The short answer is that she was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest theologians of the church. All that we know about Monica comes from Augustine’s spiritual autobiography, The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

Icon of St. Monica

Icon by Nicholas Papas.

Monica was born in North Africa about 331 of Berber parents. She was a Christian, and made it her life’s work to bring her husband, Patricius, and her children, Augustine, Nazigius and Perpetua, to the Christian faith.

She was ambitious for her eldest and gifted son, Augustine. He received an excellent education. He did not accept Christianity as a young person, embracing Manichaeism, then Neo-Platonism and living a wild life. He never married but lived with a woman for many years. They were the parents of a son. Monica prayed constantly for his conversion and wept over his sins. A sympathetic bishop once said to her, “Go now, I beg of you: it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

Augustine left North Africa for a teaching position in Milan. It was there that he met and was baptized by Ambrose in 387. Monica had followed Augustine, against his wishes, to Italy. As she was preparing to return home, she fell ill. She died in Italy. Augustine was worried about her dying so far from home. She responded, “Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.” Monica died at Ostia, the port city near Rome, in 387.

In 1430, Monica’s remains were transferred from Ostia to Rome, to the Church of St. Augustine. She was proclaimed a saint by popular acclamation, as was the custom at that time, for her pious and holy life.

Prayer for the Feast of St. Monica

O Lord, through spiritual discipline you strengthened your servant Monica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; Who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen