Through the mom’s eyes

I promise that I’ll support you in a way that you will make us all proud,” whispered Usha Rani Nehwal to her eight-year-old daughter Saina 14 years ago. Now, when Olympic medallist Saina Nehwal is asked the secret of her success, she confesses unabashedly: “My mom made me a champion!” Through support, sacrifices and prayers, many moms have created champs.
There are moms in Christian history who’ve inspired their kids to become saints. On August 27 and 28, we celebrate feasts of an unforgettable mother-son duo: St Monica and St Augustine, respectively. Born in 331 AD and married at age 20, Monica’s marriage was hell, her hot-tempered husband, Patricius, living a wanton life.
Augustine, the eldest of Monica’s three children, was born in 354 AD. Monica had to slog to make both ends meet. What pained Monica most was the frivolous life of young Augustine, who fathered an illegitimate child whom he cheerfully named “Adeodatus”: given by God! Monica silently prayed for Augustine.
Augustine was a voracious reader and versatile debater who mastered many philosophies of his time. Sensing Augustine’s potential, Monica once requested a bishop to counsel her son. He declined but told Monica, “It’s impossible that the son of your tears will perish!” Monica prayed more fervently for Augustine’s conversion.
The deaths of his mistress and son struck Augustine with force and set him seeking for truth. He turned towards God. He became a believer, then a monk, and finally a bishop. Augustine’s autobiography Confessions is a moving memoir of a restless pilgrim. “Late have I loved you, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new,” he wrote, adding: “My heart was made for you, O God, and ever restless will it be until it rests in you!”
Before dying in his arms Monica confessed to Augustine: “God has done more than I ever imagined by making you despise everything worldly in order to serve God alone.” Drawing inspiration from his virtuous mother Augustine became early Christianity’s most influential thinker and theologian.
St Monica is often remembered by mothers who silently endure insult and injury on account of wayward sons and drunken husbands. Indeed, many moms give so much of themselves and receive so little in return. Moreover, mothers hardly find mention in most scriptures and are rarely assigned important roles in religious ceremonies. Yet, it’s our mothers who first teach us about God and lead our toddling feet towards the temple.
“God cannot be everywhere and so God created mothers,” said someone. Incidentally, bronze medallist Mary Kom’s mother, Akham, cries when Mary is punched in the ring. She said, “Since I can’t help Mary when she’s fighting, I ask God to help her!” May God help gold-hearted moms, too.

Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com

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