Today is the feast of St. Monica. Her story is well-known and often told, so I won’t belabor the details here. Two things worth mentioning, I think, though, that have been meaningful to me.
(1) I can’t find the reference right now, having forgotten where it is, but I’m reminded today of God’s words to Monica about her wayward Augustine: “Stop talking to your son about me and start talking to me about your son.” This holds for evangelism, of course — we should be praying for people and not merely apologeticizing them into Church and Kingdom — but also for parenthood (the saying’s original context). Kari and I work hard to practice the Faith in the home and to model it to our children, but I’m reminded we also need to pray for them regularly, daily.
(2) Breaking into St. Monica’s grave. Well, not quite what you’re thinking. I went to Rome a couple summers ago for a conference (summer 2009?), and a friend whose marriage had fallen apart requested of me that I go to her grave, lay flowers there, and pray. It was a bit of a circus, actually, given it’s Rome. I grabbed a nice arrangement of flowers from somewhere on the Campo de’ Fiore and made my way to St. Augustine’s church (Sant’Agostino), where St. Monica’s remains remain.
First problem: I showed up just after noon, when Sant’Agostino closes for the afternoon until four. Instead of trying to break in or sneak in, I decided to wait, and wander round Rome for four hours with a big bouquet of flowers.
So I returned to Sant’Agostino a little after four and entered. Second problem: Renovations. A big interior construction fence cutting the church in half, so that one couldn’t get near the altars up front. I thought for a moment about winging the flowers over the fence and trying to land them at St. Monica’s grave, but, frankly, I played line in high school and college and can’t really throw a football with much accuracy, much less a bouquet.
When in Rome, do as the Romans, right? And that often involves ignoring the finer points of law and ordinance. (Actually, it’s a principle of Roman law that the lawgiver can relax the law and need not enforce it strictly, which I think is why the Catholic Church, inheritor of Roman law, can look so lax in disciplining wayward miscreants. I suppose this attitude towards the law filters down from those who enforce it to those who are supposed to obey it.)
And so I decided I was going over, under, or around that fencing, for I had a charge to keep. Over and under wasn’t going to work, as I’m simply too big. Fortunately, I was able to lift and wiggle one section of the fence to create a gap and wrangle my way through, bouquet and all.
At that point it was a simple matter of walking to the grave, laying the flowers there, and praying. No kneelers, so I thought I’d be a bit…dramatic…in case a security guard or someone else official came up to me. I stretched out prostrate to offer a prayer. A woman did come up to me and simply said, in good but thickly-accented English, “When you are done, please close the fence.”
Charge kept. St Monica, ora pro nobis!
For more on St. Monica’s tomb, click here.