Defending St. Monica

I am a Spanish major, minoring in Religious Studies at a public university so I was aware of what I was signing up for. Needless to say the last four years have provided many interesting conversations, discussions, arguments, assumptions, etc.

In the class I am currently in, we just finished reading St. Augustine’s Confessions and I wrote an essay about the critical role of his mother, St. Monica, and how without her, I do not believe St. Augustine would have made a complete conversion to the Catholic faith.

Arguably, a bold essay, but it was an opinion piece for the class so…no rules!

Another side note: the professor who teaches this class is one of the nicest I’ve had so far. He puts up with a lot of wackos in our class (this definitely includes me) and handles (for the most part) volatile class discussion with ease.

So today’s conversation came as a real surprise to me.

I went in to his office hours to get my essay back and we discussed the topic a little more in depth, overall he liked my essay (I got an A), but wanted to discuss with me my opinion on St. Monica. He said, (and this is my attempt at the most accurate paraphrasing possible) that he saw Monica’s obsession with her son’s life as a weakness, that she lacked an idea of “self” that he wanted her to “get a life” (that’s a direct quote).

He prefaced this whole statement by admitting to be a “feminist” and saying that his opinion is “certainly a modern one”.

So, in his “modern feminist” opinion, he finds St. Monica a weak example of a woman, too concerned with the lives of her children, unable to have her own life, and that the notion of selfless is old fashioned.

Sts. Augustine and Monica

St. Monica was anything but weak.

I assured my professor that the Catholic Church does not take sainthood or motherhood lightly. I told him that, in my experience as someone who isn’t a mother (but who has a great one) that mothers are anything but weak. I told him that having children and caring about them unconditionally makes you incredibly strong.

He nodded politely, which is fine, and handed back my paper and I walked out.

I’ve had to defend a lot of things in my religion class, but never have I defended motherhood in general. Now, I’m assuming he thinks I’m not a feminist, but I would argue that I’m more a feminist than he is because I am not belittling the biological miracle that is birthing a human being and raising them. There is something incredibly selfless about being a parent (You rock too, Dads) and caring about your children more than yourself. I would like to remind everyone that feminism is, at it’s core, the belief that women deserve the same respect as men. This is not conditional on their occupational decisions. This goes both ways, a woman who doesn’t have children and focuses solely on her career deserves the same amount of respect as a mom who stays at home and has 8 kids. They have the same dignity.

So if that makes me old fashioned, then that’s fine.

Thank you parents of the world for being so great.

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3 thoughts on “Defending St. Monica

  1. I think St. Monica is so inspiring to all women because of what she was able to achieve through her son. How heart-wrenching to watch your child choose a path you know is wrong…but her faith remained strong and she was able to do what we are all called to do…lead others to Christ. Sounds like a pretty awesome woman to me!

  2. Caitlin! When I found your blog a few weeks ago I bookmarked it for further reading and periodical updates. Thank you for defending motherhood in your work at the university. Your witness is much needed in a place that seems to value everything *but* the role of the mother (I may seem hyperbolic here, but I have been on the receiving end of these same kinds of academic conversations usually while very pregnant or recently postpartum). Life is such a beautiful blessing, and a faithful mother is the greatest blessing of them all! Hail Mary full of grace!

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