Well, here is the final icon for my novena book -- the icon of St. Monica.
Many of you may be asking: who is St. Monica and why would you want to include her in your book? Well, let me explain.
Monica was born about 333 A.D. in what is now Algeria. Although she and her parents were Christians, she was married to a pagan Roman by the name of Patricius. They had four children, the oldest being a boy named Augustine. Monica, of course, wanted to have the children baptized, but Patricius refused. Interestingly, Patricius converted to Christianity a few years before his death, but by this time all the children were young adults.
Monica had high hopes for all her children, but especially for Augustine who showed great promise intellectually. Although she prayed fervently for him, he ended up living a rather dissolute life which included a mistress by whom he eventually bore a son. But even more distressing was his conversion to an heretical sect known as Manichaeism. The members of this sect believed that matter was evil and the spiritual was good. Those who were believers of Manichaeism were people of the light while the rest of the mankind was doomed to darkness. They also believed in various "gods", including Jesus, many of whom were pagan deities.
Of course, Augustine's conversion to this sect truly broke the heart of his mother. She attended daily Mass where she wept and prayed constantly for the conversion of her son to what she believed was the true faith. A bishop who knew her saw her suffering and told her: "it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish." This gave her hope.
Eventually, St. Monica's prayers were answered and Augustine was baptized as a Catholic. He went on to become one of the doctors of the Church. His books, the Confessions and the City of God are still read to this day and studied in seminary. As for St. Monica, she became the patron saint of mothers praying for their children -- especially those who have turned away from their Faith. She is also a great model of persevering in prayer over years of hoping against hope and this is why I like her and wanted to include her in my book.
The Greek lettering on the icon reads: "The Mother of Augustine".
Finally tonight I want to show you a beautiful photograph.
I love the deep laugh lines around this man's eyes and the kind way in which he is looking at the kitten.
The kitten, in turn, is looking into the man's eyes with absolute trust. How beautiful it is when creatures and children look upon us with that complete trust and how heartbreakingly sad it is when that trust has been broken and changed to fear.
May peace be with us all.