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The Path of Tears: Weekly Message for 08-27-2019
Dear Friends in Christ,
In July I gave a catechetical talk to K-6 students on why we honor some saints with feast days (with All Saints Day as the catch-all for the rest—everyone who makes it to Heaven is a saint). I explained to them that the two main reasons were:
- to remind us of models of holiness that speak to us, showing us how we can be holy too, and
- because those saints intercede for us, especially when we enlist their aid through our prayers.
Not every saint speaks to every believer; we admire them, but their situation may not have been similar to ours, so their life might not help us with practical advice. As a priest, I draw inspiration from a priest saint such as St. John Vianney, but a married couple might draw inspiration from Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux and the first married couple to be canonized together. When you discover a saint you can identify with it makes your devotion that much more profound, knowing that saint’s life can help you understand your own.
Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo and many believers are in St. Monica’s situation today. St. Augustine did not receive baptism until he was an adult, and after having resisted, living a pagan and profligate life, seduced by the Roman culture of his time, and dabbling in the heretical teachings of the Manicheans (if you want to read more about how he came to Christ, read his Confessions). His father, Patricius, was known to be quick to anger and cheated on St. Monica, but she did not argue with him, praying instead that he would seek mercy for the sins he had committed. She was known to win people over by patience and gentleness, including her mother-in-law. Patricius would seek Baptism shortly before death thanks to St. Monica and her example as a wife and as a Christian.
She knew her son was on the path of spiritual ruin, questioning whether she should even live under the same roof as him. As St. Augustine recalls: “my mother, one of Thy faithful, wept for me before Thee, far more than do mothers who weep at bodily deaths. She saw my death in the spirit of faith and the spirit which she had received from Thee, and Thou didst hear her, O Lord. Thou didst hear her and didst not despise her tears, as they flowed forth and watered the ground beneath her eyes in every place of her prayer; Thou didst hear her…” (Confessions, 3.11.19). She suffered at the thought of her son’s perdition, and the Lord took that suffering and transformed it into grace for the conversion of her son, who rejected Manicheanism, became Catholic, and, eventually, became a Bishop and a prolific Doctor of the Church.
A lot of people today tread the same path of tears as St. Monica, praying for a loved one to embrace the Catholic faith or to come back to it after having fallen away. St. Monica was never known for bitterness or recriminations; she suffered for those she loved, as a fruit of her love for them and her love for God, and she offered those sufferings for their conversion. If you are in a St. Monica situation, reading about her life might give you some insight, and her intercession will definitely help. Our retreat guide entitled A Mother’s Tears: A Retreat Guide on Our Lady of Sorrows also might give you some encouragement and insight as well.
May the Lord turn your tears and the tears of those you love into joy.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.