Talk about your holy family!

The Saint Taken to School by Saint Monica
Nicolo di Pietro, approx. 1415

No, not THAT Holy Family - not the one my parish is named for. This holy family includes the two saints pictured above, mother-and-son-saints: Monica whose day on the church calendar is August 27 and Augustine whose day is August 28.

This early 15th century painting above shows Monica taking Augustine to school. As mothers and fathers prepare their children for that dread post-Labor Day event, I thought it might be good for us to contemplate this scene. Augustine was not always a saint -far from it. His loose living saddened his mother and she prayed for a long time for Augustine to be baptized. (Curiously, Augustine's doctrine on original sin led to the widespread practice of infant baptism but in his own lifetime, baptism was very often delayed long into adulthood.) Augustine was about 33 years old when he came to faith in Christ and asked to be baptized, along with his 11 year old son whom he had fathered out of wedlock and whom he nonetheless named Adeodatus which means gift of God.

Monica is a patron saint for mothers and all who know the difficulties as well as the joys of raising a child. Given her story as mother of Augustine, she is especially the patron of mothers and fathers who work hard at sharing their faith with their sons and daughters. When he was baptized Augustine was already a well know teacher but it was not until after his conversion that his knowledge and wisdom shone in his writing and preaching.

As parents and children prepare for the opening of school, we should pray for them: especially that parents will take seriously their responsiblility to raise their children in the school of faith.

At all the Masses on the weekend of September 8-9, we will have our annual blessing of students, teachers and school personnel. We have prepared special bookmarks for all who come forward for the blessing. The bookmarks have a beautiful background sunrise scene with a daily prayer for young scholars.

I write this on the eve of St. Augustine's day and it happens that Augustine is my patron saint. (The Gaelic for Augustine is Aibhistín {awv-ishteen} which comes into English as Austin.) I remember that when I was a child my father (also named Austin, after his uncle in Ireland) would sometimes call me Aibhistín. My patron's work on original sin was no small chapter in rewriting the baptismal practice of the Catholic Church and I'm not always grateful to him for that. But a prayer of his, written just after his own baptism) is a favorite of mine and one I return to often, and always when on retreat. Perhaps you will make these words part of your prayer as we celebrate Monica and Augustine.
Too late, have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
too late have I loved you!

You were with me, and I was not with you;
I was away, running after beautiful things which you created;
things which could have no existence except for you,
and yet they kept me from you.

Then you called, you cried out, and you pierced my deafness.
You enlightened, you shone forth,
and now my blindness has vanished.

I have tasted you; now I hunger and thirst for you.
You breathed your fragrance upon me;
I drew in breath and now I long for you.
You have touched me,
and I am on fire with the desire of your embrace.

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