One day people will look back on these days of the 20 and 21st century and call them the dark ages. They will see so much intellectual pride and not much intellectual substance. They will shake their heads at the shallowness of thought and refusal to listen, especially to stories. Our understanding of who we are is deeply rooted in stories, mainly true ones but fairy tales have a place too.
Today we are not interested in people and their stories but only in machines and the numbers they can churn out. Statistics are paramount and stories of individual or even group experiences are dismissed as anecdotal as though it is meaningless. This is of course ridiculous. A real story about a real person has value. It should be listened to. Home Educators are surely not the only people who have seen up close how flexible and inaccurate the use of statistics can be. It wasn’t just that Badman and Balls didn’t get it-they were dishonest in the use of them. It was HE parents who tried to bring out the stories behind those fake numbers, and the stories that had not been counted at all.
So today is a day to remember stories. A story of alcoholism and motherhood.
What do you think a woman from 4th century Africa and a man from 19th century Ireland might have in common? Well it was that they were both alcoholic, and now they are both praying for their fellow alcoholics. It is the fact that they overcame their alcoholism and their stories can help all of us battle our demons and addictions.
Monica was the daughter in a fairly wealthy family. She liked a bit of wine even from a young age and soon got to like it quite a lot. I read somewhere that she got to the point of stealing it sometimes. Although her family were Christian they married her off to a pagan who also liked too much to drink. Monica was able to get off the alcohol but her husband continued to drink and was abusive and violent. She learned patience and perserververnce and the story goes that she managed somehow to avoid ever getting hit.
She had three children Augustine, Navigius and a daughter Perpetua. They must have grown up in very difficult circumstances and I wonder sometimes how Monica was able to give up the drink so well. The Grace of God obviously, but it must have been tough and temptation must have been always close at hand. Wine was in her house and her community. She handed herself over to God whom she completely trusted and He healed her.
Augustine was a difficult child, massively intelligent and horribly behaved. But finally Monica’s prayers and tears to God proved effective. Her husband received baptism on his deathbed and Augustine finally left behind his bad ways and embraced the Faith. He became a priest, a bishop and one of the mightiest saints of the Church. She must have prayed really well.
Now with Venerable Matthew Talbot a fellow reformed alcoholic from Ireland Monica is patron of alcoholics. She also has her prayers cut out for her looking out for abused wives and mothers, widows and wives and mothers in general.
We need these stories to help us get through our own suffering. They are there to give inspiration, Faith and hope, and the comfort of knowing those who went before us and made it are now praying and helping to throw down the ladder and ropes for us to climb.
Back when I was a child I remember having saints stories given to me and I absolutely hated them. What a lot of saccharine pastel shaded guff. With the guts of the stories ripped out we were left with faintly absurd tales of dripping sweetness. For years I avoided saint stories.
Then I heard that St Ignatius Loyola had actually been reverted to the Faith because he had read a Life of Christ and a load of saint stories.
If we get back to the real stories of the saints we find men and women and children of amazing heroism who overcame terrible ordeals and the things that all of us often face in life, and they moved ever onwards towards God. They really are the stories that we can be inspired by and know that Christ’s words are true, “Do not be afraid.”