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When I Grow Up View Comments
By Charles Dickson, PhD

TOM WAS DRESSED in somewhat shabby attire, with a couple of small holes in his pants legs, a soiled mark on one shirtsleeve, and shoes whose appearance revealed they had covered considerable mileage. There he was, sitting in a fast-food restaurant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, relishing each bite of his sandwich and constantly commenting to my daughter, Sheri, and me as to how good the food smelled. When we had finished eating and departed in our separate directions, I inquired of Sheri if we shouldn’t organize some kind of a welfare campaign to help feed and clothe this poor, unfortunate, struggling student.

You can imagine my surprise when she explained to me that this young man was the son of a wealthy furniture manufacturing executive in a town a few hundred miles from the university. This led me to the natural question of why he was projecting such a poverty-stricken image. Was he pretending to be someone he wasn’t? Or maybe he just couldn’t manage all those bundles of green stuff I imagined his parents were sending him each month.

After assuring me that none of my assumptions were correct, Sheri explained that Tom’s father had, at one time, been very supportive of Tom and his vocational goals, while he was attending engineering school and preparing for what his dad felt would be a responsible position in their family-owned company. But during his sophomore year, Tom decided that this line of work wasn’t for him, and he switched into the college of fine arts and became a drawing and painting major. His father, enraged by the decision, which frustrated all of his vocational plans for Tom, immediately stopped sending him financial aid and announced, “If you’re going into that, you’ll have to make it on your own.”

So Tom’s world of wardrobes, sports cars, and ample pocket change had now been replaced by worn-out jeans and a longing hunger at the local burger place. Yet he had a sense of accomplishment. He had made a decision about what he wanted to do with his life and was now following through on it.

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Charles Dickson, PhD, is the author of two books on Mariology: A Protestant Pastor Looks at Mary (Our Sunday Visitor) and Mary: A Handbook for Dialogue (PublishAmerica).

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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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