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  A Christian Faith Magazine August 2003, Volume 9, Issue 1  
The Vocation of Tears
Fr. Paul N. Check
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St Monica
St Monica

Although St. Monica died over 1600 years ago, she is a saint whose importance for our times is plain. The English Dominican, Fr. Gerald Vann, wrote that she occupies a special place in the Church as patroness, after Our Lady, of married women and mothers, because she remains the great example of what he called "the glory of the vocation of tears."

St. Monica's married life was not an easy one. She suffered much from the violent rages of her pagan husband, Patricius. But Monica's quiet strength and patience compelled him at least to respect her, and in the end her prayers and her personality led him to Baptism and to a holy death.

But it is for her sorrows over her son, Augustine, that she is famous, just as it is through those sorrows and tears that she won he greatest victory for the Church. Since the death of the last Apostle, St John, St Augustine is arguably one of the most important figures in western civilization. Yet there is no Augustine without Monica, and more to the point, there is no conversion of the pagan son without the tears of the Christian mother.

St Augustine
St Augustine

For over a dozen years, Monica wept for Augustine, but never nagged him. The depth of her sorrow coupled with the strength of her faith were so poignant that a bishop who comforted Monica said, "It cannot be that the child of these tears should perish."

What precisely did Fr. Vann mean by "the vocation of tears?" To be a disciple of Christ is to carry the Cross, as Jesus told His disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."(Mt 16:24) We cannot lift our cross without the expectation of sacrifice and suffering and perhaps real tears. When those sacrifices and tears are offered for the eternal salvation of an immortal soul, as Monica offered them for Augustine, they become redemptive tears. We discover in this mystery of redemptive suffering one of the most beautiful privileges that Jesus grants to His followers: the chance to continue the work given by God the Father to God the Son, work achieved through the mystery of the Cross. It is at once inspiring and humbling to realize that the salvation of others may depend in part on our own prayers and penances.

The life of St Monica gives hope to those parents whose children are not practicing Catholics. Furthermore, we should note that Monica did not counter Augustine's impiety and disbelief with weighty arguments and brilliant logic. "God harkened to the tears of Monica," as Fr. Vann wrote. For parents who find themselves in the same position as St Monica, they need only follow the example of her tears, her prayers and her penances and leave the rest to the mercy of God.

O Lord
who taught Monica
to persevere for the good fo her family,

help me to be a better parent to my children.
Help me to have patience with them
when they misbehave
and give me the strength
to guide them gently to the right path.
Permit me always
to forgive their misdeeds
and keep me from speaking harshly
or punishing unwisely.
Please help me to be a beacon of goodness for them
as they grow to adulthood
and to be a good example to them
in all that I say and do.

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