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Catholic Activity: The Death of St. Monica

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DIRECTIONS

"The day on which she was to die came closer and closer. It was a day unknown to us, but You were fully aware of it. I firmly believe that in Your inscrutable ways You had arranged that she and I were alone at the window and looking out into the inner garden of that house on the Tiber at Ostia. Away from the crowds, we had retired there after a long and tiresome journey to renew our strength for the ocean voyage.

"It was a sweet and pleasant talk we had together in the peaceful and quiet retreat, our thoughts straining forward to what is before, forgetting what is behind (Phil. 3:13). In Your presence, You who are Truth Itself, we would ask each other how wonderful the heavenly life of Your saints must be, a life that no earthly eye has as yet seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man (1 Cor. 2:9). We noted that the fleshly pleasures of sense, even when most intense or presented in the most alluring light, cannot be compared to the joys of eternal life, in fact, should not even be mentioned in the same breath.

"Then, with fervor growing ever more intense, our souls soared up to the Eternal. And we continued speaking. Lord, You know well what we said that day, and how during the conversation the world and all its pleasures dwindled into nothingness. Then my mother said: My son, speaking of myself, nothing earthly delights me any longer. I do not know why I am still here or why I should remain here. I have no further earthly desires. There had been one thing for which I had wanted to remain a little while in this world - to see you a Christian and a Catholic before I died. God has granted my wish fully, since I now see that you are His servant, one who despises all earthly goods. Why, then, do I remain on earth?

"How I answered, I do not know. But soon after, perhaps less than five days, she was stricken by a fever. One day during her illness she temporarily lost consciousness. We hastened to her side. Soon, however, she became normal again, and upon seeing us, my brother and me, standing at her bedside, she said inquiringly: What has happened? And when she realized that we were wholly upset with grief, she said: Here you will bury your mother.

"In silence I struggled against tears. My brother replied to the effect that he would prefer her to die at home rather than in a foreign land. When she heard this, she punished him by an anguished look for having thought such things. Then she looked to me and said: Did you hear what he said! And then she enjoined on both of us: Bury this body wherever it may be, and do not let it bother you further. The one thing that I do ask of you is a memento at the altar of the Lord, and that wherever you happen to be.

"When she had said this as best she could, she became silent, and her sickness grew worse. But I could not forget how often and with what anxiety she had made preparations to be interred beside her husband. It was on the ninth day of her illness, when she was 55 years old and I was 33, that the pure and holy soul of my mother was released from her body. I pressed her eyelids together. Then my heart was overwhelmed by grief and it welled up in tears. Only my resolute determination restrained them, and my eyes remained dry. And my inner impulses to weep aloud like a child were likewise hushed. For we realized that it was unbecoming to surround this death with loud cries and tearful moaning as is done at the death of evil men, who have gone down to eternal death. Her death was not an unhappy one, nor did she forfeit life everlasting.

"And when she was buried I accompanied that body and I returned without shedding a tear. Nor did I weep during the prayers offered up to You as the holy Sacrifice of our redemption was offered for her soul, even though, as is customary there, the body lay still uninterred alongside the grave. But within the depths of my soul I suffered intensely throughout the day; and in my confused state of mind I besought You, as best I could, to heal my sorrows. But You did not do it; because by this one instance You perhaps intended to show me how even the soul that already nourishes itself on the Word that never deceives may yet be opposed by the tyranny of habit and affection" (Confessions of St. Augustine, 9, 10-12).

Activity Source: Church's Year of Grace, Volumes 1-5 by Dr. Pius Parsch, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1964

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