Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the Basilica of St Augustine in Campo Marzio in Rome on Thursday. He spent his time in prayer in the chapel of St Monica, St Augustine’s mother, in front of her tomb, before returning to the Vatican.
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has visited the Basilica of St Augustine to pray before the tomb of St Monica on her Feast Day, 27 August. Two years ago he made the same journey upon his return from his Apostolic Journey to Ireland.
St Monica, also known as St Monica of Hippo, is the patron saint of married women, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of adultery and victims of abuse. She suffered terribly at the hands of her violent husband, Patricius, a Roman pagan, whom she eventually converted to Christianity. She spent her life following her wayward son St Augustine, to Rome and then on to Milan as he pursued the practice of Manichaeism – a cosmic religion that viewed the world as light (good) and darkness (evil). After 17 years, St Monica converted St Augustine also.
St Augustine wrote in his Confessions about his mother, who “learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.”
She died in 387 and her relics were moved to the Basilica of St Augustine in 1424.
In 2018, Pope Francis Tweeted “Dear Mothers, be like Saint Monica and never give up. Pray unceasingly for your children.”