St. Monica, whose feast we celebrate today, is not only a saint. She’s also the mother of a saint, St. Augustine. So what the Church presents to us today for our veneration is a saintly family!
Some of you may be thinking, "That’s nice, but it certainly doesn’t describe my family." That may be true. But consider this: At one time, St. Monica was an alcoholic. She had a verbally abusive, non-Christian husband who cheated on her. Her son Augustine abandoned his faith as a teenager, defiantly embraced another religion, came home from college with a live-in girlfriend, fathered a child out of wedlock with her, and then later sneaked out of the country in order to get away from Mom.
For his part, St. Augustine suffered from depression at times; he spent many years adrift as he sought meaning and purpose in life; he wasted time and money on silly and immoral entertainment; and he struggled with a sexual compulsion that filled him with shame.
Does that sound a bit more familiar? A bit more like a real family. Maybe even a dysfunctional family. But that’s not the entire story, which has a happy ending. Augustine eventually returned to his Christian roots and became a great bishop; Monica’s pagan husband changed his ways and became a Christian as well; and Monica recovered from alcoholism and died in the company of her son, whom she had shortly beforehand watched being baptized at the hands of another saint, St. Ambrose.
Their story, I think, should give real hope to real families who struggle with real problems: Hope that now matter how bad things may seem, there’s always the possibility for healing, conversion, reconciliation, growth, and freedom. For nothing is impossible with God!