I saw the S. Monica Prayer Group in church today. It is a group of mothers who have come together to pray and study God’s word. They meet every Tuesday morning at church, spending some time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and listening to the Word of God. This morning I listened in to one of their sessions. The question they were reflecting on was: “Why is it that the closer you get to the Lord the more problems you seem to meet?” When the group asked me about it, I told them the obvious answer: when one draws to the Lord, the Lord draws him/her to Himself on the Cross. John Paul II has this to say in his letter Salvifici Doloris:
In the Paschal Mystery Christ began the union with men in the community of the Church. The mystery of the Church is expressed in this: that already in the act of Baptism, which brings about a configuration with Christ, and then through His sacrifice –sacramentally through the Eucharist — the Church is continually being built up spiritually as the Body of Christ. In this Body, Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and in a special way He is united with those who suffer. The words quoted above from the letter to the Colossians bear witness to the exceptional nature of this union. For, whoever suffers in union with Christ — just as the Apostle Paul bears his “tribulations” in union with Christ — not only receives from Christ that strength already referred to but also “completes” by his suffering” what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” This evangelical outlook especially highlights the truth concerning the creative character of suffering. The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s Redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His Body, christ has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. Insofar as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings — in any part of the world and at any time in history — to that extent he in his own way complete the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.
The problems that one becomes aware of in the journey towards union with the Lord are actual invitations to be at one with Him in his work of redemption. I then asked the mothers gathered there to enumerate the problems that make them suffer. Here is a short list of their “concerns”:
- children who do not listen to them
- husbands who don’t share their enthusiasm for the faith
- the worries of housekeeping and the financial headaches that accompany it
- abusive spouses
I looked at the list and I told them that St. Monica — Augustine’s mother — had the same problems. Like St. Monica, they too are invited to greater union with God through the sufferings they undergo. While I share the sentiment that a battered wife should not tolerate further abuse from a violent husband, I also pointed out to them that though wives normally suffered at the hands of their husbands in 5th c. North Africa, S. Monica escaped that fate because she knew how to control her husband Patricius. Here is a snipped from Augustine’s Confessions:
when she had arrived at a marriageable age, she was given to a husband whom she served as her lord. And she busied herself to gain him to Thee, preaching Thee unto him by her behaviour; by which Thou madest her fair, and reverently amiable, and admirable unto her husband. For she so bore the wronging of her bed as never to have any dissension with her husband on account of it. For she waited for Thy mercy upon him, that by believing in Thee he might become chaste. And besides this, as he was earnest in friendship, so was he violent in anger; but she had learned that an angry husband should not be resisted, neither in deed, nor even in word. But so soon as he was grown calm and tranquil, and she saw a fitting moment, she would give him a reason for her conduct, should he have been excited without cause. In short, while many matrons, whose husbands were more gentle, carried the marks of blows on their dishonoured faces, and would in private conversation blame the lives of their husbands, she would blame their tongues, monishing them gravely, as if in jest: “That from the hour they heard what are called the matrimonial tablets read to them, they should think of them as instruments whereby they were made servants; so, being always mindful of their condition, they ought not to set themselves in opposition to their lords.” And when they, knowing what a furious husband she endured, marvelled that it had never been reported, nor appeared by any indication, that Patricius had beaten his wife, or that there had been any domestic strife between them, even for a day, and asked her in confidence the reason of this, she taught them her rule, which I have mentioned above. They who observed it experienced the wisdom of it, and rejoiced; those who observed it not were kept in subjection, and suffered.
Ah, St. Monica, pray for your sisters.
See also Working with Moms
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