Monica Two, Too
Sometimes I am surprised with what resonates with folks who read these inspirational messages. Each evening I sit down with my laptop and on good days an idea comes to me. Other days are more difficult and I have to go after an idea. Sometimes I think some ideas are inspired. Other times, I am sure than I concocted an idea and only can hope somehow God can bless it and use it. But getting an idea is not sufficient.
I have to shape the idea and give it form in writing. Often that is fairly easy. Other times it is like a trip to the dentist…a great deal of pulling! My ideas that are shaped and written become little gifts thrown out there to the world. But they are unconditional gifts. I have no control or demands on the gifts. If they are meaningful or help someone, I am humbled and grateful. Occasionally, I learn that some particular message has been meaningful and that makes me happy.
One such message was yesterday’s piece on Monica. As I said, Monica---Saint Monica---was Augustine’s mother. Augustine was, and is one of the most famous Christian theologians in the two thousand years history of that tradition. His mother is only known and famous because of her son. And yet, she also has been canonized---declared a saint. I told her brief story yesterday. It resonated. I am pleased and have thought a little more about Monica. This is Monica, Part Two. Or if you prefer, it is about Monica, too.
Probably what attracted folks to Monica and her story was the fact that it really was not about her. Monica is the kind of quiet, religious person who somehow seems to have her own life in order. Of course, we don’t know enough about her to quibble that it is not true. It is true we don’t know her shortcomings, her doubts, and weaknesses. I assume she has all that since she was human. But apparently by the time she gave birth to Augustine and, then, a couple more kids, she had figured out life sufficiently to know who she was and what life meant. And God was right at the center of her picture.
And that God was big enough to encompass more than simple Monica. Her God happened to be the creator of the universe. I am sure she was not theologically sophisticated enough to tell us in detail how God created the universe. A corollary of this belief was the belief that the creative God was also a providential God. This means God cares for each and every one of the creatures---you, me and all the rest. To be providential means God provides.
Of course, she loved her son. And she was willing to be patient and let that providential God work. I am confident she is attractive to so many of us simply because she shows us how to care when there does not seem to be much else to do in the moment. She is a patient saint. She is a hopeful saint. She perseveres because she is saintly.
She speaks to all of us who have been in situations where there does not seem to be much to do. There may be someone about whom we care, but we seemingly can make no immediate difference. It is tempting to give up. A persevering saint finds an alternative to giving up.
Monica is a symbol of hope when hopelessness or despair seems more appropriate to a situation. She is a symbol of hope not because she is idealistic or naïve, but because she believes. I suspect there were times she believed in God more firmly than she believed in her son, Augustine.
Monica offers a different model than the American penchant for the quick fix. Of course, who would not want a quick fix when the situation is bad or the going gets tough. Prayer seems like such a flimsy option to controlling or commanding someone to shape up. But when that simply won’t work, then our only option may be despair or dependency on God. Monica shows me how.
To put it bluntly, Monica gives me hope, too. The first story about Monica---mother and saint---is a nice story and inspiring. But my story is not Monica’s story. I don’t even have a son! But if we are involved in the world at all, then we also get our own version of Monica’s story. There will be people and situations we simply can deal with in the normal, routine way. All we can do is give them over to God’s providential care. I know this feels like a lousy alternative. Monica may have thought that, too.
But when you cannot do anything directly, you have only two alternatives: give up or give over. Monica’s second story---Monica Two---gives me assurance that I can learn to care and minister in this indirect way. Thank God I am not God! Monica knew she was not God, too.
The nice thing about Monica Two is the lack of definition and prescription. When we wait, pray, persevere and hope, there is no “how to.” And in some situations I am ok with that. She models how to come to rest in the providential hands of God. Sometimes that’s all you can do. Monica knew that, too.