This year, during the third week of Eastertide, on May 4, the church remembers Monnica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. She died on this day in 387. Augustine is considered to be one of the major theologians of the Western Christian tradition. His autobiography, “The Confessions” is a classic that I highly recommend. In that book he talks about his earlier life before converting to Christianity, which he attributes in part to the intercessory prayers of his mother. He was often arrogant and a lover of many vices. It was many years between his introduction to the faith and his acceptance of it. He writes of his mother:
“For my mother, your faithful servant, wept for me before you more than mothers weep when lamenting their dead children. By the ‘faith and spiritual discernment’ (Galatians 5:5) which she had from you, she perceived the death which held me, and you heard her, Lord. You heard her and did not despise her tears which poured forth to wet the ground under her eyes in every place where she prayed. You heard her.” (Confessions, Part 3.6. Translation by Henry Chadwick)
As we continue our prayer partner practice during this season, I am not suggesting that we need to be as intense as Monnica was in praying for her son! Many of us do not even know our prayer partner. I mention her to you, though, as someone whom the church lifts up as someone who believed in the power of prayer. She persisted, even though it seemed very unlikely that her son would ever change. May we persist in our prayers for each other, though we may wonder if they make any difference. God hears our prayers, just as much as God heard Monnica’s. When we pray, even for someone we do not know, we might weep. We might weep, but not because we know the particular situation of our partner. We might weep, because we desire to be close to God and desire that our partner also know that closeness.
My practical suggestion for this week: be open to weeping. Take some time to get in touch with the things that are sorrowful for you. You don’t have to shed actual tears, but be open to them. Lift those sorrowful things to God. Then lift up your prayer partner, knowing that she or he has sorrows too. We all do. Trust that God is listening. Remember that concept of the “communion of saints.” Many of us believe that there is a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1) who pray with us and for us as well. Thanks be to God for Monnica and all the saints whose faithful example of prayer inspires us.