How St. Monica Taught Me to Bite My Tongue

A lesson on the power of patience, silence and prayer.

Alexandre Cabanel, “St. Monica,” 1845
Alexandre Cabanel, “St. Monica,” 1845 (photo: Public Domain)

I’m a passionate Mexican woman with huge emotions married to an Irishman with a larger-than-life personality and a short fuse. Our beautiful marriage has been a work in progress that’s required me to rely on my faith in a special way. St. Monica, in particular, has been a source of inspiration and a powerful example to me.

St. Monica of Tagaste in northern Africa is famously known for being St. Augustine’s mother. She prayed unceasingly for three decades for her wayward son’s conversion to Christianity. But through the grace of God and her gentle nature, she also aided in the conversion of her mother-in-law, who had a wicked tongue, and her pagan husband Patricius, who had a fiery temper.

“St. Monica’s advice to the other young wives at the time was to be "patient, silent and prayerful." Sometimes when I'm struggling to get along with challenging people in my life, I repeat the following words in my mind: patient, silent, prayerful ... patient, silent, prayerful. The result is always an increase in peace, and this is what it often looks like:


Change takes time. Choose one person in your life you’re going to exercise more patience with today. Perhaps it’s with your child or your spouse or an acquaintance that gets under your skin. Look at them from a different angle. Learn to see them how God sees them. St. Monica’s mother-in-law loved her son Patricius so much that she was bitterly jealous of his wife when they married. She made St. Monica's life incredibly difficult. But St. Monica never wavered and was always kind and loving to her mother-in-law. 

Towards the end of her life, St. Monica’s mother-in-law required much attention and St. Monica was the only one with enough patience to deal with the difficult woman. Eventually, her mother-in-law had a change of heart. She finally saw her daughter-in-law for who she really was. She converted to Christianity and died peacefully surrounded by her son and her beloved daughter-in-law.


St. Monica remained silent when her husband would throw insults her way even though they wounded her deeply. She never answered sharply. Instead, waited until the storm passed and met her husband’s remorseful look with a gentle smile. “Actions speak louder than words,” is the type of motto she would have lived by. She often told young brides of her town that “it takes more strength to remain silent than it does to speak” or “to smile instead of sulk when insulted.”


There are many ways you can add more prayer to your life. Incorporate a daily Rosary or commit to attending Mass once or twice a week in addition to Sunday Mass. Plus, you can add activities to offer up to God as an active prayer. St. Monica did this by performing household duties to the glory of God, as well as nursing sick and homeless people back to health. Her actions were prayers offered up to God for her intentions.

And so with extra patience, silence and prayer, I’m celebrating my heroine's feast day this Aug. 27, giving thanks for the peace her example has had in my life, particularly in my marriage.  

St. Monica, pray for us!