Monnica vs. Augustine of Hippo

After a long, painfully slow weekend without Lent Madness (local support groups are cropping up everywhere), we welcome you back to another week of saintly action. Today marks the long-anticipated epic oedipal battle between mother and son — which may just be the definition of Lent Madness!

As one of our Celebrity Bloggers has pointed out, this pairing “suggests a dark, nay, diabolical streak in the hearts of the bracketeers, priests of the Church though they may be.” (Thanks, Heidi. And for that remark, we have given you, a mother of two sons, both sides of this match-up). Nevertheless, the witnesses of Monnica and Augustine of Hippo will stand on their own merits. You, the people, shall decide whether mother or son will advance to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

With half the match-ups decided for the Round of the Saintly Sixteen, make sure to check out the updated calendar of future battles as well as the updated bracket.

Monnica (c. 331 –  387), born to Christian Berber parents in North Africa, would be unknown to us were it not for her depiction as the persistently devoted mother in her son’s autobiographical “Confessions of St. Augustine.”

Issue from her marriage to a difficult pagan bureaucrat named Patriclius included Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Monnica recognized early on that Augustine was tremendously gifted intellectually and her love for him was manifested in her deep ambition to see him succeed in the world. However, upon deepening her life of prayer and Christian maturity that ambition transformed into a passion to see him convert to Christianity. He scorned her efforts and influence. Ultimately, her quest led her to follow him first to Rome and then to Milan, where he was, after 17 years of prayer and “encouragement,” baptized by Bishop Ambrose on Easter Eve 387.

With travel difficult in the late fourth century, following her son to Rome was no small undertaking. Yet Monnica was a profoundly determined woman whose faith enabled her to boldly act on her deepest hope and conviction.

Augustine and Monnica spent a peaceful six months together before beginning the journey back to Africa. In Ostia, the port city of  Rome, she took ill. Before she died, she said, “You will bury your mother here. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord. Do not fret because I am buried far from our home in Africa. Nothing is far from God, and I have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.”  Her work was done.

Collect for St. Monnica: O Lord, through spiritual discipline you strengthened your servant Monnica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Heidi Shott

Augustine (354- 430), one of the most influential theologians in all of Christendom, might have easily ended up just another erudite wastrel. Born in Thageste, North Africa in 354, his mother Monnica recognized early his brilliance and leadership qualities and encouraged his studies. She was less successful in curbing his dissolute lifestyle, but more on that later.

At 17 he studied rhetoric in Carthage by the largess of a fellow Roman citizen. He taught first in Thageste and then for nine years in Carthage before moving to Rome to find a more accomplished class of students — which he didn’t. It was then he became the professor of rhetoric at the Court of Milan. It was also in Milan that his mother returned to the scene. Her ambition for Augustine morphed into a deep desire for him to abandon Manichaeism and convert to the Christian faith. Augustine made the acquaintance of Bishop Ambrose and, under his influence, came to see that Christianity was intellectually respectable and was baptized on Easter Eve 387.

Upon returning to Africa he gave away all of his possessions to the poor, with the exception of the family home which he converted into a monastery. He was ordained priest in 391 and Bishop of Hippo in 395, a position he held for 35 years until his death. He was described by his friend and fellow bishop, Possidius, as a man who “ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see.” Augustine was a gifted orator and a powerful defender of the faith.

However, it is Augustine’s writing that provides his greatest legacy to the church and the world. At least 350 sermons are known to survive and more than 100 titles. His greatest hits include his autobiographical “Confessions,” “The City of God,” and many, many works of apologetics, doctrine, and exegesis. His influence is immensely deep and wide through the entire history of the Christian Church extending to Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, the protestant reformers, and Eastern Orthodox theologians.

He died in 430 and was soon canonized by popular acclaim. His feast day is August 28.

Collect for St. Augustine of Hippo: Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you: Help us, following the example of your servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Heidi Shott


Monnica vs. Augustine of Hippo

  • Monnica (56%, 929 Votes)
  • Augustine of Hippo (44%, 740 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,669

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126 Comments to "Monnica vs. Augustine of Hippo"

  1. March 5, 2012 - 8:03 am | Permalink

    Moms always seem to win these mother-son battles so, as a fellow son, I had to stand with Augustine.

    • Susan Hedges's Gravatar Susan Hedges
      March 5, 2012 - 9:00 am | Permalink

      Without a mother, neither one of you could stand. . .

    • Barbara C. Cockrell's Gravatar Barbara C. Cockrell
      March 5, 2012 - 10:02 am | Permalink

      Is it just my perception or does ballot position influence results? Just wondering. However, regardless of her placement on the ballot Monnica gets my vote!

    • March 5, 2012 - 10:12 pm | Permalink

      Although Monica is a saint admired and venerated in her own right, Augustine has contributed greatly to the theology of the Western Church. As an advocate of asceticism, he would be inclined to look to God an discourage earthly riches and pleasures. The monastic tradition of the Western Church greatly influenced the Book of Common Prayer, and it is to great Bishops such as Augustine to whom we must attribute development in the early stages of monasticism. Augustine has given so much to the Anglican Church that we must remember to carry on what has gotten us to this point, and thank him for his contributions to the Church….Vote Augustine!

  2. March 5, 2012 - 8:12 am | Permalink

    On the basis of Augustine’s doctrine of Original Sin, I am going with Monica.

    • Gian's Gravatar Gian
      March 5, 2012 - 9:06 am | Permalink

      I completely agree with Sharon.

    • March 5, 2012 - 12:03 pm | Permalink

      me too! i didn’t grow up with the original sin doctrine, but something very much like it. i’m done with that. Santa Monica!

  3. Cori Olson's Gravatar Cori Olson
    March 5, 2012 - 8:13 am | Permalink

    Augustine, Augustine, he’s our man! If he can’t do it, no one can!!

    Since Monnica’s big claim to fame seems to be that she led her son to conversion, then that son must be really important to the story of faith. Otherwise, why remember her over the millions of other women who have led their sons? Nope, I see her halo largely as a reflection of his, fair or not fair.

  4. Ann's Gravatar Ann
    March 5, 2012 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Vote Monnica – abused wife, faithful Christian. not for Augustine who left the woman who loved him in lurch –another lout. I think original sin idea came from when Augustine had to care for his younger siblings when Monnica was laid up because of the beatings.

    • March 5, 2012 - 8:32 am | Permalink


    • dr.primrose's Gravatar dr.primrose
      March 5, 2012 - 2:42 pm | Permalink

      As noted below, after living with this woman — the love of his life — for over a decade, it was MONICA who broke this up so he could have a society engagement to a 10-11 year old girl. I wouldn’t put the “lout” label entirely on Augustine!!

      • Katharine Graham's Gravatar Katharine Graham
        March 5, 2012 - 7:07 pm | Permalink

        I agree with dr. primrose. And I doubt Monica would even be considered for sainthood, but for her son.

  5. Mark D.'s Gravatar Mark D.
    March 5, 2012 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    No Monnica, no Augustine. Her steadfast prayers before the Throne brought us all a tremendous gift. Team Monnica all the way.

  6. Karen McLeod's Gravatar Karen McLeod
    March 5, 2012 - 8:20 am | Permalink

    After the way he so disloyally treated his live-in lady friend? No go, Augustine!

  7. Alec's Gravatar Alec
    March 5, 2012 - 8:21 am | Permalink

    Without Monnica, what would have been Augustine’s faith. Have read the Confessions and the one thing that continuously shone through was his mother’s love and persistence. God really blessed her.

  8. Mary Lou Creamer's Gravatar Mary Lou Creamer
    March 5, 2012 - 8:26 am | Permalink

    Hard to go against a mom who gave her all for her gifted son and God.

  9. Nate Prentice's Gravatar Nate Prentice
    March 5, 2012 - 8:27 am | Permalink

    Hmmm. The founder of Original Sin and a very unhealthy look at human sexuality leading to millennia of cursing the very bodies that God gave us vs. his mother. I’ll take his mother. Hopefully Augustine’s father found a special place in hell reserved for him.

  10. Dan's Gravatar Dan
    March 5, 2012 - 8:32 am | Permalink

    Augustine, for good and ill, made the theology of the Western Church what it is. And Anglicanism is born out of that tradition. Whatever theological position you hold today, it probably can be traced back to either agreeing or disagreeing with Augustine. Love him or hate him, Augustine is the theological giant of the West.

  11. Patsy White's Gravatar Patsy White
    March 5, 2012 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    I go with the Mom!!

  12. Natalie's Gravatar Natalie
    March 5, 2012 - 8:56 am | Permalink

    I like Augustine, but as a Mum of difficult boys – well Monnica earned that halo!

  13. Mary W. Cox's Gravatar Mary W. Cox
    March 5, 2012 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    Monnica’s sainthood:
    tribute to a mom’s praying–
    or nagging–or both.

  14. March 5, 2012 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    I’ll be up front with my bias: I wish Pelagius, not Augustine, had been the winner of the “Pelagian controversy.” All political leanings aside, Augustine has always reminded me of an ancient version of Bill Clinton: a man of great persuasion and a tremendous orator who failed to manage his lustful tendencies, then used his belief system as a cover/excuse for ongoing bad behavior.

    Even though Monnica could be dismissed, on the surface, as the worst sort of nagging helicopter parent, I’m going to read her story from the underside and assume she was more complex and interesting than that. She’s not my favourite saint, but hey: at least she’s not Augustine!

    • Dan's Gravatar Dan
      March 5, 2012 - 9:05 am | Permalink

      Actually, Augustine’s sexual attitudes were absolutely common for his day and age. I think we actually read our own age’s sexual obsessions into Augustine’s biography.

      Go read Peter Brown’s classic work The Body and Society and you will see that we would have been worse off if Jerome’s truly abysmal sexual ethic had carried the day over Augustine’s more moderate, though admittedly flawed, sexual ethic. And btw, Pelagius was in Jerome’s camp on that issue.

  15. Lauren Stanley's Gravatar Lauren Stanley
    March 5, 2012 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    On her feast day, I preached about her, but to do so, I had to talk about her son an awful lot. In the end, though, I preached that she was faithful for years, and that her steadfastness was worthy of both admiration and duplication. Cuz ya gotta admit, for many, many years, her son was a wastrel. I love Augustine, truly I do, but today, for Lent Madness, I’m going with Monnica.

  16. Tim Trussell-Smith's Gravatar Tim Trussell-Smith
    March 5, 2012 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    This is the matchup we’ve all been waiting for. And what a slug-fest! From the comments it’s clear that the emotions are already running high.

    I think Augustine’s theological legacy – which made him a saint – could clearly be a liability with the Lent Madness voters of today. I’m interested to see what will happen, although as I comment Monnica is out to an early lead which is anything but paltry (103 – 71).

    Lent Madness rules!

  17. Streck's Gravatar Streck
    March 5, 2012 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    “Do not fret because I am buried far from our home in Africa. Nothing is far from God, and I have no fear that he will not know where to find me, WHEN HE COMES TO RAISE ME TO LIFE AT THE END OF THE WORLD.” Interesting quote and concept by Monnica, which is overlooked in today’s theology.

  18. Mary W's Gravatar Mary W
    March 5, 2012 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    First off: Monnica is African and the only picture you can come up with is a white chick?

    Without Monnica, no Augustine, never mind the fact that he only came to Christianity kicking and screaming (well, maybe not, but it took a loooong time of Monnica working on him to get him there). So I’m going with the long-suffering mother.

    • Heidi Shott's Gravatar Heidi Shott
      March 5, 2012 - 11:38 am | Permalink

      If she moves on to the Saintly Sixteen, there are plenty of other depictions. I just thought this one – a mosaic from an Italian church – was both care-worn and beautiful.

    • Vicki's Gravatar Vicki
      March 5, 2012 - 11:48 am | Permalink

      Berbers aren’t Arab or Negroid (they were in those hills before any other colour or even the Romans got there) – they’re white.

      • Vicki's Gravatar Vicki
        March 5, 2012 - 12:26 pm | Permalink

        P.S. The Berbers have the oldest known written language as well.

      • Ethel Ware's Gravatar Ethel Ware
        March 5, 2012 - 4:44 pm | Permalink

        I always thought Thagaste was originally a Greek colony.

  19. Dan's Gravatar Dan
    March 5, 2012 - 9:12 am | Permalink

    For those bemoaning that Pelagius lost and Augustine won over the grace and will debate, let me suggest that you might not have been happy if Pelagius won. His rigorous ascetic outlook meant you were responsible for your own salvation and that the surest path to salvation was by denying your sexuality. Augustine, on the other hand, championed the idea that all Christians, even married, sexually active ones, could be saved. It is true that his views on human sexuality do not match contemporary ones. But be informed about the other less attractive options, including Pelagius’s, that could have been possible.

  20. Michael Fay's Gravatar Michael Fay
    March 5, 2012 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    At last you’ve found it. The Church’s hang ups on sex/original sin and perhaps even predestination is Oedipal!

  21. Barb's Gravatar Barb
    March 5, 2012 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    Augustine in his own self-righteousness has made our own lives and sexuality less than I believe God meant it to be. So dear mother Monnica even thought you encouraged the youngster to change his ways ultimately leading to his self-righteous ways I still vote for and admire you.

  22. Barbara A. Cadwell's Gravatar Barbara A. Cadwell
    March 5, 2012 - 9:26 am | Permalink

    Decisions, decisions. Do I go with Monica in honor of my mother, or do I go with Augustine who in three words defined the complex relation of the Trinity: I (God the Father) Love (God the Holy Ghost) Myself (God the Son.)? What to do, what to do. I guess I have to go with Monica who gave of herself so that her son could be great – but then again….

  23. March 5, 2012 - 9:28 am | Permalink

    Augustine? No way. I don’t care how many suitable-for-framing quotes he’s provided the church, I blame weirdness about sexuality on him. Voting for Monnica.

    • Elizabeth's Gravatar Elizabeth
      March 6, 2012 - 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Me, too. Bequeathed us nearly two millenia of crippling sexual hang-ups plus the notion of the Just War. Augustine a giant of Christian thinking? Yes, indisputably. The Saintliest of the Saintly? No.

      BTW, I am surprised by the misogynistic comments about Monnica I see here. So dad was “difficult,” and possibly abusive, but Augustine’s shortcomings are all due to his mother being a helicopter parent, a nag, a “smothering mother” and socially ambitious? In his writings, Augustine took responsibility for what he saw as his failings. So why do we lay the wrap back on Mom? And why not on Dad?

  24. Michel D.'s Gravatar Michel D.
    March 5, 2012 - 9:29 am | Permalink

    Wow. I am with Eric. Tough to pick Mother Son challenge. I did, however, go with my gut and went to Augustine of Hippo. Lovely way to work through Lent. Glad my wife turned me onto this.

  25. March 5, 2012 - 9:36 am | Permalink

    As comforting as I find the Simplified Version of the Doctrine of Original Sin (Everybody f***s up sometimes), I gotta go with Monnica. There are only two two women known throughout the ages, primarily for the accomplishments of their progeny, and the BVM is the other one.

  26. March 5, 2012 - 9:48 am | Permalink

    Not crazy about either, a mother ambitious for her son and the weirdness about original sin that has provided fodder for 30 years’ worth of boring conversations when people learn that I am a priest. Going with Monnica for her “Nothing is far from God” quote. And because, conspicuously absent from his bio, the finally virtuous Augustine never got around to supporting his wife and child.

  27. Stephen's Gravatar Stephen
    March 5, 2012 - 9:51 am | Permalink

    Was Augustine also the father of persecution of non-Christians?

  28. Heidi Haverkamp's Gravatar Heidi Haverkamp
    March 5, 2012 - 9:54 am | Permalink

    I voted for Augustine, because I think that’s what Monnica would have wanted! Plus, I love his stuff.

  29. Greta's Gravatar Greta
    March 5, 2012 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    Definitely going with “behind every good man is an even better woman”.

  30. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    March 5, 2012 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    Personally, I think original sin is a brilliant concept, though not as it has been articulated through the ages. The idea that there is an inherent flaw as well as a divine spark in each person empowers each of us. And what would Shakespeare have achieved without the concept?

    But that all aside, it is Augustine’s brilliant marrying of philosophy with religion that sells me. Here’s a quote: “All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said has its origin in the Spirit.”

  31. Don's Gravatar Don
    March 5, 2012 - 10:14 am | Permalink

    Never mind the theological questions. Ever since my first encounter with Augustine, I have wondered why he wasn’t wise enough to relocate to someplace with a better name than Hippo before being consecrated bishop. And was his mother simply supremely pious, or was she also a supreme nag? This match-up requires some deep thinking.

  32. March 5, 2012 - 10:17 am | Permalink

    If Augustine wasn’t going up against his mother, he would get my vote. His theology of sexuality, while myopically focused on procreation, still saw it as basically good, in contrast to many of his contemporaries who saw nothing good about sex. And there is too much light in his writings for his human failings to obscure. Still, in this matchup, I going with Mom.

  33. March 5, 2012 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    First of all, great job, Heidi, in writing capsule bios that include so much in such a short space–and in such an even-handed way!

    Although I was ordained on the feast of St. Monnica, I have to go with Augustine who is / more than the Original Sin guy.

  34. Beth Royalty's Gravatar Beth Royalty
    March 5, 2012 - 10:31 am | Permalink

    If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Word.

  35. Matthew Cowden's Gravatar Matthew Cowden
    March 5, 2012 - 10:35 am | Permalink

    Boy, what would Freud say? I vote for Mom.

  36. Sarah's Gravatar Sarah
    March 5, 2012 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    The only mother-son matchup of this sort where the son should win is in the case of Mary vs. Jesus. Sorry Augustine!

  37. Rhetta Wiley's Gravatar Rhetta Wiley
    March 5, 2012 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    I’m getting a crazy stage-mother vibe here with Monnica. Nevertheless, I think it’s Rose’s tur…er, Monnica’s turn.

  38. Rosemary Beales's Gravatar Rosemary Beales
    March 5, 2012 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    In this age of the non-confessory “confession” by countless public and private figures, I have to go with the author of “Confessions.” Saints who are perfect from the git-go don’t interest me much.

  39. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    March 5, 2012 - 11:28 am | Permalink

    So depressed about this Monnica Madness. For all het wonderful qualities and her unimpeachable role as a mother, it is Augustine who shaped Christianity and whom Bob Dylan, no less, wrote a song about.

    If I can’t convince you, maybe he can.

  40. March 5, 2012 - 11:39 am | Permalink

    Mmm.. these are 2 characters who have been sometimes stereotyped. I’m really unhappy with the way some of Augustine’s teaching became foundational and mainstream. Love some of the autobiographical discourse and description of coming to faith, hate the hardline persecution of heretics and I agree that I would have wanted the Pelagian heresy to go the other way. Monnica the ‘pushy’ mother? Sometimes you just can’t win as a mother. She’s not immediately a sympathetic figure, but she is faithful, loyal and a theological thinker. She gets my vote.

  41. Jasta's Gravatar Jasta
    March 5, 2012 - 11:40 am | Permalink

    I’m going with Monica all the way. I was ordained on her feast day! <3

  42. March 5, 2012 - 11:51 am | Permalink

    I am not so opposed to Augustine than what was done with his work. Augustine’s dabbling in dualism set up a very dualistic approach to Christianity–not the least of the doctrine Original Sin became de rigue for the Middle Ages and from it developed much of the craziness of personal salvation as described by the fundamentalists today. Monica may have been an overbearing mother, but the followers of Augustine’s ideas molded the Church into a rather distressing Heaven/Hell dichotomy rather than the community of the faithful that Jesus led. I go with Monica.

    • Anne Warrington Wilson's Gravatar Anne Warrington Wilson
      March 5, 2012 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

      I cope better with helicopter moms than with Puritans, Calvinists and score keepers. Me for Monica.

      • Peggy's Gravatar Peggy
        March 5, 2012 - 12:53 pm | Permalink


        And I’ve read (briefly) about Augustine as a teenager. I have teenagers. Monnica gets my vote.

  43. Toni Ponzo's Gravatar Toni Ponzo
    March 5, 2012 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The more I learn about Augustine the more interesting I find him and one of the most interesting things is his mother. One of my favorite gospel songs is about having a “praying mother” and having had one I know how powerful it can be. Gotta go with the praying mother who is still up there praying along with mine. Yay Monnica!

  44. Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
    March 5, 2012 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the Dylan song. I am learning that I have so much to learn!
    I went with Monnica not just for Moms everywhere in all times, but also for all those who work behind the scenes, pushing, encouraging, and making it so that others can shine.
    There are so many people who don’t know the doctrines, theories, or theology but who love God and work for God having faith that God will find them wherever they end up.

  45. Laurie Atwater's Gravatar Laurie Atwater
    March 5, 2012 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Monnica bore him, brought him to the altar, but he did the rest. A brilliant Father of the Church, he gets my vote. His mother gets my honor and gratitude.

  46. March 5, 2012 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Much as I appreciate some of Augustine’s writings (and despise others…), I have to be kind of shallow and vote for Monnica, whose feast day (the May one, not the August one) is also my birthday.

  47. Catherine's Gravatar Catherine
    March 5, 2012 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Monnica stands as a wonderful example for all those who today live “unequally yoked” as well as those struggling with difficult children who have wandered far from the path. She is truly a saint for these modern times.

    Go Team Monnica!

  48. Laura's Gravatar Laura
    March 5, 2012 - 12:51 pm | Permalink

    l like Catherine’s comment. I really thought I’d vote for Augustine given the significant impact his writings had on all of western civilization. But, I wonder where Monnica would have been if women weren’t divested of a place in the ministry as the very earliest church (a/k/a Jesus) seemed to intend. Her dying comments seem to indicate a deep faith in God. If only she’d been allowed to write and preach her faith beyond hounding her son.

  49. ann hunt's Gravatar ann hunt
    March 5, 2012 - 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Catherine, she is a model that serves well the needs of many mothers and fathers who are “unequally yoked” for any variety of reasons, as well those struggling with difficult children. Too often saints are remembered for accomplishments of a institution building sort or for leaving us great tomes of literary, spiritual or theological wisdom, but this is a woman who lived a less accomplished life and whose work with God brought forth the gifts of Augustine… gifts she did not live to see manifest… But it is the loving parent who often sees the gifts of God within a child who works best with God to nurture that spirit. We need more parents taking the time to really see their as God sees them… In case t is not clear my vote is for Monica!

  50. Michelle C. Jackson's Gravatar Michelle C. Jackson
    March 5, 2012 - 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    I have been waiting for decades to vote against St Augustine on any issue. I will vote for Saint Monnica, as a fellow mother of two grown sons, who are exhausting my patience, i.e. how long, Oh Lord, how long, must I wait for them to GROW UP!?

  51. Walt Knowles's Gravatar Walt Knowles
    March 5, 2012 - 1:04 pm | Permalink

    So hard to look at these two but through our own eyes. It’s hard for me to see Monnica as much more than the worst form of stage parent–so overbearing that Augustine had to run away from Carthage to Rome in secret just to get away from her. So focused on her social climbing that she broke up Augustine’s 10-year relationship/marriage (our categories really don’t apply here) so that he could “marry” someone of higher class. Such a pain in the ass that as a catechumen, Augustine had to go to Ambrose to get him to put up with her. And Augustine repays her by casting her as the wisdom figure in his early dialogs. That’s true saintliness–On Augustine’s part!

    And that doctrine of original sin? Read it in context rather than in the power-laden recasting of the 5th- and 6th- century papacy and it’s some of the best and most loving pastoral theology ever written. _Specifically_ thought through to help the moms and dads of a piddling dump of a town in North Africa see God’s grace in their lives and in the lives of their kids–when they couldn’t match up to the conceited elitism of Jerome and Pelagius.

    Augie all the way!

    • March 5, 2012 - 8:56 pm | Permalink

      What he said.

      The first part, at least. I don’t have quite the same positive view of the doctrine of Original Sin, although I am intrigued by the paradigm in which it is the solution to the apparent paradox between the then-ancient doctrine that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins; and the then-ancient practice of baptizing infants. Liturgical theology, yo!

  52. Jim Clark's Gravatar Jim Clark
    March 5, 2012 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm … by many of these comments I guess all “great” people are less than their mothers since without a mother they wouldn’t be. I wonder, does that also mean all not so great people are not as not so great as their mothers?

    • Ed Adcock's Gravatar Ed Adcock
      March 5, 2012 - 10:23 pm | Permalink

      There is a flaw in your question. It assumes all mothers are great and their offspring fail to rise to or above that greatness. Some “great” children rise above their “not so great mothers”.

  53. aleathia nicholson's Gravatar aleathia nicholson
    March 5, 2012 - 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Who would dare vote against this saintly mother who probably died with calluses on both knees from praying so hard and so often on behalf of her son?
    Undeniably a dissolute rapscallion of the highest order…no small feat in itself….he was one of Christendom’s all-stars but without the Blessed Monnica, who knows what the outcome could have been? Jeez Louise !!! Honor you mother, pipple !!!!

  54. Mary-Elise's Gravatar Mary-Elise
    March 5, 2012 - 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Monica has quite a lengthy list of things for which she is the patron saint, including abused women, wives and alcoholics. Augstine is the patron saint of brewers.

  55. aleathia nicholson's Gravatar aleathia nicholson
    March 5, 2012 - 1:11 pm | Permalink

    OK…OK…”your”, not “you”, and yes, I’ve had breakfast so that’s no excuse this time for a misspelled word. Gimme a break.

  56. dr.primrose's Gravatar dr.primrose
    March 5, 2012 - 1:12 pm | Permalink

    There seems to be a LOT of misinformation about Augustine’s lover and son. In fact, he did not abandon them. He took them to Rome to live with him and they all lived together for over a dozen years. Ironically, it was MONICA who urged Augustine to abandon his lover in favor of a society engagement to a 10-11 girl. Augustine eventually broke up engagement with the girl. But he never got over his love to the mother of his son, something that he discusses in his “Confessions.” And indeed when Ambrose baptized Augustine, he baptized Augustine’s son (whose name was Adeodatus) at the same time.

    The story of Augustine’s conversion in his “Confessions” is lovely — while lying under a fig tree the voice of neighboring child repeatedly chanting to “Take up and Read.” He takes the Bible up and finally gets it when he reads part of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

    And thank God Pelagius lost. I so much sympathize with Paul’s complaint that, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Too many occasions in my life of “Oh cr*p! I can’t believe I just said/did that!” My own bootstraps aren’t long enough!

  57. Tom Cox's Gravatar Tom Cox
    March 5, 2012 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Yo? MOMMA!
    Monnica sails to victory (if not all the way to Africa).

  58. Steve Putka's Gravatar Steve Putka
    March 5, 2012 - 1:52 pm | Permalink

    This is the first time I am sitting out this vote. Augustine’s theology has had a tremendously negative impact on Christian theology and practice. Mom to me seems like a lifelong nag whose efforts resulted in the clearer and stronger expression of this theology. Pass…

  59. March 5, 2012 - 2:09 pm | Permalink

    For Christmas a couple of years ago, my son who was going through an awful time gave me a little wooden figure of St Monnica that came with a card describing her as the patron saint of mothers of difficult children. It meant a lot to me. So Monnica gets my vote.

    • Jennifer's Gravatar Jennifer
      March 5, 2012 - 3:22 pm | Permalink

      What a touchingly beautiful gift!

      • Ed Adcock's Gravatar Ed Adcock
        March 5, 2012 - 10:30 pm | Permalink

        What a gift! Wish I had known about St Monnica before my mother died (years ago). I will mention St Monnica to her in my prayers.

  60. March 5, 2012 - 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m voting for Augustine because most of his issues with women are HER fault. Can you say smothering mother?

  61. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    March 5, 2012 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

    A week ago a vote for Monnica seemed like a no-brainer. It could only be a vote against original sin and misogyny.

    But then Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut. And the president of her university quoted Augustine in defending her! I spent half the weekend tracking down the source of DeGiooia’s Augustine quote.

    And at the same time, I’ve been editing Bill Moyers’ conversation with Jonathan Haidt into segments for my critical thinking class. Haidt says there that by evolutionary adaptation we were born to be hypocrites… Well, I guess I can see a little sense in the original sin idea after all.

    So the vote’s no longer a no-brainer, and if there’s a real spiritual goal to Lent Madness, I guess I “got it” this morning.

    • March 5, 2012 - 4:00 pm | Permalink

      I think Rush Limbaugh is a slut.

      • Diane Amison-Loring's Gravatar Diane Amison-Loring
        March 5, 2012 - 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Please could we keep this out of lent madness???

  62. Margaret Smist's Gravatar Margaret Smist
    March 5, 2012 - 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see either of these 2 making it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen – but, I will still vote since it is my civic duty 🙂

    • Margaret Smist's Gravatar Margaret Smist
      March 5, 2012 - 10:05 pm | Permalink

      or should I say my saintly duty??

  63. James Marshall's Gravatar James Marshall
    March 5, 2012 - 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Any woman who bore children to a “difficult pagan bureaucrat” (or Christian, for that matter) deserves her crown of glory, no matter how the children turned out. I would think that would be a fate next to actual martyrdom. God bless her.

  64. Jon's Gravatar Jon
    March 5, 2012 - 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I have to go with Augustine. If his mother had let him marry the woman he loved, he may not have had tied original sin to sexual intercourse. He might have had a more balanced view otherwise.

    • Sister Mary Winifred's Gravatar Sister Mary Winifred
      March 5, 2012 - 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Excuse me? If his mother had LET him? If he was so great and so brilliant and in love, why didn’t he tell her to back off?! Please!

  65. Jennifer's Gravatar Jennifer
    March 5, 2012 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Tough match-up. Both have admirable qualities; neither were “saints”, as we can glean from eg the Confessions. Augustine treated his mother (and others) abysmally early in his life but he grew into something better, and the final relationship with his mother had a beautiful peace and understanding to it. I took a course on the guy, which I went into with all the usual biases (“original sin”, spit, spit, etc). Came out of it after actually reading his writings with a sense of an authentic and remarkable human being, quite different from what I expected. For tremendous “personal growth”, and for sharing his journey in a way meant to communicate the grace and love of God with others, Augustine gets my vote.

    (Also, I agree with others – I think a vote for her son would please Monica. She was, after all, always very ambitious on her son’s behalf…and if she’s holding a grudge for her kid’s past sins against her, confessed and repented, well, that wouldn’t be very saintly, would it?)

  66. Coriolana's Gravatar Coriolana
    March 5, 2012 - 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Augustine, poor man. Monice? A bit too GCB for my taste.

  67. Margaret Pereira Albert's Gravatar Margaret Pereira Albert
    March 5, 2012 - 4:48 pm | Permalink

    A helicopter mom is winning? Are you kidding?

  68. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    March 5, 2012 - 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Monnica? GCB??? YES!!

  69. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    March 5, 2012 - 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Spent a wonderful day with my husband (a difficult bureaucrat) and two difficult children in St Augustine. St Augustine brought out the best in all of us. C’mon people!

  70. Mary-Elise's Gravatar Mary-Elise
    March 5, 2012 - 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I already voted for Monica, but the city comparison is interesting– St. Augustine vs. Santa Monica. I’ve been to both. I think I’ve got to take the Santa Monica pier over the kitsch in St. Augustine.

  71. March 5, 2012 - 5:26 pm | Permalink

    None of the above for me today.

  72. Johannas Jordan's Gravatar Johannas Jordan
    March 5, 2012 - 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Without Monica there would have been no Augustine, both physically and spiritually. I must cast my vote for the one who made it all possible.

    • Jennifer's Gravatar Jennifer
      March 5, 2012 - 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Not sure about “all”. After all, Augustine wasn’t the product of a Virginal Conception. If we’re handing out physical credit, I would not vote for Augustine’s father for anything unless they give prizes for being an [unChristian thoughts]. I do agree – points to Monica for helping with Augustine’s spiritual formation, where his Pop was NO help at all. Monica and God, there – though not necessarily in that order.

  73. Linda's Gravatar Linda
    March 5, 2012 - 7:25 pm | Permalink

    voting for the son because having raised two wonderful christian sons I am not sure that makes you a saint

  74. Father Rico's Gravatar Father Rico
    March 5, 2012 - 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Monnica is beating Augustine? Sorry, Tim, I think Lent Madness just lost its credibility. But “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain” and we still watch the Oscars, so what the heck!

    • Christopher Nimmo's Gravatar Christopher Nimmo
      March 5, 2012 - 9:51 pm | Permalink

      It won’t really lose ALL of its credibility unless Paul loses to Theodore. Which is quite possible on this form…

  75. Taylor's Gravatar Taylor
    March 5, 2012 - 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I had to vote for Monica – yes, Augustine did great things, but we have loads of Saints who did big and “heroic” things and I think the Church could stand to focus a little more on other types of gifts/ministries that are less visible, like helping others to serve God, but make all the difference to the people they served. (Thankfully no one forgot Mary, but most of the others are ignored).

    Monica’s willingness to devote so much of her life to converting Augustine because she could see his potential, rather than giving up also seems very Christ-like. It reminds me of the parable about the one sheep that strayed from the others.

  76. Dennis Johnson's Gravatar Dennis Johnson
    March 5, 2012 - 8:45 pm | Permalink

    This is hard, but my vote goes to Augustine. I don’t agree with the whole “original sin” thing, but I like his story of a bad boy converted to Christianity. Did his hounding mother help this to happen? Almost certainly. But would he have become a Christian without her badgering, I believe so. I guess I’m afraid that a vote for Monica is a vote for that kind of behavior from all mothers and I wouldn’t wish that on any sons!

    • Jennifer's Gravatar Jennifer
      March 6, 2012 - 4:04 am | Permalink

      Strongly agree.

  77. Alice's Gravatar Alice
    March 5, 2012 - 8:51 pm | Permalink

    OK – this may be out of left field – but I did a paper on Augustine’s view of creation. What wonderful thought compared to some of the rigid fundalmentalism proposed today. I found that exploring his idea was a gracefilled moment – or actually a couple of gracefilled hours :-).

  78. Paul Rosbolt's Gravatar Paul Rosbolt
    March 5, 2012 - 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I may be missing something here. Augustine was one of our great theologians. Monica was his mom. To paraphrase someone else’s comment, honor the mom, but vote for the theologian.

    • Ethel Ware's Gravatar Ethel Ware
      March 6, 2012 - 9:14 am | Permalink

      We are voting for saints not theologians.

  79. Diane Amison-Loring's Gravatar Diane Amison-Loring
    March 5, 2012 - 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Never forget that best-selling book in every train and bus station book stand – and, yes, I’ve seen it in the airline terminal bookstores, too. I’ve always wondered what people think when they discover that Augustine’s “Confessions” are not as x-rated a book as they were hoping to enjoy. Sort of a sneaky way to sell books. 🙂

  80. Chepi's Gravatar Chepi
    March 5, 2012 - 10:27 pm | Permalink

    This was actually a very difficult vote for me. Having studied Augustine in college (too many years ago to remember), somehow the Jesuits forgot to teach me much about Monnica. I actually appreciated Augustine’s thought and theology and his ability to understand past mistakes. Now along comes Monnica for the first time and I can see where much comes from Augustine’s ability to look at both sides of the same coin and understand life’s incongruities. Monnica was a Christian yet her own parents basically sold her to her husband, a patrician pagan and yet was able to maintain her Christian beliefs at a time when it would have been easy just to give in. How many of us have “just given in” on what we might have held as our beliefs. My vote ultimately went to a woman that I must admire!

    • Ed Adcock's Gravatar Ed Adcock
      March 5, 2012 - 10:45 pm | Permalink

      Having read to this end of the comment strings, what an informative comment! I’ll now always question whether or not “I have given in”!
      posted 9:45 pm (CST)

  81. noel's Gravatar noel
    March 5, 2012 - 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Swayed by the collect….I voted Monnica!

  82. Sharon's Gravatar Sharon
    March 5, 2012 - 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I had to vote for Monnica the sacrificing mom. Augustine was lucky to have her support!

  83. Mary Johnson's Gravatar Mary Johnson
    March 5, 2012 - 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Augustine gets my vote. But just by a hair. It’s hard to be the son of a saintly mother–just ask my two boys!

  84. Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
    March 6, 2012 - 12:01 am | Permalink

    So many contrary comments, so little time. # Africans come in many colors. # Disobedience to God was the original Original sin. # Rush’s point, beyond flaming insults, was the issue of personal responsibility. # Monnica must have been a pious & committed Christian. She never gave up praying & encouraging her son’s conversion. She was a missionary, not a heliocopter. I vote for Monnica.

  85. Harry W's Gravatar Harry W
    March 6, 2012 - 6:54 am | Permalink

    The writings of Augustine give rise to a vote for him. They reach into the church
    to give us a view of the early church and bring us a better understanding of our roots.

  86. Harry W's Gravatar Harry W
    March 6, 2012 - 6:58 am | Permalink

    The writings of Augustine give him a vote for him. They reach our church
    to give us a view of the early church and bring us a better understanding of our roots.

  87. Jan Smith's Gravatar Jan Smith
    March 6, 2012 - 7:21 am | Permalink

    Good! I forgot to cast my vote yesterday, so I ran to the computer this morning to cast my first of three legal votes today, for Augustine (too bad he won’t win), for today’s Lent Madness contestant, and for the five contested people on my party’s Ohio primary ballot. Happy Voting, Ohioans!

  88. Vicki's Gravatar Vicki
    March 6, 2012 - 8:13 am | Permalink

    Where’s the new post – I can’t start my day until I vote!

  89. Michael's Gravatar Michael
    March 6, 2012 - 9:47 am | Permalink

    TEAM HIPPO 4 THE WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  90. Diane L.'s Gravatar Diane L.
    March 6, 2012 - 10:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m a member of the St. Monnica’s Guild at my church and the mother of a pre-teen. My husband’s butt is married to the TV and the recliner. Monnica has my vote–I feel her pain. 😉

  91. Brigid Courtney's Gravatar Brigid Courtney
    March 7, 2012 - 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Monnica is my choice too. We had St. MOnica’s nursing home hee at the convetn many years ago.

Comments are closed.