Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away. He who received five talents went at once to do business with the talents, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.
After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.’
Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.’
Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered. You should have deposited my money in the bank, and given it back to me with interest on my return.
Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, throw him out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Today we are remembering a saint who was a married woman, a woman who raised four children, and a woman who lived many years as a widow. And so, since this description fits thousands of women throughout time and space, it is interesting to ask why this particular woman should be remembered after more than 17 centuries.
Monica was born in 332 of a Christian family in North Africa, then a colony of Rome. As a young girl she was given in marriage to a much older man, a pagan by the name of Patricius. Thanks to her gentle and patient influence, she succeeded in converting her husband. But she was at first less successful with her oldest son, the future St. Augustine (who painted an unforgettable picture of her in his Confessions), who was then leading a life of dissipation. During some twenty years Monica prayed fervently for Augustine’s conversion. She even followed him to Rome, trying to arrange a good marriage for him. Finally, she had the joy of seeing Augustine receive baptism and become a fervent Christian. Monica died at age 55 in Ostia, just as Augustine was returning to Africa to begin his work for the Church there.
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