2 Author Friends Explore ‘What Would Monica Do?’

Catholic moms prayerfully entrust their children and all those fallen away to the patron saint of parents of wayward children.

Authors Patti Armstrong and Roxanne Salonen pose for a picture together. The cover of their new book is available on Aug. 27, 2022.
Authors Patti Armstrong and Roxanne Salonen pose for a picture together. The cover of their new book is available on Aug. 27, 2022. (photo: Courtesy photos / Ascension Press)

Publishing a book that we did not want to write is bittersweet. We are friends. We are writers. And we are Catholic. Some of our children are not — Catholic, that is — at least not for now. Although neither of us are perfectionists, we are both aiming for a perfect score when it comes to our children — 15 between us — belonging to the Church. 

It does not matter that our families reflect current statistics that say young adults are straying from the Church at a growing rate. We care about all those jumping off the Catholic bridge, but God gave us our particular children to raise with salvation in mind. The best route for that is embracing the fullness of the Catholic faith with all the sacraments, devotions, saints and consistent teachings. 

We became friends when a fellow Catholic writer mentioned us both in a Mother’s Day article. Since we both were from North Dakota (Fargo and Bismarck), we decided we should meet, which we did for tea several years ago. We soon learned that we had a shared prayer intention: praying for children to return to the Church. The friendship thrived, and eventually we were inspired to co-write the book What Would Monica Do?

St. Monica was our go-to saint, a patron for parents who are petitioning God with this intention. She has “been there, done that” 16 centuries ago, through 17 years of tears and prayer. While praying for her wayward son, St. Augustine, who had a girlfriend he was not going to marry, a baby out of wedlock, and an infatuation with a New Age-type religion, Monica herself became a saint. And he did, too. But just not any saint — one of the greatest theologians in history, who is still widely read across all denominations. We were just hoping to get our kids back to Mass, but with inspiration like that, we know that anything is possible. 

So we wrote the book that we needed and have been blessed in the process with inspiration, camaraderie from others sharing their stories, insights from wonderful priests and great saints, and understanding that the best way to help our children in their faith is to deepen our own. We also learned, as St. Ambrose advised Monica, to talk less to our children about God and more to God about our children.

Though our lifetimes are separated from Monica and her son by centuries, we are kindred spirits. St. Monica is reachable to all of us, offering wisdom and guidance to those now walking in the shoes she once wore.

In What Would Monica Do?, she journeys with us through the book, as her story unfolds, interspersed with the stories of others, as her spirit guides us into the trenches of heartache and ultimately triumph won through love and faith in a reliable God.

There are stories with happy endings, such as a wild child who became a well-known priest and one from the 1800s about a Satanist whose Catholic family prayed fervently for him. He converted so completely that he became a canonized saint. A number of parents still praying for conversions shared their own stories. We wrote about saints as special intercessors, powerful devotions, Scripture, quoted exorcists and included excerpts from Kathleen Beckman’s A Family Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Strategies for Deliverance and Healing. The culture that has become hostile to the faith and confusion within the Church itself was addressed, and we included expert advice on healing within families, forgiveness, and how to release our child, trusting in God. 

To our great surprise, in sharing our common sorrow and celebrating our Catholic faith, we discovered that what God is calling us to is a deeper, more tender relationship with him. We were reminded that though he is continuing to pursue our children in ways we cannot imagine, God continues to pursue us, for we, too, are far from perfection. What a humbling and beautiful realization that, through our tears, God draws us more deeply into his Sacred Heart and not a moment of our suffering is wasted.

While working on this manuscript, we often felt the presence of St. Monica and had a big surprise at the end of our labor: As the initial deadline was moved, we simply plodded ahead until we finished, and, amazingly, the manuscript was set for release on Aug. 27: the feast of St. Monica! We only realized this after the fact. And, coincidentally, while in the midst of working on this project, we had the opportunity to encounter the relics of hers and Augustine. What an awesome experience to stand before the relics of those of whom we were writing about. 

Our friend Stacy Trasancos, in an endorsement, captured the spirit of our desire in creating this work. 

“Armstrong and Salonen take turns at writing, and it feels like you’re walking beside two friends as they reassure us, in their own ways, and remind us to keep the faith. They courageously dive into the issues faithful parents are uneasy discussing and show us we are not alone. We cannot have all the answers, nor do we need to despair! We can always ask what patient and persevering St. Monica would do and prayerfully strive to see the bigger picture. Make some new friends! Read this book.” 

St. Monica, pray for us!