evolution. However, he himself believed and claimed that he became a Christian through the predestination of God and the prayers of his mother. In his later writings, Augustine insisted that he received knowledge of this from above by divine revelation at the moment of episcopal ordination.
This May celebration in honor of the mother of saint Augustine is associated with the transfer of part of the relics of Monica from Rome to the Augustinian abbey of Arrouaise in northern France in 1162.
Founded in 1090, the monastery in the name of St. Nicholas needed the special heavenly intercession of Augustine, whose monastic charter he was guided by. Obviously, the veneration of the Father of the Church himself in those days was very great. Augustine was called the "Matrix of all conclusions" and the "Father of Fathers." His relics rested in the northern Italian city of Pavia. Therefore, bringing any ancient relic directly related to him was simply not possible.
On the contrary, the veneration of Augustine's mother Monica began to spread in the Church only seven centuries after her righteous death. At the turn of the first and second millennia of the Christian era, it greatly increased and continued to spread unspeakably until our time. It turns out that the transfer of relics to France and the beginning of the flowering of her veneration in that era are mutually intertwined.
Like many shrines, churches, and monasteries, the once very glorious Abbey of the canons of St. Augustine ceased to exist during the French Revolution (1789). But connected with the circumstances of the heyday of the monastery, the transfer of the relics of the saint by the mysterious predestination of God became one of the dates for the celebration of the memory of Monica of Thagaste in Orthodoxy.