"Read St Monica's life, you will see her care for her Augustine and find much to console you," wrote Saint Francis de Sales to Saint Jane de Chantal when she was having trouble with her teenage son.
Monica was born in the year 332. Thagaste is given as her birthplace, and this is based less on historical evidence and more on the presumption that she was raised in the district where later she wed.
During her infancy, Christians were just emerging from the period when they kept their religion secret for fear of persecution.
There has been speculation among historians as to whether Monica may have begun life as a schismatic Donatist Christian.
This possibility is raised because Thagaste only became progressively anti-Donatist during the years 348-361, when Monica was aged between sixteen and twenty nine years.
It is known via the writings of Augustine that some of her relatives were Donatist (and Augustine had cousins who were Donatists).
There is no suggestion anywhere in the writings of Augustine that she may ever have been, willingly or unwillingly, a Donatist communicant.
Such an insinuation was not even raised by any of the Donatist opponents of Augustine.
At any rate, she is unlikely to have been completely untouched by such controversies, and Augustine's childhood - even in a Catholic household - was surely not completely insulated from Donatism either.
When she was about twenty-two years of age, Monica was married to Patricius, aged 40 and one of the city magistrates at Tagaste.
Patricius did not follow any religion. He was also violent and loose-living.
He was from a good family and could be generous at times. Following the marriage Monica shared her house with her mother-in-law. This was a constant source of friction.
Patricius did not change with the marriage. He continued to be violent, and was not faithful to his vows of marriage.
Yet Monica resolutely refused to give way to sadness or bitterness. Instead, she worked towards cultivating a gentle, understanding way with her husband.
He became a Christian shortly before his death about the year 371.
As Patricius was dying, his eldest son, Augustine, was seventeen years old. In spite of all the efforts of Monica to provide a good Christian foundation to Augustine's life, he lapsed.
It is a strange paradox that as Patricius began to embrace the Christian faith, Augustine was still rejecting it.
(Continued on the next page.)