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´╗┐Title: Life of Saint Monica
Author: Forbes, F. A. (Frances Alice), 1869-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life of Saint Monica" ***

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Nihil Obstat.


_Censor Deputatus_.



_Vicarius Generalis_.


_die 15 Junii, 1915_.

Standard-bearers of the Faith
















This book is above all things the story of a mother. But it is also
the story of a noble woman--a woman who was truly great, for the
reason that she never sought to be so. Because she understood the
sphere in which a woman's work in the world must usually lie, and led
her life truly along the lines that God had laid down for her;
because she suffered bravely, forgot herself for others, and remained
faithful to her noble ideals, she ruled as a queen amongst those with
whom her life was cast. Her influence was great and far-reaching, but
she herself was the last to suspect it, the last to desire it, and
that was perhaps the secret of its greatness. The type is rare at the
present day, but, thank God! there are Monicas still in the world. If
there were more, the world would be a better place.



On the sunny northern coast of Africa in the country which we now
call Algeria stood, in the early days of Christianity, a city called
Tagaste. Not far distant lay the field of Zarna, where the glory of
Hannibal had perished for ever. But Rome had long since avenged the
sufferings of her bitter struggle with Carthage. It was the ambition
of Roman Africa, as the new colony had been called by its conquerors,
to be, if possible, more Roman than Rome. Every town had its baths,
its theatre, its circus, its temples, its aqueducts. It was forbidden
even to exiles as a place of refuge--too much like home, said the

It was about the middle of the fourth century. The Church was coming
forth from her long imprisonment into the light of day. The successor
of Constantine, in name a Christian, sat on the Imperial throne. The
old struggle with paganism, which had lasted for four hundred years,
was nearly at an end, but new dangers assailed the Christian world.
Men had found that it was easier to twist the truth than to deny it,
and heresy and schism were abroad.

In the atrium or outer court of a villa on the outskirts of Tagaste
an old woman and a young girl sat together looking out into the dark
shadows of the evening, for the hot African sun had sunk not long
since behind the Numidian Mountains, and the day had gone out like a

"And the holy Bishop Cyprian?" asked the girl.

"They sent him into exile," said the old woman, "for his father had
been a Senator, and his family was well known and powerful. At that
time they dared not put him to death, though later he, too, shed his
blood for Christ. It was God's will that he should remain for many
years to strengthen his flock in the trial."

"Did you ever see him, grandmother?" asked the girl.

"No," said the old woman, "it was before my time; but my mother knew
him well. It was when he was a boy in Carthage and still a pagan that
the holy martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas suffered with their
companions. It was not till years after that he became a Christian,
but it may have been their death that sowed the first seed in his

"Tell me," said the girl softly. It was an oft-told tale of which she
never tired. Her grandmother had lived through those dark days of
persecution, and it was the delight of Monica's girlhood to hear her
tell the stories of those who had borne witness to the Faith in their
own land of Africa.

"Perpetua was not much older than you," said the old woman. "She was
of noble race and born of a Christian mother, though her father was a
pagan. She was married, and had a little infant of a few months' old.
When she was called before the tribunal of Hilarion the Roman
Governor, all were touched by her youth and beauty. Sacrifice to the
gods,' they said, 'and you shall go free.' 'I am a Christian,' she
answered, and nothing more would she say, press her as they might.

"Her old father hastened to her side with the baby, and laid it in
her arms. 'Will you leave your infant motherless?' he asked, 'and
bring your old father's hairs in sorrow to the grave?'

"'Have pity on the child!' cried the bystanders. 'Have pity on your

"Perpetua clasped her baby to her breast, and her eyes filled with
tears. They thought she had yielded, and brought her the incense.

"'Just one little grain on the brazier,' they said, 'and you are
free-for the child's sake and your old father's.'

"She pushed it from her. 'I am a Christian,' she said. 'God will keep
my child.'

"She was condemned with her companions to be thrown to the wild
beasts in the amphitheatre, and they were taken away and cast into a
dark dungeon. Every day they were tempted with promises of freedom to
renounce the Truth. The little babe of Felicitas was born in the
prison where they lay awaiting death. A Christian woman took the
infant to bring it up in the Faith. The young mother never saw the
face of her child in this world. One word, one little motion of the
hand, and they were free, restored again to their happy life of old
and the homes that were so dear. There were many, alas! in those
cruel days who had not courage for the fight, who sacrificed, and
went their way. Not so these weak women.

"Once again they brought Perpetua her little child to try to shake
her constancy. 'The prison was like a palace,' she said, while its
little downy head lay on her breast. Her father wept, and even struck
her in his grief and anger. 'I am a Christian,' she said, and gave
him back the babe.

"They were thrown to the wild beasts. Felicitas and Perpetua, who had
been tossed by a wild cow, though horribly gored, were still alive.
Gladiators were summoned to behead them. Felicitas died at the first
stroke, but the man's hand trembled, and he struck at Perpetua again
and again, wounding her, but not mortally. 'You are more afraid than
I,' she said gently, and taking the point of the sword held it to her

"'Strike now,' she said, and so passed into the presence of her God."

Monica drew a long breath.

"So weak and yet so strong," she said.

"So it is, my child," said the old woman. "It is those who are strong
and true in the little things of life who are strong and true in the
great trials."

"It is hard to be always strong and true," said the girl.

"Not if God's love comes always first," answered the old woman.

Monica was silent. She was thinking of her own young life, and how,
with all the safeguards of a Christian home about her, she had
narrowly escaped a great danger. From her babyhood she had been
brought up by her father's old nurse--not over-tenderly perhaps, but
wisely, for the city of Tagaste was largely pagan in its habits, and
the faithful old servant knew well what temptations would surround
her nursling in later years. Monica, though full of life and spirit,
had common sense and judgment beyond her years. She had also a great
love of God and of all that belonged to His holy service, and would
spend hours kneeling in the church in a quiet corner. It was there
she brought all her childish troubles and her childish hopes; it was
to the invisible Friend in the sanctuary that she confided all the
secrets of her young heart, and, above all, that desire to suffer for
Him and for His Church with which the stories of the martyrs had
inspired her. When the time slipped away too fast, and she returned
home late, she accepted humbly the correction that awaited her, for
she knew that she had disobeyed--although unintentionally--her
nurse's orders.

Monica had been wilfully disobedient once, and all her life long she
would never forget the lesson her disobedience had taught her. It was
a rule of her old nurse that she should take nothing to drink between
meals, even in the hot days of summer in that sultry climate. If she
had not courage to bear so slight a mortification as that, the old
woman would argue, it would go ill with her in the greater trials of
life. Monica had become used to the habit, but when she was old
enough to begin to learn the duties of housekeeping her mother had
desired that she should go every day to the cellar to draw the wine
for the midday meal. A maid-servant went with her to carry the
flagon, and the child, feeling delightfully important, filled and
refilled the little cup which was used to draw the wine from the cask
and emptied it carefully into the wine-jar. When all was finished, a
few drops remaining in the cup, a spirit of mischief took sudden
possession of Monica, and she drained it off, making a wry face as
she did so at the strange taste. The maid-servant laughed, and
continued to laugh when the performance was repeated the next day and
the day after. The strange taste became gradually less strange and
less unpleasant to the young girl; daily a few drops were added,
until at last, scarcely thinking what she did, she would drink nearly
the fill of the little cup, while the servant laughed as of old. But
Monica was quick and intelligent, and was learning her household
duties well. Finding one day that a piece of work which fell to the
lot of the maid who went with her to the wine-cellar was very badly
done, she reproved her severely. The woman turned on her young
mistress angrily.

"It is not for a wine-bibber like you to find fault with me," she

Monica stood horrified. The woman's insolent word had torn the veil
from her eyes. Whither was she drifting? Into what depths might that
one act of disobedience so lightly committed have led her had not God
in His mercy intervened? She never touched wine for the rest of her
life unless largely diluted with water. God had taught her that "he
who despises small things shall fall by little and little," and
Monica had learnt her lesson. She had learnt to distrust herself, and
self-distrust makes one marvellously gentle with others; she had
learnt, too, to put her trust in God, and trust in God makes one
marvellously strong. She had been taught to love the poor and the
suffering, and to serve them at her own expense and inconvenience,
and the service of others makes one unselfish. God had work for
Monica to do in His world, as He has for us all if we will only do
it, and He had given her what was needful for her task.

That night on the way to her chamber, as the young girl passed the
place where she had sat with her grandmother earlier in the day, she
paused a moment and looked out between the tall pillars into the
starlit night, where the palm-trees stood like dark shadows against
the deep, deep blue of the sky. She clasped her hands, and her lips
moved in prayer. "Oh God," she murmured, "to suffer for Thee and for
Thy Faith!" God heard the whispered prayer, and answered it later.
There is a living martyrdom as painful and as bitter as death, and
Monica was called to taste it.



Although there were many Christians in Roman Africa, pagan manners
and customs still survived in many of her cities. The people clung to
their games in the circus, the cruel and bloody combats of the arena,
which, though forbidden by Constantine, were still winked at by
provincial governors. They scarcely pretended to believe in their
religion, but they held to the old pagan festivals, which enabled
them to enjoy themselves without restraint under pretence of
honouring the gods. The paganism of the fourth century, with its
motto, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry," imposed no self-denial; it
was therefore bound to be popular.

But unrestrained human nature is a dangerous thing. If men are
content to live as the beasts that perish, they fall as far below
their level as God meant them to rise above it, and the Roman Empire
was falling to pieces through its own corruption. In Africa the
worship of the old Punic gods, to whom living children used to be
offered in sacrifice, had still its votaries, and priests of Saturn
and Astarte, with their long hair and painted faces and scarlet
robes, were still to be met dancing madly in procession through the
streets of Carthage.

The various heretical sects had their preachers everywhere,
proclaiming that there were much easier ways of serving Christ than
that taught by the Catholic Church. It was hard for the Christian
bishops to keep their flocks untainted, for there were enemies on
every side.

VVhen Monica was twenty-two years old her parents gave her in
marriage to a citizen of Tagaste called Patricius. He held a good
position in the town, for he belonged to a family which, though poor,
was noble. Monica knew little of her future husband, save that he was
nearly twice her age and a pagan, but it was the custom for parents
to arrange all such matters, and she had only to obey.

A little surprise was perhaps felt in Tagaste that such good
Christians should choose a pagan husband for their beautiful
daughter, but it was found impossible to shake their hopeful views
for the future. When it was objected that Patricius was well known
for his violent temper even amongst his own associates, they answered
that he would learn gentleness when he became a Christian. That
things might go hard with their daughter in the meantime they did not
seem to foresee.

Monica took her new trouble where she had been used to take the old.
Kneeling in her favourite corner in the church, she asked help and
counsel of the Friend Who never fails. She had had her girlish ideals
of love and marriage. She had dreamt of a strong arm on which she
could lean, of a heart and soul that would be at one with her in all
that was most dear, of two lives spent together in God's love and
service. And now it seemed that it was she who would have to be
strong for both; to strive and to suffer to bring her husband's soul
out of darkness into the light of truth. Would she succeed? And if
not, what would be that married life which lay before her? She did
not dare to think. She must not fail--and yet . . . . "Thou in me, O
Lord," she prayed again and again through her tears.

It was late when she made her way homewards, and that night, kneeling
at her bedside, she laid the ideals of her girlhood at the feet of
Him Who lets no sacrifice, however small, go unrewarded. She would be
true to this new trust, she resolved, cost what it might.

Things certainly did not promise well for the young bride's
happiness. Patricius lived with his mother, a woman of strong
passions like himself, and devoted to her son. She was bitterly
jealous of the young girl who had stolen his affections, and had made
up her mind to dislike her. The slaves of the household followed, of
course, their mistress's lead, and tried to please her by inventing
stories against Monica.

Patricius, who loved his young wife with the only kind of love of
which he was capable, had nothing in common with her, and had no clue
to her thoughts or actions. He had neither reverence nor respect for
women--indeed, most of the women of his acquaintance were deserving
of neither--and he had chosen Monica for her beauty, much as he would
have chosen a horse or a dog. He thought her ways and ideas
extraordinary. She took as kindly an interest in the slaves as if
they had been of her own flesh and blood, and would even intercede to
spare them a beating. She liked the poor, and would gather these
dirty and unpleasant people about her, going so far even as to wash
and dress their sores. Patricius did not share her attraction, and
objected strongly to such proceedings; but Monica pleaded so humbly
and sweetly that he gave way, and let her do what seemed to cause her
so much pleasure. "There was no accounting for tastes," he remarked.
She would spend hours in the church praying, with her great eyes
fixed on the altar. True, she was never there at any time when she
was likely to be missed by her husband, and never was she so full of
tender affection for him as when she came home; but still, it was a
strange way of spending one's time.

There was something about Monica, it is true, that was altogether
unlike any other inmate of the house, as she went about her daily
duties, always watching for the chance of doing a kind action.

When Patricius was in one of his violent tempers, shouting, abusing,
and even striking everybody who came in his way, she would look at
him with gentle eyes that showed neither fear nor anger. She never
answered sharply, even though his rude words wounded her cruelly. He
had once raised his hand to strike her, but he had not dared;
something--he did not know what--withheld him.

Later, when his anger had subsided, and he was perhaps a little
ashamed of his violence, she would meet him with an affectionate
smile, forgiving and forgetting all. Only if he spoke himself, and,
touched at her generous forbearance, tried shamefacedly to make
amends for his treatment of her, would she gently explain her
conduct. More often she said nothing, knowing that actions speak more
loudly than words. As her greatest biographer says of her: "She spoke
little, preached not at all, loved much, and prayed unceasingly."

When the young wives of her acquaintance, married like herself to
pagan husbands, complained of the insults and even blows which they
had to bear, "Are you sure your own tongue is not to blame?" she
would ask them laughingly; and then with ready sympathy would do all
she could to help and comfort and advise. They would ask her secret,
for everyone knew that, in spite of the violence of Patricius's
temper, he treated her with something that almost approached respect.
Then she would bid them be patient, and love and pray, and meet
harshness with gentleness, and abuse with silence. And when they
sometimes answered that it would seem weak to knock under in such a
fashion, Monica would ask them if they thought it needed more
strength to speak or to be silent when provoked, and which was
easier, to smile or to sulk when insulted? Many homes were happier in
consequence, for Monica had a particular gift for making peace, and
even as a child had settled the quarrels of her young companions to
everybody's satisfaction.

To the outside world Patricius's young wife seemed contented and
happy. She managed her affairs well, people said, and no one but God
knew of the suffering that was her secret and His. Brought up in the
peace and piety of a Christian family, she had had no idea of the
miseries of paganism. Now she had ample opportunity to study the
effects of unchecked selfishness and of uncontrolled passions; to see
how low human nature, unrestrained by faith and love, could fall.
Her mother-in-law treated her with suspicion and dislike, for the
slaves, never weary of inventing fresh stories against her,
misrepresented all her actions to their mistress. Monica did not seem
to notice unkindness, repaying the many insults she received with
little services tactfully rendered, but she felt it deeply.

"They do not know," she would say to herself, and pray for them all
the more earnestly, offering her sufferings for these poor souls who
were so far from the peace of Christ. How was the light to come to
them if not through her? How could they learn to love Christ unless
they learned to love His servants and to see Him in them? The
revelation must come through her, if it was to come at all. "Thou in
me, O Lord," she would pray, and draw strength and courage at His
feet for the daily suffering.

The heart of Patricius was like a neglected garden. Germs of
generosity, of nobility, lay hidden under a rank growth of weeds that
no one had ever been at any trouble to clear away. The habits of a
lifetime held him captive. With Monica he was always at his best, but
he grew weary of being at his best. It was so much easier to be at
his worst. He gradually began to seek distractions amongst his old
pagan companions in the old ignoble pleasures.

The whole town began to talk of his neglect of his beautiful young
wife. Monica suffered cruelly, but in silence. When he was at home,
which was but seldom, she was serene and gentle as usual. She never
reproached him, and treated him with the same tender deference as of
old. Patricius felt the charm of her presence; all that was good in
him responded; but evil habits had gone far to stifle the good, and
his lower nature cried out for base enjoyments. He was not strong
enough to break the chain which held him.

So Monica wept and prayed in secret, and God sent a ray of sunshine
to brighten her sad life. Three children were born to her during the
early years of her marriage. The name of Augustine, her eldest son,
will be for ever associated with that of his mother. Of the other
two, Navigius and Perpetua his sister, we know little. Navigius,
delicate in health, was of a gentle and pious nature. Both he and
Perpetua married, but the latter after her husband's death entered a
monastery. With her younger children Monica had no trouble; it was
the eldest, Augustine, who, after having been for long the son of her
sorrow and of her prayers, was destined to be at last her glory and
her joy.



As soon as the little Augustine was born, his mother had him taken to
the Christian Church, that the sign of the Cross might be made on his
forehead, and that he might be entered amongst the catechumens. It
was a custom of the time--never approved of by the Church--to put off
Baptism until the catechumen had shown himself able to withstand the
temptations of the half-pagan society in the midst of which he had to
live. Through this mistaken idea of reverence for the Sacrament the
young soldier of Christ, lest he should tarnish his weapons in the
fight, was sent unarmed into a conflict in which he needed all the
strength which the Sacraments alone can give.

The outlook for Monica, with her pagan husband and her pagan
household, was darker than for most Christian mothers. Her heart grew
heavy within her as she held her young son in her arms and thought of
the future. For the present indeed he was hers; but later, when she
could no longer keep him at her side and surround him with a mother's
love and protection, what dangers would beset him? The influence of
an unbelieving father, during the years when his boyish ideas of life
would be forming; a household that knew not Christ--how could he pass
untouched through the dangers that would assail his young soul? With
prayers and tears, Monica bent over the unconscious little head that
lay so peacefully upon her breast, commending her babe to the
Heavenly Father to Whom all things are possible.

Augustine drank in the love of Christ with his mother's milk, he
tells us. 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. He would
listen eagerly, and, standing at his mother's knee, or nestling in
her arms, follow the sweet voice that could make the highest things
so simple to his childish understanding.

It was the seed-time that was later to bear such glorious fruit,
though the long days of winter lay between. The boy was thoughtful
and intelligent; he loved all that was great and good and noble. The
loathing of what was mean and base and unlovely, breathed into him by
his mother in those days of early childhood, haunted him even during
his worst moments in later life. The cry that burst from his soul in
manhood, when he had drunk deeply of the cup of earthly joys and
found it bitter and unsatisfying, had its origin in those early
teachings. "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts can
find no rest until they rest in Thee."

One day, when the child was about seven years old, he was suddenly
seized with sickness. He was in great pain, and soon became so ill
that his life was in danger. His parents were in anguish, but
Augustine's one thought was for his soul; he begged and prayed that
he might receive Baptism. Monica added her entreaties to his.
Patricius yielded. All was prepared, when the child suddenly got
better. Then someone intervened, probably his father, for Augustine
tells us that the Baptism was put off again--indefinitely.

But it was time to think of the boy's education, and it was proposed
to send him to school in Tagaste. It was a pagan school to which the
child must go, pagan authors that he must study, and, worse than all,
pagan conversation that he must hear and pagan playmates with whom he
must associate.

Patricius was proud of the beauty and the intelligence of his little
son, and hoped great things for the future; but Augustine's early
school-days were far from brilliant. Eager as the boy was to learn
what interested him, he had an insurmountable dislike to anything
that caused him trouble. It bored him to learn to read and write, and
the uninspiring truth that two and two make four was a weariness of
the flesh to him. Though the stories of Virgil enchanted him, Homer
he never thoroughly enjoyed nor quite forgave, for had he not for his
sake been forced to wade through the chilly waters of the Greek

Unfortunately for Augustine, such dismal truths as two and two make
four have to be mastered before higher flights can be attempted. The
Tagaste schoolmasters had but one way of sharpening their scholars'
zeal for learning--the liberal use of the rod.

Now, Augustine disliked beatings as much as he disliked all other
unpleasant things, but he also disliked work. The only way of evading
both disagreeables was to follow the example of the greater number of
his fellow-scholars--to play when he should have been working, and to
tell clever lies to his schoolmasters and his parents in order to
escape punishment. Such tricks, however, are bound to be found out
sooner or later, and Monica, realizing that much could be got out of
her son by love, but little by fear, took him for a course of
instruction to the Christian priests, that he might learn to overcome
himself for the love of God.

As a result Augustine took more earnestly to his prayers, asking,
above all, however, that he might not be beaten at school. His
mother, finding him one day praying in a quiet corner to this intent,
suggested that if he had learnt his lessons for the day he need have
no fear, but if he had not, punishment was to be expected. Patricius,
who was passing and overheard the conversation, laughed at his son's
fears and agreed with his wife. Augustine thought them both
exceedingly heartless.

As the boy grew older, however, his wonderful gifts began to show
themselves, and his masters, seeing of what he was really capable,
punished him yet more severely when he was idle. Augustine, too,
began to take pride in his own success, and to wish to be first
amongst his young companions. The latter cheated as a matter of
course, both in work and at play. Bad habits are catching, and
Augustine would sometimes cheat too. When found out he would fly into
a passion, although no one was so severe on the dishonesty of others
as he. And yet, though he would often yield to the temptations that
were the hardest for his pleasure-loving nature to resist, there was
much that was good in the boy. He had a faithful and loving heart, an
attraction for all that was great and noble. He was, in fact, his
mother's son as well as his father's; the tares and the wheat were
sprouting side by side.

But Augustine was rapidly growing out of childhood. Patricius,
prouder than ever of his clever son, resolved to spare no pains to
give him the best education that his means could procure. The boy had
a great gift of eloquence, said his masters, and much judgment; he
would be certain to succeed brilliantly at the Bar. It was decided to
send him to Madaura, a town about twenty miles distant, a good deal
larger than Tagaste, and well known for its culture and its schools.
It was one of the most pagan of the cities of Africa, but this was an
objection that had no weight with Patricius, although it meant much
to Monica. The only comfort for her in the thought of this first
separation was that there at least her son would not be far from
home. Not far away in truth, as distance goes, but how far away in
spirit! Madaura was a large and handsome city, with a circus and
theatre, and a fine forum, or market-place, set round with statues of
the gods. It was proud of its reputation for learning, but had little
else to be proud of. Its professors were men who were more ashamed of
being detected in a fault of style than in the grossest crimes, who
were ashamed indeed of nothing else. The pagan gods were held up to
their scholars as models for admiration and imitation.

It was a poor ideal at the best. The gods were represented by the
great pagan poets and authors as no better, if more powerful, than
ordinary mortals. They were subject to all the meannesses and all the
baseness of the least noble of their worshippers. That their
adventures, neither moral nor elevating, were told in the most
exquisite language by the greatest authors of antiquity rather added
to the danger than decreased it. True, the noblest of the classical
writers broke away continually from the bondage which held them, to
stretch out groping hands towards the eternal truth and beauty into
which real genius must always have some insight, but not all were

The students of Madaura were worthy of their masters. Nothing was too
shameful to be talked about, if only it were talked about in
well-turned phrases. The plays acted in the theatre were what might
be expected in Roman society of the fourth century--that society from
which St. Anthony and St. Jerome had been forced to flee to the
desert in order to save their souls.

Augustine won golden opinions from his masters for his quickness and
intelligence. They thought of nothing else but of cultivating the
minds of their scholars. Heart and soul were left untouched, or
touched in such a way that evil sprang to life and good was stifled.
He was a genius, they cried, a budding rhetorician, a poet.

Although masters and scholars alike applauded him, Augustine, while
he drank their praises greedily, was restless and unhappy. He had
gone down before the subtle temptations of Madaura like corn before
the scythe. First evil thoughts, but carelessly resisted; then evil
deeds. He had lost his childish innocence, and with it his childish
happiness. For he knew too much, and was too noble of nature to be
content with what was ignoble. The seeds of his mother's teaching
were yet alive within him.

And Monica? Only twenty miles away at Tagaste she was praying for her
son, beseeching the Heavenly Father to keep him from evil, to watch
over him now that she was no longer at his side, hoping and trusting
that all was well with her boy.



Of all the hidden forces in the world perhaps the most mysterious is
what we call "influence." For good or for evil, to a lesser or a
greater degree, it goes out from each one of us, and has its effect
on all with whom we come in contact. It is like a subtle breath that
braces the spirit to good, or relaxes it to evil, but never leaves it
untouched or unmoved. "No man liveth to himself alone," said St.
Paul, who had many opportunities of watching the workings of that
mysterious force in the world and of studying its effects. According
as we follow our best and noblest instincts, or, to use a homely but
vivid phrase, let ourselves go, consciously or unconsciously, we give
an upward lift or a downward push to all who come in contact with us.
Happily for us all, God does not ask of us attainment, but effort,
and earnest effort is the simple secret of healthy influence.

Monica, it is true, was a Saint, but a Saint in the making. Saints
are not born ready-made; holiness is a beautiful thing that is built
up stone by stone, not brought into being by the touch of the
enchanter's wand.

During the years that had passed since Patricius had brought his
young wife home to his mother's house, she would have been the first
to confess how far she had fallen short of the ideal she had set
herself to attain. And yet there had been ceaseless effort, ceaseless
prayer, unwearying love and patience. Outwardly all seemed as usual,
but the hidden force had been doing its work in secret--as it always

The mother of Patricius was growing old; she was neither so active
nor so strong as she had been. What had used to be easy to her was
becoming difficult. It galled her independent spirit to be obliged to
ask help of others. Monica, reading her heart as only the unselfish
can, saw this and understood. At every moment the older woman would
find that some little service had been done by unseen hands, some
little thoughtful act that made things easier for the tired old
limbs. There was someone who seemed to know and understand what she
wanted almost before she did herself.

Who could it be? Not the slaves, certainly. They did their duty for
fear of being beaten, but that was all. It was all, indeed, that was
expected of them. Not Patricius, either; it was not his way, he never
thought of such things. It could therefore be no one but Monica.

The old woman mused deeply. She had treated her daughter-in-law
harshly and unkindly during all these years. She had looked upon her
as an intruder. But then, the slaves had told her unpleasant stories
of their young mistress; it was only what she deserved. And yet ....
It was hard to think of those ugly tales in connection with Monica as
she herself knew her--as she had seen her day by day since she came
first, a young bride, to her husband's home.

Again, how had Monica repaid her for her unkindness? With
never-failing charity and sweetness, with gentle respect and
deference to her wishes, never trying to assert herself, never
appealing to her husband to give her the place which of right
belonged to her. She had been content to be treated as the last in
the house.

The old woman sat lost in thought. What would the house be like, she
suddenly asked herself, without that gentle presence? What would she
do, what would they all do, Without Monica? With a sudden pang of
sorrow she realized how much she leant upon her daughter-in-law, what
her life would be without her. She considered the matter in this new
light. She was a woman of strong passions but of sound common sense;
reason was beginning to triumph over prejudice.

Sending for the slaves, she questioned them sharply as to the tales
they had told her about their young mistress. They faltered,
contradicted each other and themselves--in the end confessed that
they had lied.

The old lady went straight to her son, and told him the whole story.
Patricius was not one to take half measures in such a matter. Not
even the prayers of Monica, all unconscious of the particular offence
they had committed, availed to save the culprits. They were as
soundly beaten as they had ever been in their lives, after which they
were told that they knew what to expect if they ever breathed another
word against their young mistress again. As it happened, they had no
desire to do so. The hidden forces had been working there too.
Monica's kindness, her sympathy with their joys and sorrows--to them
something strange and new--had already touched their hearts. More
than once they had been sorry for ever having spoken against her;
they had felt ashamed in her presence.

Justice having been done on the slaves, the mother of Patricius
sought out her daughter-in-law, told her frankly that she had been in
the wrong, and asked her forgiveness. Monica clasped the old woman in
her arms and refused to listen. From that moment they were the truest
of friends.

There were many things to be spoken of, but first religion. Monica
had revealed her Faith by her life, her daily actions, and to the
other it was a beautiful and alluring revelation. She wanted to know,
to understand; she listened eagerly to Monica's explanations.

It was a message of new life, of hope beyond the grave, of joy, of
peace; she begged to be received as a catechumen. It was not long
before she knelt at Monica's side before the altar to be signed on
the brow with the Cross of Christ--the joyous first-fruits of the
seed that had been sown in tears.

One by one the slaves followed their mistress's example, hungering in
their turn for the message that brought such peace and light to
suffering and weary souls. Was it for such as they? they asked. And
Monica answered that it was for all, that the Master Himself had
chosen to be as One that served.

The whole household was Christian now, with the exception of
Patricius, and even he was growing daily more gentle, more
thoughtful; the mysterious forces were working on him too. His love
for Monica was more reverent; his eyes were opening slowly to the
beauty of spiritual things. The old life, with its old pleasures, was
growing distasteful to him; he saw its baseness while as yet he could
scarcely tear himself free from its fetters--the fetters of old habit
so hard to break. He noticed the change in his mother, and
half-envied her her courage. He even envied the slaves their happy
faces, the new light that shone in their eyes and that gave them a
strange new dignity.

Monica, watching the struggle, redoubled her prayers; her unselfish
love surrounded her husband like an atmosphere of light and
sweetness, drawing him with an invincible power to better things. She
would speak to him of their children--above all, of Augustine, their
eldest-born, the admiration of his masters at Madaura. He was
astonishing everybody, they wrote, by his brilliant gifts. He had the
soul of a poet and the eloquence of an orator; he would do great

Madaura had been all very well up till now, his father decided, but
everything must be done to give their boy a good start in life; they
must go farther afield. Rome was impossible; the distance was too
great and the expense too heavy. Patricius's means were limited, but
he resolved to do his utmost for his eldest son. Carthage had a
reputation for culture and for learning that was second only to that
of Rome. If strict economy were practised at home, Carthage might be
possible. In the meantime it was not much use leaving the boy at
Madaura. Let him come home and remain there a year, during which he
could study privately while they saved the money to pay his expenses
at Carthage.

The suggestion delighted Monica. She would have her son with her for
a whole year. She would be able to watch over him just when he needed
her motherly care; she looked forward eagerly to Augustine's return.
The old, intimate life they had led together before he went to
Madaura would begin again. Again her boy would hang on her arm and
tell her all his hopes and dreams for the future--hopes and dreams
into which she always entered, of which she was always part. She
would look once more into the boy's clear eyes while he confessed to
her his faults and failings, and see the light flame up in them as
she told him of noble and heroic deeds, and urged him to be true to
his ideals.

And so in happy dreams the days went past until Augustine's return;
but there was bitter grief in store for Monica. This was not the same
Augustine that they had left at Madaura two years ago. The days of
the old familiar friendship seemed to have gone past recall. His eyes
no longer turned to her with the old candour; he shunned her
questioning look. He shunned her company even, and seemed more at
ease with his father, who was proud beyond words of his tall,
handsome son.

He was all right, said Patricius; he was growing up, that was all.
Boys could not always be tied to their mother's apron-strings. The
moment that Monica had so dreaded for Augustine had come then; the
pagan influences had been at work. Oh, why had she let him go to
Madaura? And yet it had to be so; his father had insisted.

She made several efforts to break through the wall of reserve that
Augustine had built up between himself and her, but it was of no use.
He had other plans now into which she did not enter, other thoughts
far away--how far away!--from hers. A dark cloud was between them.

One day she persuaded her son to go out with her. The spring had just
come--that wonderful African spring when the whole world seems
suddenly to burst into flower. Asphodels stood knee-deep on either
side of the path in which they walked; the fragrance of the
springtime was in their nostrils; the golden sunlight bathed the
rainbow earth. It was a walk that they had loved to take of old, to
delight together in all the beauty of that world which God had made.

Monica spoke gently to her son of the new life that lay before him,
of the dangers that beset his path. He must hold fast to the Law of
Christ, she told him; he must be pure and strong and true.

There was no answering gleam as of old. The boy listened with a bad
grace--shame and honour were tugging at his heart-strings, but in
vain. The better self was defeated, for the lower self was growing
stronger every day.

"Woman's talk," he said to himself. "I am no longer a child."

They turned back through the glorious sights and sounds of the
springtime; there was a dagger in Monica's heart. On the threshold
she met Patricius. He wanted to speak to her, he said. She slipped
her arm into his, smiling through her pain, and they went back again,
between the nodding asphodels and the hedges of wisteria, along the
path she had just trodden with her son.

There was an unwonted seriousness about Patricius. He had been
thinking deeply of late, he told her. He had begun to see things in a
new light. It was dim as yet, and he was still weak; but the old life
and the old religion had grown hateful to him. Her God was the true
God; he wanted to know how to love and serve that God of hers. Was he
fit, did she think, to learn? Could he be received as a catechumen?

The new joy fell like balm on the new sorrow. Monica had lost her
son, but gained her husband. God was good. He had heard her prayers,
He had accepted her sacrifice. Surely He would give her back her boy.
She would trust on and hope. "He will withhold no good thing from
them that ask Him."

A few days later Patricius knelt beside her at the altar. Her heart
overflowed with joy and thankfulness. They were one at last--one in
soul, in faith. A few steps distant knelt Augustine. What thoughts
were in his heart? Was it the last struggle between good and evil?
Was the influence of his mother, the love of Christ she had instilled
into him in his childhood, making one last stand against the
influences that had swayed him in Madaura--that still swayed him--the
influences of the corrupt world in which he lived? We do not know. If
it was so, the evil triumphed.



Augustine's year at home did not do for him what Monica had hoped.
His old pagan schoolfellows gathered round him; he was always with
them; the happy home-life seemed to have lost its charm. The want of
principle and of honour in most of them disgusted him in his better
moments; nevertheless he was content to enjoy himself in their
company. He was even ashamed, when they boasted of their misdoings,
to seem more innocent than they, and would pretend to be worse than
he really was, lest his prestige should suffer in their eyes. There
were moments when he loathed it all, and longed for the old life,
with its innocent pleasures; but it is hard to turn back on the
downhill road.

He tells us how he went one night with a band of these wild
companions to rob the fruit-tree of a poor neighbour. It was laden
with pears, but they were not very good; they did not care to eat
them, and threw them to the pigs. It was not schoolboy greed that
prompted the theft, but the pure delight of doing evil, of tricking
the owner of the garden. There was the wild excitement, too, of the
daring; the fear that they might be caught in the act. He was careful
to keep such escapades a secret from his mother, but Monica was
uneasy, knowing what might be expected from the companions her son
had chosen.

Patricius was altogether unable to give Augustine the help that he
needed. The Christian ideals of life and conduct were new to him as
yet; the old pagan ways seemed only natural. He was scarcely likely
to be astonished at the fact that his son's boyhood was rather like
what his own had been. He was standing, it is true, on the threshold
of the Church, but her teaching was not yet clear to him. His own
feet were not firm enough in the ways of Christ to enable him to
stretch a steadying hand to another.

His mother was failing fast; the end could not be far off. Monica was
devoting herself heart and soul to the old woman, who clung to her
with tender affection, and was never happy in her absence.

Patricius watched them together, and marvelled at the effects of the
grace of Baptism. Was that indeed his mother, he asked himself, that
gentle, patient old woman, so thoughtful for others, so ready to give
up her own will? She had used to be violent and headstrong like
himself, resentful and implacable in her dislikes, but now she was
more like Monica than like him. That was Monica's way, though; her
sweetness and patience seemed to be catching. She was like the
sunshine, penetrating everywhere with its light and warmth. He, alas!
was far behind his mother. Catechumen though he was, the old temper
would often flash out still. Self-conquest was the hardest task that
he had ever undertaken, and sometimes he almost lost heart, and was
inclined to give it up altogether. Then Monica would gently remind
him that with God's help the hardest things were possible, and they
would kneel and pray together, and Patricius would take heart again
for the fight. She had a wonderful gift for giving people courage;
Patricius had noticed that before. He supposed it was because she was
so full of sympathy, and always made allowances. And then she seemed
to think--to be sure, even--that if one went on trying, failures did
not matter, God did not mind them; and that was a very comforting
reflection for poor weak people like himself. To go on trying was
possible even for him, although he knew he could not always promise
himself success.

Patricius was anxious about Augustine's future. All his efforts had
not succeeded in saving the sum required for his first year at
Carthage. He had discovered that it would cost a good deal more than
he had at first supposed, and it was difficult to see where the money
was to come from.

It was at this moment that Romanianus, a wealthy and honourable
citizen of Tagaste, who knew the poverty of his friend, came forward
generously and put his purse at Patricius's disposal. The sum
required was offered with such delicacy that it could not be
declined. Augustine was sure to bring glory on his native town, said
Romanianus; it was an honour to be allowed to help in his education.

Monica was almost glad to see her son depart. The old boyish laziness
had given way to a real zeal for learning and thirst after knowledge.
The idle life at home was certainly the worst thing for him. Hard
work and the pursuit of wisdom might steady his wild nature and bring
him back to God. It was her only hope now, as with prayers and tears
she besought of Him to watch over her son.

But Monica did not know Carthage. If it was second only to Rome for
its culture and its schools, it almost rivalled Rome in its
corruption. There all that was worst in the civilization of the East
and of the West met and mingled. The bloody combats between men and
beasts, the gladiatorial shows that delighted the Romans, were free
to all who chose to frequent the amphitheatre of Carthage. Such plays
as the Romans delighted in, impossible to describe, were acted in the
theatre. The horrible rites of the Eastern religions were practised

There was neither discipline nor order in the schools. The wealthier
students gloried in their bad reputation. They were young men of
fashion who were capable of anything, and who were careful to let
others know it. They went by the name of "smashers" or "upsetters,"
from their habit of raiding the schools of professors whose teaching
they did not approve, and breaking everything on which they could lay
hands. They treated new-comers with coarse brutality, but Augustine
seems in some manner to have escaped their enmity. Perhaps a certain
dignity in the young man's bearing, or perhaps his brilliant gifts,
won their respect, for he surpassed them all in intelligence, and
speedily outstripped them in class.

Augustine was eager for knowledge and eager for enjoyment. He
frequented the theatre; his pleasure-loving nature snatched at
everything that life could give; yet he was not happy. "My God," he
cried in later years, "with what bitter gall didst Thou in Thy great
mercy sprinkle those pleasures of mine!" He could not forget; and at
Tagaste his mother was weeping and praying for her son.

Patricius prayed with her; he understood at last. Every day the germs
of a noble nature that had lain so long dormant within him were
gaining strength and life. Every day his soul was opening more and
more to the understanding of spiritual things, while Monica watched
the transformation with a heart that overflowed with gratitude and
love. The sorrows of the past were all forgotten in the joy of the
present, that happy union at the feet of Christ. There was but one
cause for sadness--Patricius's health was failing. His mother had
already shown him the joys of a Christian deathbed. She had passed
away smiling, with their hands in hers, and the name of Jesus on her
lips. The beautiful prayers of the Church had gone down with the
departing soul to the threshold of the new life, and had followed it
into eternity. She seemed close to them still in the light of that
wonderful new Faith, and to be waiting for them in their everlasting

But Monica's happiness was to be short-lived, for it seemed that
Patricius would soon rejoin his mother. He did not deceive himself.
He spoke of his approaching death to Monica, and asked her to help
him to make a worthy preparation for Baptism, which he desired to
receive as soon as possible. With the simplicity and trustfulness of
a child, he looked to her for guidance, and did all that she desired.

The ceremony over, he turned to his wife and smiled. A wonderful
peace possessed him. The old life, with all its stains, had passed
from him in those cleansing waters; the new life was at hand. Once
more he asked her to forgive him all the pain he had caused her, all
that he had made her suffer. No, she must not grieve, he told her;
the parting would be but for a little while, the meeting for all
eternity. She had been his angel, he said; he owed all his joy to
her. It was her love, her patience, that had done it all. She had
shown him the beauty of goodness and made him love it. He thanked her
for all that she had been to him, all that she had shown him, all
that she had done for him. Her tears fell on his face, her loving
arms supported him; her sweet voice, broken with weeping, spoke words
of hope and comfort.

On the threshold of that other world Monica bade farewell to her
husband, and one more soul that she had won for Christ went out into
a glorious eternity.



Patricius had not much in the way of worldly goods to leave to his
wife. She needed little, it is true, for herself, but there was
Augustine. Would it be possible for her, even if she practised the
strictest economy, to keep him at Carthage, where he was doing so

Romanianus divined her anxiety, and hastened to set it at rest. He
had a house in Carthage, he said; it should be Augustine's as long as
he required it. This would settle the question of lodging. For the
rest, continued Romanianus, as an old friend of Patricius he had the
right to befriend his son, and Monica must grant him the privilege of
acting a father's part to Augustine until he was fairly launched in
life. He had a child of his own, a young son called Licentius. If
Monica would befriend his boy, they would be quits. The gratitude of
both mother and son towards this generous friend and benefactor
lasted throughout their lives. Licentius was to feel its effects more
than once.

"You it was, Romanianus," wrote Augustine in his Confessions, "who,
when I was a poor young student in Carthage, opened to me your house,
your purse, and still more your heart. You it was who, when I had the
sorrow to lose my father, comforted me by your friendship, helped me
with your advice, and assisted me with your fortune."

Monica mourned her husband's death with true devotion; but hers was
not a selfish sorrow. She had love and sympathy for all who needed
them, and forgot her own grief in solacing that of others. There were
certain good works which the Church gave to Christian widows to
perform. The hospitals, for instance, were entirely in their hands.
They were small as yet, built according to the needs of the moment
from the funds of the faithful, and held but few patients. These
devoted women succeeded each other at intervals in their task of
washing and attending to the sick, watching by their beds and
cleaning their rooms. Their ministrations did not even cease there.
With reverent care they prepared the dead for burial, thinking the
while of the preparation of Christ's body for the tomb, and of Him
who said: "Inasmuch as ye do it to the least of My brethren ye do it
unto Me."

It was a happy moment for Monica when her turn came to serve the
sick. She would kiss their sores for very pity as she washed and
dressed them, and their faces grew bright at her coming. They called
her "mother." It seemed such a natural name to give her, for she was
a mother to them all, and gave them a mother's love. To some of the
poor creatures, friendless slaves as they often were, who had known
little sympathy or tenderness in their hard lives, it was a
revelation of Christianity which taught them more than hours of
preaching could have done.

But there was other work besides that at the hospital. There were the
poor to be helped, the hungry to be fed, the naked to be clothed. She
would gather the orphan children at her knee to teach them the truths
of their Faith. When they were very poor, she would keep them in her
own house, feed them at her own table, and clothe them with her own
hands. "If I am a mother to these motherless ones," she would say to
herself, "He will have mercy and give me back my boy; if I teach them
to know and love Him as a Father, He will watch over my son."

It was a custom of the time on the feasts of saints and martyrs to
make a pilgrimage to their tombs, with a little basket of food and
wine. This was laid on the grave, after which the faithful would
partake of what they had brought, while they thought and spoke of the
noble lives of God's servants who had gone before. The custom was
abolished not long after on account of the abuses which had arisen,
but Monica observed it to the end. She scarcely tasted of her
offering herself, but gave it all away to the poor. Often, indeed,
she went cold and hungry that they might be clothed and fed.

Her love of prayer, too, could now find full scope. Every morning
found her in her place in church for the Holy Sacrifice; every
evening she was there again, silent, absorbed in God. The place where
she knelt was often wet with her tears; the time passed by unheeded.
Patricius, her husband, was safe in God's hands; but Augustine, her
eldest-born, her darling, in what dark paths was he wandering? And
yet in her heart of hearts there was a deep conviction that no sad
news of his life at Carthage could shake. His was not the nature to
find contentment in the things of earth. He was born to something
higher. His noble heart, his strong intelligence, would bring him
back to God.

And yet, and yet ... her heart sank as she thought of graces wasted,
of conscience trampled underfoot, of light rejected. No, there was no
hope anywhere but with God. In Him she would trust, and in Him alone.
He was infinite in mercy, and strong to save. He had promised that He
would never fail those who put their trust in Him. At His feet, and
at His feet alone, Monica poured out her tears and her sorrow. With
others she was serene and hopeful as of old, even joyous, always
ready to help and comfort. It was said of her after her death that no
one had such a gift of helping others as she. She never preached at
people--most people have an insurmountable dislike to being preached
at--but every word she said had a strange power of drawing souls to
God, of making them wish to be better.

Augustine, meanwhile, at Carthage, was justifying all the hopes that
had been formed of him. He had even greater gifts, it seemed, than
eloquence, feeling, and wit. He was at the head of his class in
rhetoric. His master had spoken to him of a certain treatise of
Aristotle which he would soon be called upon to study. It was so
profound, he said, that few could understand it, even with the help
of the most learned professors. Augustine, eager to make acquaintance
with this wonderful work, procured it at once and read it. It seemed
to him perfectly simple; it was unnecessary, he found, to ask a
single explanation.

It was the same with geometry, music, every science he took up. This
young genius of nineteen only discovered there were difficulties in
the way when he had to teach others, and realized how hard it was to
make them understand what was so exceedingly simple to himself.

There was something strangely sympathetic and attractive about
Augustine. He seemed modest and reserved about his own gifts,
although he himself tells us in his _Confessions_ that he was full of
pride and ambition. He had a gift of making true and faithful
friends, a charm in conversation that drew his young companions and
even older men to his side.

A more worldly mother than Monica would have been thoroughly proud of
her son. Faith and virtue were alone weak and faint in that soul that
could so ill do without them; but to her they were the one essential
thing; the rest did not matter. Yet Monica, with true insight,
believed that with noble minds knowledge must draw men to God; she
hoped much, therefore, that Augustine's brilliance of intellect would
save him in the end, and her hopes were not deceived.

Already the noble philosophy of Cicero--pagan though he was--had
awakened a thirst for wisdom in the young student's soul; already he
felt the emptiness of earthly joys. "I longed, my God," he writes,
"to fly from the things of earth to Thee, and I knew not that it was
Thou that wast working in me . . . ."

"One thing cooled my ardour," he goes on to say; "it was that the
Name of Christ was not there, and this Name, by Thy mercy, Lord, of
Thy Son, my Saviour, my heart had drawn in with my mother's milk, and
kept in its depths, and every doctrine where this Name did not
appear, fluent, elegant, and truth-like though it might be, could not
master me altogether."

He then turned to the Holy Scriptures, but they appeared to him
inferior in style to Cicero. "My pride," he writes, "despised the
manner in which the things are said, and my intelligence could not
discover the hidden sense. They become great only for the humble, and
I disdained to humble myself, and, inflated with vainglory, I
believed myself great."

It was at this moment that he came in contact with the Manicheans,
whose errors attracted him at once. This extraordinary heresy had
begun in the East, and had spread all over the civilized world. Its
followers formed a secret society, with signs and passwords, grades
and initiations. To impose on Christians they used Christian words
for doctrines that were thoroughly unchristian.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about them was their hatred of the
Church. Augustine, who remained amongst them for nine years, thus
describes them when writing to a friend:

"Thou knowest, Honoratus, that for this reason alone did we fall into
the hands of these men--namely, that they professed to free us from
all errors, and bring us to God by pure reason alone, without that
terrible principle of authority. For what else induced me to abandon
the faith of my childhood and follow these men for almost nine years,
but their assertion that we were terrified by superstition into a
faith blindly imposed upon our reason, while they urged no one to
believe until the truth was fully discussed and proved? Who would not
be seduced by such promises, especially if he were a proud,
contentious young man, thirsting for truth, such as they then found

That was what the Manicheans promised. What Augustine found amongst
them he also tells us.

"They incessantly repeated to me, 'Truth, truth,' but there was no
truth in them. They taught what was false, not only about Thee, my
God, Who art the very Truth, but even about the elements of this
world, Thy creatures."

So much for their doctrines; as for the teachers themselves, he found
them "carnal and loquacious, full of insane pride."

The great charm of Manicheism to Augustine was that it taught that a
man was not responsible for his sins. This doctrine was convenient to
one who could not find the strength to break with his bad habits.

"Such was my mind," he sums up later, looking back on this period of
his life, "so weighed down, so blinded by the flesh, that I was
myself unknown to myself."



Ill news travels fast. Augustine had scarcely joined the Manicheans
before the tidings reached Monica. At first she could hardly believe
it. This was a blow for which she had not been prepared; it crushed
her to the earth. She would have grieved less over the news of her
son's death.

And yet she bent her broken heart to God's will, and hoped on in Him
"Whose Mercy cannot fail." Augustine had renounced the Faith of his
childhood publicly, she heard later; he had been entered by the
Manicheans as an "auditor," the first degree of initiation in their
sect. And with all the zeal and ardour that he carried into
everything he did he was advocating this abominable heresy and
persuading his companions to follow his example.

Her eyes grew dim with weeping for her son. He was dead indeed to
God--that God who was her All in All. The vacation was near, and
Augustine would then return to Tagaste. Perhaps she would find that
it was not so bad as she had thought. It might be only the whim of a
moment; she would wait and see.

Alas! the hope was vain. Augustine had scarcely been a day at home
before he began obstinately to air his new opinions, determined that
she should listen. Then the Christian in Monica rose above the
mother; her horror of heresy was for the moment stronger than her
love for her son. Standing before him, outraged and indignant, she
told him plainly that if he spoke in such a way she could no longer
receive him at her table or in her house.

Augustine was amazed; he had found out at last the limits of his
mother's endurance. With bent head he left the house and sought the
hospitality of Romanianus. No sooner had he gone than Monica's heart
melted, the mother-love surged up again. With bitter tears she cried
on God to help her; her grief seemed greater than she could bear. At
last the night came, and with it peace. As she slept, exhausted with
weeping, she had a dream which brought her a strange sense of hope
and comfort.

It seemed to her that she was standing on a narrow rule or plank of
wood, her heart weighed down with sorrow as it had been all through
the day. Suddenly there came towards her a young man radiant and fair
of face. Smiling at her, he asked the cause of her tears. "I am
weeping," she answered, "for the loss of my son." "Grieve no more,
then," he replied, "for, look, your son is standing there beside
you." Monica turned her head. It was true; Augustine stood at her
side on the plank of wood. "Be of good cheer," continued the
stranger, "for where you are there shall he be also." Then Monica
awoke; the words were ringing in her ears; it seemed to her that God
had spoken. In the morning she went straight to Augustine and told
him of her dream. "Perhaps," suggested her son, anxious to turn it to
his own advantage, "it means that you will come to see things as I
do." "No," said Monica firmly, "for he did not say, 'Where _he_ is
_you_ shall be,' but, 'Where _you_ are there _he_ shall be.'"
Augustine was even more struck by the earnestness of his mother's
answer than by the dream itself, though he pretended to make light of

Not long after Monica went to see a certain holy Bishop, that she
might beg him to use his influence with Augustine to bring him back
to the truth. The wise old man listened attentively to her story.
"Let him alone for the present, but pray much," was his advice, "for
as yet he is obstinate and puffed up with these new ideas. If what
you tell me of your son is true, he will read for himself, and will
find out his error." Then, seeing the anguish of the poor mother, he
told her that he himself in his youth had been led away by the
Manicheans, and had even been employed in transcribing their works.
It was that which had saved him; for, as he wrote, the truth became
clear to him; he had seen how much their doctrines were to be
avoided. Then, as Monica wept for disappointment--for she had counted
greatly on his help--a sudden pity seized him. "Go thy ways, and God
bless thee," he cried. "It is impossible that a son of such tears
should perish."

Monica's dream and the words of the Bishop were like rays of light in
the darkness. She drew fresh hope from them and redoubled her prayers.

The vacation drew to an end, and Augustine returned to Carthage, but
not for long. He was now twenty years old. His friend and patron,
Romanianus, was very anxious that he should open a school in Tagaste
while waiting for something better, and this he resolved to do. A
little circle of pupils soon gathered round him, who were later to
follow their young master in all his wanderings. Amongst these was
Alypius, an old schoolfellow and a devoted friend; the sons of
Romanianus; and another friend of Augustine's childhood whose name we
do not know, but who was dearer to him than all the rest. They were
of the same age, had studied together, had the same tastes, and the
same ambitions.

Influenced by Augustine, still warm in the praise of the Manicheans,
he, as well as the rest, had abjured the Catholic faith to join their

Augustine had been about a year at Tagaste when this friend was taken
suddenly ill. He lay unconscious in a burning fever; there seemed to
be no hope of recovery. He had been a catechumen before he had joined
the Manicheans. His parents, who were Christians, having begged that
he might be baptized before he died, the life-giving waters were
poured on him as he lay between life and death. Augustine made no
protest, so sure was he that what he himself had taught him before he
was taken ill would have more influence than a rite administered
without his knowledge or consent. To everybody's surprise the young
man recovered his senses and began to mend.

Augustine then laughingly told him what they had been doing, and went
on to make fun of the whole proceeding, never doubting but that the
sick man would enjoy the joke as much as he did. To his great
surprise his friend turned from him in horror.

"Never speak to me in such a way again if you wish to keep my
affection," he said.

"We will talk this matter out when you are stronger," thought
Augustine. But a few days later the invalid had a relapse, and died
with the white robe of his Baptism still unstained.

Augustine was inconsolable. Everything in Tagaste reminded him of the
dear companion of his boyhood. "My own country became a punishment to
me," he writes, "and my father's house a misery, and all places or
things in which I had communicated with him were turned into a bitter
torment to me, being now without him. My eyes sought him everywhere,
and I hated all things because they had him not." The thought of
death was full of horror to him, and he gave way to a deep
depression. His health, never very robust, began to suffer.

Romanianus, much as he wished to keep him at Tagaste, realized that a
change of scene would be the best thing for him, and agreed to his
proposal to return to Carthage and open a school of rhetoric. Alypius
and his other disciples followed him, and in the rush of the great
city Augustine regained, to some extent, his peace of mind. While
teaching, he continued his own studies, and competed for the public
prizes. Many men of note joined his school, and his name began to be

He greatly desired honour, he tells us, but only if honourably won.
One day a certain magician paid him a visit. He had heard, he said,
that Augustine was about to compete for one of the State prizes in
rhetoric. What would he be ready to give if he could insure him the
victory? It was only necessary to offer some living creatures in
sacrifice to the demons whom he worshipped and success would be
certain. Augustine turned from him in horror and disgust. He had not
yet fallen so low as this.

"I would not sacrifice a fly," he retorted hotly, "to win a crown of

The magician retired in haste, and Augustine, who succeeded in
carrying off the prize without the help of the demons, was publicly
crowned by the Pro-Consul Vindicius, who from thenceforth joined the
circle of his friends.

The news of his success reached Monica. Her mother's heart rejoiced
in his triumph, but her joy was tempered with sorrow. Carthage had
taken more from her son than it could ever give him, and her thoughts
were of other victories and other crowns. During his stay in Tagaste,
although Augustine had not lived under the same roof with his mother,
he had been continually with her. Her tender affection had been his
greatest comfort in the deep sorrow after his friend's death. He
spoke no more to her of religion, and she, mindful of the old
Bishop's words, was also silent.

"While I was struggling in the mire and in the darkness of error,"
writes Augustine, "that holy, chaste, devout, and sober widow (such
as Thou lovest) ceased not in all the hours of her prayers to bewail
me in Thy sight. And her prayers were admitted into Thy Presence, and
yet Thou sufferedst me to go on still, and to be involved in that

The darkness was indeed great, but the fires were still smouldering
beneath the ashes. Love, honour, and success were all his, and yet he
was not content. There was something in his soul that none of these
things could satisfy. "After Thee, O Truth," he cries, "I hungered
and thirsted!" His heart still ached for the loss of his friend, he
turned everywhere for comfort and found none. He sought forgetfulness
in study. He wrote two books on the "Beautiful" and the "Apt," and
dedicated them to Hierus, a famous Roman orator. "It seemed to me a
great thing," he tells us, "that my style and my studies should be
known to such a man."

Monica drew fresh hope from her son's writings. They were full of
noble thoughts and high aspirations. Such a mind could not remain in
error. Some day, surely, in God's good time, he would come to know
the truth.



It was about this time that Augustine's enthusiasm for the Manicheans
began to cool. He had been studying their doctrines, and had found
that they were not quite what he thought. He was disappointed with
their professors too.

The first unpleasant truth that dawned upon him was that they were
much better at denying the doctrines of the Catholic Church than at
explaining their own. It was almost impossible to find out what they
believed, so vague did they become when closely questioned. And
Augustine questioned very closely indeed. He was on the track of
truth, and it was not easy to put him off with hazy general
statements. He was still only an "auditor," and before he took any
further step he wanted to be certain of his ground. The men whom he
consulted did not seem very certain of their own, he remarked, but
they bade him have patience. One of their bishops, Faustus by name,
was soon coming to Carthage. He was one of their most brilliant
preachers, and would be able to answer all Augustine's questions.

This sounded promising, and Augustine awaited his coming impatiently.
He certainly was an eloquent speaker; his sermons were charming. But
when Augustine went to him privately and explained his doubts to him,
the result was not what he had hoped for. He gave the same vague
answers that Augustine had so often heard already. Pressed closer, he
frankly replied that he was not learned enough to be able to satisfy
him. Augustine was pleased with his honesty, and they became good
friends. But the seeker was no nearer the truth than before.

Yet if Faustus could not answer him, which of the Manicheans could?
He began to lose faith in them.

What did the Catholic Church teach on these points? he asked. This
was a question which they could all answer, and did--with great
eagerness and little truth.

It might have occurred to a less intelligent man than Augustine that
the enemies of the Church were not the people to answer such a
question fairly or truthfully: but he accepted their facts, and
decided that truth was not to be found there either. Was there such a
thing at all? was the final question he asked himself. The old
philosophers, heathens as they were, seemed to get nearer to the
heart of things than this.

Yet now and again, out of the very sickness of his soul, a prayer
would break out to that Christ Whom he had known and loved in his
boyhood, but Who had grown so dim to him since the Manicheans had
taught him that His Sacred Humanity was nothing but a shadow. He was
weary of life, weary even of pleasure, weary of everything, weary
most of all of Carthage.

Owing to the wild ways of the students it was impossible to keep
anything like order in the schools. Classes were constantly
interrupted by gangs of "smashers," who might break in at any moment,
setting the whole place in an uproar.

Augustine's friends pressed him to go to Rome. There, they urged, he
would meet with the honour that he deserved. There the students were
quieter and better-mannered; no rioting was allowed; scholars might
enter no school but that of their own master. This sounded hopeful;
Augustine was rather pleased with the idea. He wrote to Monica and to
his patron Romanianus to tell them of the step he proposed to take.

Monica's heart sank when she read the letter. To the Christians of
the fourth century Rome was another Babylon. She had poured out the
blood of the saints like water; she was the home of every
abomination. What would become of Augustine in Rome? Without faith,
without ideals, a disabled ship, drifting with every wind.

He must not go, she decided, or if he did she would go with him. She
prayed that she might be able to make him give up the project, and
wrote strongly against it; but Augustine had already made up his
mind. Then, in despair, she set out for Carthage to make one last

Her son was touched by her grief and her entreaties, but his plans
were made: he was to start that very night. "I lied to my mother," he
says, "and such a mother!" He assured her that he was not going, that
she might set her mind at rest. A friend of his was leaving Carthage,
and he had promised to go down to the harbour to see him off.

Some instinct warned Monica that he was deceiving her. "I will go
with you," she said. This was very awkward for her son; he was at his
wit's end to know what to do. They went down to the harbour together,
where they found Augustine's friend. No ship could put out that
night, the sailors said, the wind was dead against them. The young
men were unwilling to leave the harbour in case the wind should
change and they should miss the boat, while Monica was determined not
to leave Augustine.

They walked up and down together on the seashore in the cool evening
air. The hours passed, and the situation became more and more
difficult for Augustine. What was he to do? Monica was weary and worn
out with grief. An idea suggested itself to him suddenly. It was no
use waiting any longer, he said, it would be better to take some
rest; the boat would certainly not start that night.

Monica was in no mood to rest; but Augustine knew her love of prayer.
There was a little chapel on the seashore, dedicated to St. Cyprian.
Would she not at least go there and take shelter until the morning?
He promised her again that he would not leave Carthage, and she at
last consented, for her soul was full of sorrow.

Kneeling there in the stillness of the little chapel, she poured out
the troubles of her heart to God, beseeching Him that He would not
let Augustine leave her. The answer seemed a strange one. As she
prayed the wind suddenly changed; the sailors prepared to depart.
Augustine and his friend went on board, and the ship set sail for

The last thing they saw as the shore faded away in the dim grey of
the morning was the little chapel of St. Cyprian lying like a speck
in the distance, But they did not see a lonely figure that stood on
the sand and stretched out piteous hands to Heaven, wailing for the
son whom she had lost a second time.

It was God alone Who knew all the bitterness of that mother's heart.
It was God alone Who knew how, after the first uncontrollable
outburst of grief, she bent herself in faith and love to endure the
heartbreak--silent and uncomplaining. And it was only God Who knew
that the parting that seemed so cruel was to lead to the granting of
her life-long prayer, to be the first stage in her son's conversion.

"She turned herself to Thee to pray for me," says Augustine, "and
went about her accustomed affairs, and I arrived at Rome."

It seemed, indeed, as if his arrival in Rome was destined to be the
end of his earthly career, for soon afterwards he was attacked by a
violent fever and lay at death's door. He was lodging in the house of
a Manichean, for, although he no longer held with their doctrines, he
had many friends among them in Carthage who had recommended him to
some of their sect in Rome.

Augustine himself was convinced that he owed his life at this time to
his mother's prayers. God would not, for her sake, let him be cut off
thus in all his sins, unbaptized and unrepentant, lest that mother's
heart should be broken and her prayers unanswered. He recovered, and
began to teach.

Already while he was in Carthage he had suspected that the lives of
the Manicheans were not much better than those of the heathens among
whom they lived, although they gave out that their creed was the only
one likely to reform human nature. In Rome his suspicions were
confirmed. Thinking that Augustine was altogether one of themselves,
they threw off the mask and showed themselves in their true colours.

The pagans at least were honest. They professed openly that they
lived for nothing but enjoyment, and in this great city, even more
than in Carthage, one could learn how low a man might fall; but at
least they were not hypocrites. He resolved to cut himself adrift
from the Manicheans altogether.

There was a Christian Rome within the pagan Rome, but of this
Augustine knew nothing. On the Throne of the Fisherman sat St.
Damasus, wise and holy. His secretary, St. Jerome, was already
famous, no less for his eloquence than for the greatness of his
character. Jerome, like Augustine, had been carried away in his youth
by the downward tide, but had retrieved himself by a glorious
penance. The descendants of the oldest Roman families were to be
found in the hospitals tending the sick or working amongst the poor
in the great city. The first monasteries were growing up, little
centres of faith and prayer in the desert. They were peopled by men
and women who had counted the world well lost for Christ, or by those
who to save their souls had fled, as the great St. Benedict was to do
later, from the corruptions that had dragged down so many into the

Augustine had been greatly attracted shortly before leaving Carthage
by the preaching of Helpidius, a Catholic priest. The idea came to
him while in Rome to go to the Catholics and find out what they
really taught. But he dismissed it. The Manicheans had already told
him, he reflected, that no intelligent man could accept their
doctrines. Besides, they were too strict; their ideals were too high;
he would have to give up too much.

One more honest impulse was stifled. He entered a school of
philosophers who professed to believe in nothing. It was, he decided,
the wisest philosophy he knew.



Augustine had not been a year in Rome before he discovered that the
ways of the Roman students were not quite so delightful as he had
been led to believe. They were less insolent, it is true, than those
of Carthage, and not so rough; but they had other defects which were
quite as trying. They would, for instance, attend the classes of a
certain professor until the time arrived to pay their fees, when,
deserting in a body to another school, they would proceed to play the
same trick there. It was certainly one way of getting an education
for nothing, but it was hard on the teachers. It seemed scarcely the
profession in which one would be likely to make a fortune, even if it
were possible to earn one's daily bread. Augustine was discouraged
and sick at heart; everything seemed to be against him; there was no
hope, no light anywhere. His life seemed doomed to be a failure, in
spite of all his gifts.

And then, quite suddenly, came the opening that he had longed for.
Symmachus, the Prefect of Rome, received a letter from Milan,
requesting him to name a professor of rhetoric for the vacant chair
in that city. A competition was announced in which Symmachus, himself
a well-known orator, was to be the judge. Augustine entered and won
the prize. It was an excellent and honourable position. The professor
was supported by the State. The Emperor Valentinian held his Court in
the city, which gave it a certain position.

Augustine was furnished with letters of introduction to Ambrose, the
Bishop, who had been brilliantly successful at the Bar in his youth,
and was probably an old friend of Symmachus. He was of a noble Roman
family, and famous alike for his great learning and peculiar charm of
manner. He was famous also for his holiness of life, but this was of
less interest to Augustine; it was Ambrose the orator with whom he
desired to make acquaintance.

No sooner had he arrived in Milan than he presented himself before
the Bishop, who received him with a cordial courtesy that attracted
Augustine at once. The only way to judge of his eloquence was to
attend the sermons at the cathedral. This Augustine began to do
regularly. He found that Ambrose had not been overpraised. He
listened to him at first with the pleasure it always gave him to hear
an eloquent speaker; then, gradually, with a shock of surprise, he
began to attend to what the Bishop said, as well as to his manner of
saying it.

Ambrose was explaining the doctrines of the Church. He spoke very
clearly and simply, to the intelligence no less than to the heart,
for there were many catechumens in his congregation, as well as
pagans who were seeking for the truth.

The Manicheans had deceived him, then, thought Augustine; they had
lied about the Church's teaching; or they themselves had been
ignorant of it, and he had let himself be deceived. This was
altogether unlike what they had told him. It was noble and sublime;
all that was great and good in him responded. Had he found the Truth
at last?

In the meantime Monica, determined to rejoin her son, arrived in
Milan. The journey had been long and dangerous; they had been
assailed by terrible storms; even the sailors had lost courage. It
was she who had comforted them in their fear. "The storm will soon be
over," she assured them; "I know that we shall reach our journey's
end in safety." She had a strong conviction that she would not die
until her prayers had won Augustine back to God. The sailors took
heart again at her words; her calm eyes strengthened them; they felt
that this gentle woman knew things that were hidden from them.

Monica's first visit was to St. Ambrose. The two noble natures
understood each other at once. "Thank God for having given you such a
mother," said the Bishop to Augustine, when he met him a few days
later; "she is one in a thousand."

Much had happened since mother and son had parted, and much had to be
told. The first thing that Monica heard was that Augustine had left
the Manicheans. At this she rejoiced greatly; she was convinced, she
told him, that she would see him a Catholic before she died. "Thus
she spoke to me," says Augustine, "but to Thee, O Fountain of Mercy,
she redoubled her prayers and her tears, beseeching Thee to hasten
Thine aid and dispel my darkness." They went together now to the
sermons and sat side by side in the Church as in the days of
Augustine's childhood. One by one he laid aside the false ideas of
the truth that had been given to him by the Manicheans. It was
growing clearer to him every day. True, there was much that was above
his understanding--above the understanding of any human being, as
Ambrose frankly acknowledged--but not above their faith. The
Manicheans had sneered at faith as childish and credulous; and yet,
thought Augustine, how many things he believed that he could have no
possibility of proving. He believed, for instance, that Hannibal had
crossed the Alps, although he had not been present at the time. He
believed that Athens existed, although he had never been there.

As of old, a little group of friends had gathered round him at Milan.
There was Alypius, the most beloved of all his associates, who had
taken the place of the dear dead friend of his boyhood. There was
Romanianus, who was there on State business, and Licentius, his son,
with Trigetius, both pupils of Augustine's; Nebridius, who had been
with him in Carthage, and was, like himself, a native of Roman
Africa; and several new friends he had made in Milan. It was agreed
amongst them that they should set apart a certain time every day to
seek for the truth, reading and discussing among themselves. The
Scriptures were to form part of the reading.

"Great hope has dawned," wrote Augustine; "the Catholic Faith teaches
not what we thought and vainly accused it of. Life is vain, death
uncertain; if it steals upon us of a sudden, in what state shall we
depart hence? And where shall we learn what here we have neglected?
Let us not delay to seek after God and the blessed life."

There was in Milan a holy old priest called Simplicianus, greatly
beloved by St. Ambrose, for he had been his teacher and guide in
early life. To him Augustine resolved to go; he might be able to help
him. He told Simplicianus, amongst other things, that he had been
reading a book of philosophy translated by a Roman called Victorinus.
The book was good, said Simplicianus, but the story of Victorinus'
own life was better. He had known him well in Rome. Augustine was
interested; he would like to hear the story, he said.

Victorinus, said the old man, was a pagan and a worshipper of the
heathen gods. He was a famous orator, and taught rhetoric to some of
the noblest citizens of Rome. He was learned in every science, and
was so celebrated for his virtue that a statue had been erected to
him in the forum. In his old age, after earnest study, he became a
Christian, but remained a long time a catechumen through fears of
what his friends would say. At last taking courage, he prepared
himself for Baptism, and, to punish himself for his human respect,
insisted on reading his profession of faith aloud before the whole
congregation, instead of making it, as was usual, in private.

This courageous action of an old man made Augustine feel his own
cowardice. He believed now that the Catholic Church was the true
Church, and yet he could not face the thought of Baptism. He would
have to give up so much. The Christian standard was high for a man
who had spent his life in self-indulgence. He could never attain to
it. He took leave of Simplicianus sadly; the help which he needed was
not to be found there.

"I went about my usual business," he says, "while my anxiety
increased as I daily sighed to Thee." He frequented the Church now
even when there were no sermons, for he began to feel the need of

One day when Alypius and he were alone together there came in a
friend of theirs, Pontitianus, a devout Christian, who held a post at
the Emperor's Court. Finding the Epistles of St. Paul upon the table,
he smiled at Augustine, saying that he was glad that he was reading
them, for they were full of teaching. He began to tell them about St.
Anthony, and of the many hermitages and monasteries in Egypt, and
even here in his own country. He spoke to them of the monastic life
and its virtues, and, seeing their interest and astonishment, went on
to tell them an incident that had happened a short time before.

Two young men of the Imperial Court, friends of his own, walking
together in the country, came to a cottage inhabited by some holy
recluses. A life of St. Anthony lay on the table. One of them took it
up and began to read. His first feeling was one of astonishment, his
second of admiration. "How uncertain life is!" he said suddenly to
his companion. "We are in the Emperor's service. I wish we were in
God's; I had rather be His friend than the Emperor's." He read on,
with sighs and groans. At last he shut the book and arose. "My mind
is made up," he said; "I shall enter God's service here and now. If
you will not do so too, at least do not try to hinder me." "You have
chosen well," said the other; "I am with you in this." They never
left the hermitage.

This story only increased Augustine's misery. He had had more graces
than these young men, and had wasted them; he was a coward. When
Pontitianus had gone away, he left Alypius and went out into the
garden. Alypius followed and sat down beside him.

"What are we about!" cried Augustine hotly. "The unlearned take
heaven by force, and we, with all our heartless learning, wallow in
the mire!" He sank his face in his hands and groaned. The way lay
clear before him; he had found the Eternal Truth for which he had
been seeking so long, and he had not the courage to go further.

This and that he would have to do; this and that he would have to
give up--he could not: it was too hard.

And yet--to stand with both feet on the rock of truth, was it not
worth all this and more?

So the battle raged. Good and evil struggled together in his soul.

It seemed to him then that he saw a long procession winding across
the garden. It passed him and faded in the distance. First came boys
and girls, young and weak, scarcely more than children, and they
mocked him gently. "We have fought and conquered," they said, "even
we." After them came a great multitude of men and women in the prime
of life, some strong and vigorous, some feeble and sickly. It seemed
to Augustine as if they looked at him with eyes full of contempt. "We
have lived purely," they said, "we have striven and conquered." They
were followed by old men and women, worn with age and suffering. They
looked at him reproachfully. "We have fought and conquered," they
said, "we have endured unto the end."

Augustine's self-control was leaving him; even Alypius' presence was
more than he could bear. He leapt to his feet, went to the other end
of the garden, and, throwing himself down on the ground, wept as if
his heart would break. His soul, tossed this way and that in its
anguish, cried desperately to God for help.

Suddenly on the stillness of the summer afternoon there broke the
sound of a child's voice, sweet, insistent. "Tolle, lege," it sang;
"tolle, lege" ("Take and read").

Augustine stood up. There was no one there; no human being was in
sight. "Tolle, lege; tolle, lege," rang the sweet voice again and
again in his ear, now on this side, now on that. Was this the answer
to his prayer?

He remembered how St. Anthony had opened the sacred Scriptures on a
like occasion, and had found the help that he required. Going back to
Alypius, he took up the sacred volume and opened it. "Put ye on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh and the
concupiscence thereof," he read.

Light, strength, and conviction flowed into his soul. With God's help
all things were possible; he would give up all and follow Him. Then,
having carefully marked the place, he sat down beside Alypius and
told him of his resolution.

"What about me?" asked Alypius, "Perhaps there is something there for
me too. Let me see." He took the book from Augustine, opened at the
place he had marked, and read: "He that is weak in the faith take
unto you." "That will do very well for me," he said.

Augustine's first thought was for Monica. He must go to her, and at
once. They sat together hand in hand until the sun sank in a
rose-coloured glory and the cool shadows of the evening fell like a
blessing on the earth. There are some joys too deep for speech, too
holy to be touched by mortal hands.



Amongst the saints there are two great penitents, St. Mary Magdalene
and St. Augustine, who in the first moment of their conversion shook
themselves wholly free from the trammels of the past and never looked
back again.

"Thou hast broken my bonds in sunder," cries St. Augustine, "to Thee
will I offer the sacrifice of praise." Honours, wealth, pleasure, all
the things he had desired so passionately, were now as nothing to
him. "For Thou didst expel them from me," he says, "and didst come in
Thyself instead of them. And I sang to Thee, my Lord God, my true
honour, my riches, and my salvation."

The vacation was close at hand. Augustine resolved to give up his
professorship and to go away quietly to prepare himself for Baptism.
Verecundus, one of the little group of faithful friends who
surrounded him, had a country house in Cassiacum, which he offered
for his use while he remained in Italy. It was a happy party that
gathered within its walls. There were Augustine and his younger
brother Navigius; the faithful Alypius, who was to receive Baptism
with his friend; Licentius and Trigetius, Augustine's two pupils; and
several others. Lastly there was Monica, who was a mother to them
all, and whose sunny presence did much to enliven the household. It
was autumn, an Italian mid-September. The country was a glory of
green and gold and crimson, the Apennines lying like purple shadows
in the distance.

Here, in the seclusion that was so dear to his heart, Augustine read
the Psalms for the first time. His soul was on fire with their
beauty; every word carried him to God. Monica read with him, and he
tells us that he would often turn to her for an explanation. "For,"
he continues, "she was walking steadily in the path in which I was as
yet feeling my way."

There were other studies besides to be carried on, and St. Augustine
tells us of some of the interesting discussions that were held on the
lawn, or in the hall of the baths, which they used when the weather
was not fine enough to go out.

One morning, when he and his pupils were talking of the wonderful
harmony and order that exist in nature, the door opened and Monica
looked in.

"How are you getting on?" she asked, for she knew what they were
discussing. Augustine invited her to join them, but Monica smiled. "I
have never heard of a woman amongst the philosophers," she said.

"That is a mistake," replied Augustine. "There were women
philosophers amongst the ancients, and you know, my dear mother, that
I like your philosophy very much. Philosophy means nothing else but
love of wisdom. Now you love wisdom more even than you love me, and I
know how much that is. Why, you are so far advanced in wisdom that
you fear no ill-fortune, not even death itself. Everybody says that
this is the very height of philosophy. I will therefore sit at your
feet as your disciple."

Monica, still smiling, told her son that he had never told so many
lies in his life. In spite of her protests, however, they would not
let her go, and she was enrolled amongst the philosophers. The
discussions, says St. Augustine, owed a good deal of their beauty to
her presence.

The 15th of November was Augustine's birthday. After dinner he
invited his friends to come to the hall of the baths, that their
souls might be fed also.

"For I suppose you all admit," he said, when they had settled
themselves for conversation, "that we are made up of soul and body."
To this everybody agreed but Navigius, who was inclined to argue, and
who said he did not know.

"Do you mean," asked Augustine, "that there is nothing at all that
you do know, or that of the few things you do not know this is one?"

Navigius was a little put out at this question, but they pacified
him, and at last persuaded him to say that he was as certain of the
fact that he was made up of body and soul as anybody could be. They
then agreed that food was taken for the sake of the body.

"Must not the soul have its food too?" asked Augustine. "And what is
that food? Is it not knowledge?"

Monica agreed to this, but Trigetius objected.

"Why, you yourself," said Monica, "are a living proof of it. Did you
not tell us at dinner that you did not know what you were eating
because you were lost in thought? Yet your teeth were working all the
time. Where was your soul at that moment if not feeding too?"

Then Augustine, reminding them that it was his birthday, said that as
he had already given them a little feast for the body, he would now
give them one for the soul.

Were they hungry? he asked.

There was an eager chorus of assent.

"Can a man be happy," he said, "if he has not what he wants, and is
he happy if he has it?"

Monica was the first to answer this question. "If he wants what is
good and has it," she replied, "he is happy. But if he wants what is
bad, he is not happy even if he has it."

"Well said, mother!" cried Augustine. "You have reached the heights
of philosophy at a single bound."

Someone then said that if a man were needy he could not be happy.
Finally they all agreed that only he who possessed God could be
wholly happy. But the discussion had gone on for a long time, and
Augustine suggested that the soul might have too much nourishment as
well as the body, and that it would be better to put off the rest
until to-morrow.

The discussion was continued next day.

"Since only he who possesses God can be happy, who is he who
possesses God?" asked Augustine, and they were all invited to give
their opinion.

"He that leads a good life," answered one. "He who does God's will,"
said another. "He who is pure of heart," said a third. Navigius would
not say anything, but agreed with the last speaker. Monica approved
of them all.

St. Augustine continued: "It is God's will that all should seek Him?"

"Of course," they all replied.

"Can he who seeks God be leading a bad life?"

"Certainly not," they said.

"Can a man who is not pure in heart seek God?"

"No," they agreed.

"Then," said Augustine, "what have we here? A man who leads a good
life, does God's will, and is pure of heart, is seeking God. But he
does not yet possess Him. Therefore we cannot uphold that they who
lead good lives, do God's will, and are pure of heart, possess God."

They all laughed at the trap in which he had caught them. But Monica,
saying that she was slow to grasp these things, asked to have the
argument repeated. Then she thought a moment.

"No one can possess God without seeking Him," she said.

"True," said Augustine, "but while he is seeking he does not yet

"I think there is no one who does not have God," she said. "But those
who live well have Him for their friend, and those who live badly
make themselves His enemies. Let us change the statement, 'He who
possesses God is happy' to 'He who has God for his friend is happy.'"

All agreed to this but Navigius.

"No," he said, "for this reason. If he is happy who has God for his
friend (and God is the friend of those who seek Him, and those who
seek Him do not possess Him, for to this all have agreed), then it is
obvious that those who are seeking God have not what they want. And
we all agreed yesterday that a man cannot be happy unless he has what
he wants."

Monica could not see her way out of this difficulty, although she was
sure there was one. "I yield," she said, "for logic is against me."

"Well," said Augustine, "we have reached the conclusion that he who
has found God has Him for his friend and is happy; but he who is
still seeking God has Him for his friend but is not yet happy. He,
however, who has separated himself from God by sin has neither God
for his friend nor is he happy."

This satisfied everybody.

The other side of the question was then considered.

"In what did unhappiness consist?" asked Augustine.

Monica maintained that neediness and unhappiness must go together.
"For he who has not what he wants," she said, "is both needy and

Augustine then supposed a man who had everything he wanted in this
world. Could it be said that he was needy? Yet was it certain that he
was happy?

Licentius suggested that there would remain with him the fear of
losing what he had.

"That fear," replied Augustine, "would make him unhappy but would not
make him needy. Therefore we could have a man who is unhappy without
being needy."

To this everyone agreed but Monica, who still argued that unhappiness
could not be separated from neediness.

"This supposed man of yours," she said, "rich and fortunate, still
fears to lose his good fortune. That shows that he wants wisdom. Can
we call a man who wants money needy, and not call him so when he
wants wisdom?"

At this remark there was a general outcry of admiration. It was the
very argument, said Augustine, that he had meant to use himself.

"Nothing," said Licentius, "could have been more truly and divinely
said. What, indeed, is more wretched than to lack wisdom? And the
wise man can never be needy, whatever else he lacks."

Augustine then went on to define wisdom. "The wisdom that makes us
happy," he said, "is the wisdom of God, and the wisdom of God is the
Son of God. Perfect life is the only happy life," he continued, "and
to this, by means of firm faith, cheerful hope, and burning love we
shall surely be brought if we but hasten towards it."

So the discussion ended, and all were content.

"Oh," cried Trigetius, "how I wish you would provide us with a feast
like this every day!"

"Moderation in all things," answered Augustine. "If this has been a
pleasure to you, it is God alone that you must thank."

So the happy innocent days flew past in the pursuit of that wisdom
which is eternal. "Too late have I loved Thee, O Beauty ever ancient,
ever new!" cried Augustine. "Behold Thou wast within me, and I was
abroad, and there I sought Thee. I have tasted Thee, and I am hungry
after Thee. Thou hast touched me, and I am all on fire."

At the beginning of Lent Augustine and Alypius returned to Milan to
attend the course of instructions which St. Ambrose was to give to
those who were preparing for Baptism.

In the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday the stains of
the past were washed away for ever in those cleansing waters, and at
the Mass of the daybreak on that blessed morning Augustine knelt at
the altar to receive his Lord. Monica was beside him; her tears and
her prayers had been answered. She and her son were one again in
heart and soul.



In the old days at Milan, before his conversion, Augustine had often
told his friends that the dream of his life was to live quietly
somewhere with a few friends, who would devote themselves to the
search for truth. It had even been proposed to try the scheme, but it
would not work. Some of his friends were married; others had worldly
ties that they could not break. The idea had to be given up.

Now he had found the Truth, and at Cassiacum his dream had been in a
manner realized. Why should they not continue to live like that, he
asked Alypius, at all events until they were ready for the work to
which God had called them? And where should they live this life but
in their own country, which was to be the future field of their

Alypius asked nothing better. Their friend Evodius, like themselves a
citizen of Tagaste, who had been baptized a short time before, was
ready to join them. He held a high position at the Court of the
Emperor, but it seemed to him a nobler thing to serve the King of
kings. So these three future bishops of the Church in Africa made
their plans together. Monica would be the mother of the little
household, as she had been at Cassiacum; she was ready to go wherever
they wished.

A few days before they started an event occurred which they all
remembered later. It was the feast of St. Cyprian, and Monica had
returned from Mass absorbed in God, as she always was after Holy
Communion. Perhaps she had been thinking of her night of anguish in
the little chapel by the seashore at Carthage three years before,
when God had seemed deaf to her prayers, in order that He might grant
her the fulness of her heart's desire.

Suddenly she turned to them with shining eyes.

"Let us hasten to heaven!" she cried.

They gently questioned her as to what she meant, but she did not seem
to hear them. "My soul and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God,"
she said, and they marvelled at the heavenly beauty of her face.

It was a long journey from Milan to Ostia on the Tiber, where they
were to set sail for Africa. They remained there for some weeks, for
the ship was not to start at once.

One evening Augustine and Monica were sitting together at a window
that overlooked the garden and the sea. They were talking of heaven,
St. Augustine tells us, asking each other what that eternal life of
the saints must be which eye hath not seen nor ear heard. How small
in comparison were the things of earth, they said, even the most
beautiful of God's creations; for all these things were less than He
who made them. As their two souls stretched out together towards the
infinite Love and Wisdom, it seemed to them that for one moment, with
one beat of the heart, they touched It, and the joy of that moment
was a foreshadowing of eternity.

They sighed as it faded from them, and they were forced to return
again to the things of earth.

"Son," said Monica, "there is nothing in this world now that gives me
any delight. What have I to do here any longer? I know not, for all I
desired is granted. There was only one thing for which I wished to
live, and that was to see you a Christian and a Catholic before I
died. And God has given me even more than I asked, for He has made
you one of His servants, and you now desire no earthly happiness.
What am I doing here?"

About five days afterwards she fell ill of a fever. They thought she
was tired with the long journey, and would soon be better; but she
grew worse, and was soon unconscious. When she opened her eyes,
Augustine and Navigius were watching by her bed.

"You will bury your mother here," she said. Augustine could not trust
himself to speak; but Navigius, who knew how great had been her
desire to be buried at Tagaste beside her husband, protested. "Oh,
why are we not at home," he cried, "where you would wish to be!"
Monica looked at him reproachfully. "Do you hear what he says?" she
asked Augustine. "Lay my body anywhere," she said; "it does not
matter. Do not let that disturb you. This only I ask--that you
remember me at God's Altar wherever you may be."

"One is never far from God," she answered to another person who asked
her if it would not be a. sorrow to her to be buried in a land so far
from home.

It was not only her sons who grieved, but the faithful friends who
were with them, for was she not their mother too? Had she not taken
as much care of them as if they had been her children?

Augustine scarcely left her side, and she was glad to have him with
her. As she thanked him one day for some little thing he had done for
her, his lip quivered. She thought he was thinking of all the
suffering he had caused her, and smiled at him with tender eyes. "You
have always been a good son to me," she said. "Never have I heard a
harsh or reproachful word from your lips."

"My life was torn in two," says Augustine. "That life which was made
up of mine and hers."

They were all with her when she passed peacefully away a few days
later. They choked back their tears. "It did not seem meet," says
Augustine, "to celebrate that death with groans and lamentations.
Such things were fit for a less blessed deathbed, but not for hers."

Then, as they knelt gazing at the beloved face that seemed to be
smiling at some unseen mystery, Evodius had a happy inspiration.
Taking up the Psalter, he opened it at the 110th Psalm.

"I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart," he sang softly,
"in the assembly of the just and in the congregation."

"Great are the works of the Lord," sang the others, with trembling
voices, "sought out as they are according unto all His pleasure."
Friends and religious women who had gathered near the house to pray
entered and joined in the chant. It was the voice of rejoicing rather
than the cry of grief that followed that pure soul on its way to
heaven. Augustine alone was silent, for his heart was breaking.

We are but human, after all, and the sense of their loss fell upon
them all later. That night Augustine lay thinking of his mother's
life and the unselfish love of which it had been so full. "Thy
handmaid, so pious towards Thee, so careful and tender towards us.
And I let go my tears," he tells us, "and let them flow as much as
they would. I wept for her, who for so many years had wept for me."

They buried her, as she herself had foretold, in Ostia, where her
sacred relics were found a thousand years later by Pope Martin V.,
and carried to the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.

The memory of the mother to whom he owed so much remained with
Augustine until the day of his death. He loved to speak of her.
Thirty years later, while preaching to his people at Hippo, he said:
"The dead do not come back to us. If it were so, how often should I
see my holy mother at my side! She followed me over sea and land into
far countries that she might not lose me for ever. God forbid that
she should be less loving now that she is more blessed. Ah, no! she
would come to help and comfort me, for she loved me more than I can

The dead do not come back. But who that has followed the career of
the great bishop and doctor of the Church can doubt that she who
prayed for him so fervently on earth had ceased to pray for him in

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