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Biblical Women, Saints, Faith by Imitation, Medieval Theology, Saint Augustine


This paper discusses Saint Augustine’s presentation of his mother, Monica, as a model Catholic throughout his Confessions. Saint Augustine utilized individuals he encountered throughout his life as models of perfect Catholicism in an effort to provide resources for his medieval contemporaries to draw from throughout their own faith journeys. As a convert himself, Augustine drew holy inspiration from his mother, Saint Monica, as he searched for life’s purpose and God’s grace. He presents his mother throughout the first nine books of the Confessions as a human woman – trapped in a loveless marriage, filled with anxiety and fear, yet above all, faithful. Augustine highlights that his mother, despite being a woman and ‘humanly flawed’, received divine visions and had a particularly beautiful relationship with her Creator. This is incredibly important to his contemporaries as it demonstrates not only human potential for closeness with God, but is the direct acknowledgement of a woman as inherently holy despite the patriarchal social and religious context of medieval times. Augustine presents his mother on a pedestal of exemplary Catholic behavior through his account of her visions, steadfast faith for his conversion, and her ability to change the hearts of women experiencing similar marital and societal strife. This paper’s scope is the first nine books of the Confessions and the historical context during those decades of Augustine’s life. This is an analysis of Augustine’s beliefs and motivations as evident through this text as well as a discussion of the importance of female models throughout biblical history.