Another day, another matchup. Today it's Monica vs. Joanna the Myrrhbearer. 4th century Christian and the mother of a saint vs. a Biblical disciple of Jesus with a great moniker. Tough call, but one you'll have to make.
In yesterday' saintly action, Richard Hooker took down Scholastica 61% to 39% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen.
And if for some shocking reason, you missed this week's edition of Monday Madness you can watch it here. Tim and Scott take it very personally if you don't have the entire extended family gather around the computer screen to watch. Just so you know.
Time to vote!
Monica is a saint because she’s another saint’s mom. It stands to reason that if being someone’s mom makes you a saint, you were a pretty fantastic mom, and your child was a pretty amazing person.
Monica was born to Berber parents in North Africa in around 331. We don’t know much about her early life except that she was Christian. She was married to Patricius, who did not share her faith. When they had children, he would not allow them to be baptized until they were adults and could choose for themselves. Monica and Patricius both had some habits they strove to overcome. They both attempted to improve themselves throughout their adult lives, and Patricius was baptized just before his death.
One of Monica and Patricius’s three children was Augustine. Yes, THAT Augustine. Monica knew her son was highly gifted and a natural leader, and she encouraged him to marry someone in their social class who could help him launch a political career. Like many moms who try to plan their children’s lives, things did not work as she wanted. Augustine had a girlfriend, and together they had a son. Her political ambition for Augustine morphed into a fervent desire for him to be a Christian. By the time he was ready to marry the person Monica had in mind, he had decided to lead a life of chastity and piety.
Monica was with Augustine when he and his brother, Navigius, were baptized by Bishop Ambrose in Milan in 387. Monica fell ill and realized she would not return home. When Navigius expressed concern about her dying far away from home, she said, “Nothing is far from God, and I need 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.”
Augustine’s role as a leader in the Christian faith assures his sainthood. So why is Monica also listed among the church’s saints? She had a strong prayer practice that made a difference in her life and those of her family. Monica shows us the depth and breadth of a mother’s love. She shows us what it looks like to believe in someone—and that they will return when they are lost. We honor Monica on behalf of all of us who love our children, pray for them ceaselessly, follow them where they travel, and want them to know God. We celebrate the feast of Saint Monica on May 4.
Collect for Monica
Deepen our devotion, O Lord, and use us in accordance with your will; that inspired by the example of your servant Monica, we may bring others 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.
Joanna the Myrrhbearer
If, like Kool and the Gang, you’ve searched so far, searched so long to find someone, someone to count on, Joanna is your girl.
After all, Jesus counted on her.
Joanna is mentioned twice in the Gospel of Luke, and some scholars speculate she may have been one of the sources for the book. She appears first among the Twelve and the women traveling with Jesus as he proclaims the good news of the kingdom of God. The women had been “cured of evil spirits and diseases,” Luke tells us, and also, “were helping to support them out of their own means.”
Certainly, Joanna had the means to support Jesus’s ministry. Luke tells us she was the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household. (More on how it went over when Chuza’s boss beheaded Jesus’s cousin, John the Baptist, if Joanna makes it through to the next round.) Joanna doesn’t stop at giving money to support Jesus’s ministry, though. She follows him out of her privileged, comfortable life and into the margins. Jesus also counts on Joanna to be among the first to share the good news of his resurrection.
When she appears for the second time in Luke’s Gospel, it’s Easter morning, and Joanna is among the women who prepared and brought spices (hence the title of “myrrhbearer”) to the tomb to anoint Jesus’s body. Instead of his body, the women find two angels and the stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb where he had been buried.
The angels repeat Jesus’s words: The Son of Man would suffer many things. He would be rejected and killed. And, on the third day, he would be raised to life. “Then they remembered his words,” Luke writes, meaning Joanna and the other women who were with Jesus when he spoke to them the first time. Jesus’s prediction of his death appears earlier in Luke’s Gospel, when he was “praying in private and his disciples were with him.” Joanna is with Jesus when he preaches to large crowds, she is with him when he prays with close friends, and she is with him to the very end.
It’s possible Jesus also counted on Joanna to help lead the early church. One scholar has argued that Joanna is the same person as Junia, who Paul describes as “outstanding among the apostles” in his letter to the Romans.
Joanna is honored as a saint in a number of Christian traditions.
Collect for Joanna the Myrrhbearer
Almighty God, who revealed the resurrection of your Son to Joanna, Mary and Salome as they faithfully came bearing myrrh to his tomb: Grant that we too may perceive the presence of the risen Lord in the midst of pain and fear, and go forth proclaiming his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Monica: Benozzo Gozzoli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Joanna the Myrrhbearer: school of tsar’s izographs, c. 1700. Public domain