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Streams of the river gladden the city of God ~Psalm 46:5

Every night during the past few months before sleeping, I read a few chapters of St. Augustine’s masterpiece, City of God. Scholars claim that “no book except the Bible itself had a greater influence on the Middle Ages than City of God.” Indeed, among his many writings, Augustine himself considered City of God his most outstanding masterpiece. He started writing it at the age of 59 and completed it at the age of 72.

Augustine begins the first book of 36 chapters with: “My dear Marcellinus: This work which I have begun makes good my promise to you. In it I am undertaking nothing less than the task of defending the glorious City of God against those who prefer their own gods to its Founder.” Then he ends the 22nd book of 30 chapters with: “I am done. With God’s help, I have kept my promise. This, I think is all that I promised to do when I began this huge work. From all who think that I have said either too little or too much, I beg pardon; and those who are satisfied I ask, not to thank me, but to join me in rejoicing and in thanking God. Amen.”

In Book 11, Chapter 1, Augustine reveals that the title is inspired by Holy Scripture: Streams of river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day (Ps 46:5-6). Great is the Lord and highly praised in the city of our God; What we have heard we now see in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, founded to last forever (Ps 48:2,9). Glorious things are said of you, O city of God (Ps 87:3).

Augustine was the son of a Christian mother, Monica, and a pagan father, Patricius. Monica was born in 332 near the North African town of Tagaste (the present day Algeria). When she was 22 she was married off to a Roman pagan, Patricius, who was twice her age. Patricius turned out to be an adulterous husband with a violent temper. Patricius’ mother, who shared the temper of her son, lived with them. Monica thus suffered heavily not just from the bad temper of her husband but also from that of her mother-in-law.

Their marriage bore 3 children: Augustine, Navigus, and Perpetua. Both Navigus and Perpetua later joined the religious life but Augustine, as we know from his autobiography, Confessions, lived a profligate life. For many years, Monica suffered greatly from the temper and abuses of her husband and mother-in-law, and from her worries about her eldest son, Augustine. But with remarkable fortitude and spiritual maturity, she continued to pray for her husband, mother-in-law, and eldest son, until finally both Patricius and her mother-in-law were converted into Christianity. But less than a year after his baptism, Patricius died in 371. Augustine was then only 17 years of age. It took another 16 years of persistent prayers before Augustine was converted and baptized in 387. One evening, Monica had a long conversation with Augustine and she told him: “Son, for mine own part I have no further delight in anything in this life. What I do here any longer, and to what end I am here, I know not, now that my hopes in this world are accomplished." Shortly thereafter, she became ill and suffered severely for 9 days before her death in 387. Her work of bringing her mother-in-law, her husband, and all her children, particularly Augustine, to the Lord all successfully accomplished, God called her to enjoy her eternal reward in heaven.

Our community has much to learn from the example of St. Monica. Like St. Monica, there are many wives and mothers in our community who have been used and are being used by the Lord to become instruments for the conversion of their husbands and children. How numerous are the wives who have shared how they struggled with much persuasion and prayers to bring their husbands into the community!  How plentiful are the mothers who have related how they suffered much from sons and daughters who have become addicted to drugs; sons who have fathered children from several live-in partners; daughters who have become single mothers; and children who no longer practice their Christian faith! And yet they, together with their husbands, continue to serve faithfully in the community – giving tithes, going on mission, giving talks, sharing with the poor – and praying at every opportunity for the conversion and transformation of their sons and daughters.

We know of a wife in our community who has great difficulties with her mother-in-law. And yet she and her husband are servant-leaders serving faithfully in the community, praying that soon this concern may pass or even become their source of strength to become even closer to God. We also know of a wife who had a philandering husband even while they were already in the community. But the wife continued to pray, attend to her husband’s needs, and make herself even prettier and attractive to her husband. And her efforts were blessed by the Lord! The couple became dedicated servant-leaders in the community, a model of service to God and of living a faithful and Christ-centered married life, particularly for young couples. And the Lord has blessed the family abundantly as they continue to share their blessings with the poor.

We also know a couple with a son who, having inherited his father’s good looks, has fathered children from several women. But they continue to pray for their son’s conversion, serve the Lord through the community with great commitment and dedication, and help support their grandchildren. The couple, a model of gentleness and affection, remains steadfast that soon – as St. Monica patiently waited for years – their son will change his ways.

We also know a couple with a son who had been addicted to drugs for many years. But through constant and persistent prayers – particularly by the mother – their son, after over five years of treatment and rehabilitation in different centers, is now gainfully employed and, hopefully, has now fully and permanently recovered.

Like St. Monica, the members of our community who have long-standing and difficult problems within their families continue to hold on to their faith, as revealed in Scriptures, that in our community: “Streams of river gladden the city of God; God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day.” We find joy in this community. We find our prayers answered. Because God is in his city. And if God is with us, in this community, his city, why should we look for him elsewhere?

We continue our reflection on the lives of married saints. In last year's issues, we reflected on the lives of husbands and wives who lived exemplary lives dedicated to God and thereafter were canonized or proclaimed saints of the Church. This month we reflect on the life of St. Monica. Although her husband, Patricius, has not been declared a saint, he nevertheless was baptized a Christian and died within a year of his conversion. With all his sins wiped out by his baptism and living only briefly after that, we can assume that he too must be in heaven with St. Monica. We focus on St. Monica because there are many in our community who, like her, have been used and are being used by the Lord to bring their spouses and children closer to God. May St. Monica be our model of persistent prayer and ardent love for our families! ~JUN and JEAN URIARTE

Added on Thursday, January 14, 2016


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