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Monday, August 18, 2014

St. Monica


"    "Hurricane Irene has produced tremendous rainfall over parts of the state of Vermont on August 28, 2011, creating record flooding of rivers in the state."  

This was the headline on that date from the Weather Channel.  One of the worst cases was the unfortunate evacuation of more than 50 psychiatric patients from the Vermont State Hospital, in Waterbury. It must have been chaos during that storm, all of the patients were moved to the top floor of the faded brick building where they were housed, as the flood waters rose.  

Obviously, to protect both patient and staff, they were then evacuated by bus to various sites around the state.   The patients were relocated to hospital and medical facilities and institutions around the state -   immediately filling these places to capacity. This was extremely problematic, as these sites were not only ill-prepared for providing enough space for their unexpected guests, but they were untrained and under-staffed in most facilities.   

I was told that the less severe cases were integrated into society, and that many of which have landed in the Central Vermont (Barre) area of Washington County.  

Another very grave issue for not only Washington County in Vermont, but for the state is opiate addiction.  In June of this year, Vermont Digger sited Vermont's Health Commissioner, Harry Chen as saying, "Opioid users become addicted after mere days of drug use, and seek treatment after an average of eight years of use, compared to nearly 25 for alcoholism. More than 50 Vermonters died of opioid poisoning in 2013. Last year was the first year that more people sought treatment for opioid use than for alcohol."

To make matters worse, in May, 2014 the Rolling Stone magazine published a illustration, along with an article regarding the heroin problem in Vermont, outraging many of our Vermont residents.  The image depicts a maple sugar maker in the woods shooting up heroin and is printed on Vermont's quintessential maple syrup can.  The picture is featured in this article reported on Vermont's opiate problem.  The article reportedly follows a young lady who was homeless and addicted, but landed in recovery and is making better choices for herself and her (now) newborn baby.  She sought and received help from the Lund Center.

The saddest statistic that I discovered is that "Vermont had the 2nd highest per capita rate of all the states for admissions to treatment for prescription opiates in 2011, with only Maine being higher.  57% of the majority were between the ages of 20 to 29 years old."  Vermont's Governor Shumlin described the situation as an “epidemic,” with heroin abuse increasing 770 percent in Vermont since 2000.

Found on the web...

Gina T., of Barre in 2003,  from politico.com wrote,

"...my hometown of Barre had turned from a once respectable working class area into a dilapidated strip of empty store fronts, overrun with pregnant teens and heroin. What used to be an under-the-surface problem was now visibly corroding the town."

Currently on the outskirts of Barre, there is a methadone clinic in Berlin (BAART) "dedicated to drug treatment recovery for patients no matter what their age."  Barre has a social services building (Agency of Human Services), a local community action (CAPSTONE) both of which serve those suffering from homelessness, poverty and other crisis issues.  Barre's Court House hears cases for Family Court, District Court (criminal cases), and it houses the State's Attorney's office and the Department of Corrections.

Fortunately, if one seeks help, locally there is assistance available for every conceivable problem. From AIDS and HIV, Domestic Violence, Children's Advocacy, Veterans Programs, Mental Health issues, Family programs to Senior and Disabled Programs.  There are countless addiction, treatment and recovery programs.  Referral and information is literally everywhere.

On a personal note....

Even with these grim statistics, I cannot give up on this town. There is a revitalization plan in the works for down town and I have been finding myself in the local stores on Main Street, more and more. I have enjoyed meeting the owners and giving them my business. Afterall, if we live in the town, shouldn't we support it? 

Even more encouraging is to see one or more of the store fronts undergoing some cosmetic upgrades.  I think if all of the stores on Main Street were to simply brighten up and paint their store fronts, perhaps add some flower boxes and white lights, the downtown of Barre could be quite nice.

I would love to be a New Age store owner there....perhaps in another life?


Saint Monica's Church is a Roman Catholic parish located on Summer Street, in the city of Barre, Vermont.  Originally, the congregation dates from the early settlement of Barre in the 1880's.  
Before St. Monica's was established, it was a mission stemming from the St. Augustine's Church in Montpelier, where those seeking worship would travel from Barre to Montpelier.  In 1887, after being assigned the responsibility of preparing services for worship in the parishes of Graniteville, Barre and Moretown, a Father William J. O'Sullivan succeeded the Pastor of St. Augustine's in Montpelier.  Upon his ordainment, he began to lay cornerstones in Graniteville for the construction of St. Sylvester's Church and in Barre for St. Monica's Church.  Construction was rapid, and soon both churches were consecrated.  

St. Monica's Church in the 1960's
The construction of these parishes were in response to the growing populations of the Italian and Irish Catholics who migrated to the Barre area seeking work in the Granite Industry.  At that time, the Catholic "settlers оf Barre hаd been traveling tо worship аt Montpelier. However, frоm 1881 the Catholic population hаd swollen tо the point thаt the priest frоm Montpelier wаs traveling tо Barre tо conduct worship fоr 31 families, initially іn the town hall. By 1886 the priest hаd leased а disused academy building tо accommodate the Barre Mission. А new purpose-built church wаs then needed."

"The church wаs finished оn October 2, 1887. Saint Monica's cost $25,000 tо build, including the lot fоr the church аnd rectory. The church wаs built tо accommodate the growing number оf Roman Catholic families, especially оf Irish, Italian, аnd French descent, whо were flocking tо Barre tо wоrk іn the granite industry. The dedication tо St Monica, related tо the fact thаt the original Montpelier Church wаs dedicated tо Monica's son, Saint Augustine. Since іts founding, Saint Monica's has undergone several major renovations."

With all that is said and done, I suppose it is appropriate that St. Monica's Church exists and her sainthood is revered in Barre. 

"Saint Monica is the patron saint of married women, abuse victims, alcoholics, alcoholism, difficult marriages, disappointing children, homemakers, housewives, married women, mothers, victims of adultery, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, widows, and wives." 

From what I have researched, it appears that Monica was born either 331 or 332, and died in 387.  The story of her life as a wife and mother is most fascinating.  If you research her life, you will find very broad information, but I was able to locate some interesting history.   

Not much is known of Monica during her early childhood, but in her girlhood, she was known as very innocent and a very dedicated Christian from Thagaste, a town located in northern Africa.  Her parents were devout Roman Catholics.  Her teenage piety falters once, however, as there is a story about her being caught by a slave girl stealing a cup of her parent's wine.  Prior to this, she had progressed from stealing sips of wine to whole cups of wine, and repeated getting drunk.  When she was thus discovered by a spying slave, she never touched wine again.  She was also was baptized shortly after this.

Later, still as a young teenage girl, Monica parent's betrothed her by arranged marriage, to a 40-something year old Pagan, by the name of Patricius.  He was a Decurian (a tax collector and city counselor).  Patricius was known as a hot-headed man with a flaring temper.  However, history indicates that though it was common practice for the husbands of Thagaste to beat their wives, though in my research it was written that Patricius was never known to harm Monica.  I read that other wives would consult "with their bruised faces and bloodied lips" her on how to stop the beatings.  Her response was basically to keep your mouth shut when their moods were sour.  

However, Augustine in his famous work, "Confessions" disputes this: 

"St. Augustine did not praise his mother for her worldly virtues or her successes in the things of earth; rather, he recognized the good which God had accomplished in her unto eternal salvation both for herself and for others. Among them who were saved through the intercession of St. Monica, her son lists not only himself, but also his father, Patricius. Her husband was unfaithful and cruel, he beat her and cursed – but St. Monica was gentle and patient, trusting in the Divine Mercy and knowing that the Lord would win the conversion of such a brute. And this grace was granted her “Finally, her own husband, now towards the end of his earthly existence, did she gain over unto You; and she had not to complain of that in him, as one of the faithful, which, before he became so, she had endured.”"  ~newtheologicalmovement

Patricius is often remembered as being unfaithful, and his infidelity was well known; yet, Monica endured his infidelity and raised at least 3 children, all of which she brought up Christian.    Patricius was known to criticize his wife because of her piety, but  respected her.   Monica also endured a nasty mother-in-law who lived in her home.  Her persistent patience and prayers were rewarded by the conversion to the Catholic faith for both her husband and his mother in 370. 


It is virtually impossible to tell the story of Monica, without including her son, St. Augustine.  It is known that Monica had at least three children who survived infancy.  The couple had two sons:  Augustine and Navigus, and a daughter named Perpetua. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous, and it is [mostly] because of St. Augustine, that Monica was revered.

Still a teenager, Augustine became deeply involved with the teachings of Manicheeism, and, for a long time believed in the duality of the existence of both light and dark - God as the power of light and the supreme Creator, and of a dark and evil power that opposed him....the dark power was a rebel against his creator, and doomed to ultimate defeat.'  

"They claimed that their beliefs were based on reason rather than authority, and that they had answers for everything, at least as soon as the learner was sufficiently advanced to comprehend them. They differed from the classical Gnostics by not contrasting spirit with matter. On their view, everything was composed of material particles, but these were either light or dark. Since the mind was composed of light particles, imprisoned in the body, a cage made of dark particles, something like the Gnostic contrast between spirit and matter was there."   ~justus.anglican.org

Augustine despised his father (Patricius) and at the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. 

At that time he had taken a mistress who is believed to be a freed-slave from Africa.  Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (which combined Christianity and Eastern religions, and often referred to as Pagan) and was living an immoral life. Augustine stayed with this young mistress for several years, and even bore him a son when he was about 18 years old.  Perhaps the laws at that time forbade marriage between a free Roman citizen and a slave, or an ex-slave.  (Her name is still unknown, today.)

For a while, Monica refused to let him eat or sleep in her house until she had a vision that Augustine would return to faith.  From that point on, she basically adhered herself to Augustine, and continued to pray and fast for him.  Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.

After exhausting these studies, he felt these teachings fell short, he became discouraged and bored.  He sought out other means to fill his spiritual and intellectual life.  He became a master of rhetoric, and was appointed as Chief Professor of Rhetoric - skillfully manipulating audiences in the City of Milan.  Here, Augustine met Bishop Ambrose and was so impressed by the Bishop's character that he finally began to believe that Christianity was a philosophy that could match his intellect.   

During this time, Monica had followed him from Africa to Milan. At this time, she suggested that he should marry and send his mistress away.  Augustine agreed; but later,  upon finding a lovely young lady, he decided that she was too young for marriage and the wedding was postponed for a few years.  The mistress had returned to Africa.  But Augustine's lust and sexual desires could not wait for those years to pass, actively and randomly engaged in lascivious conduct.

In Milan, the Bishop, (St.) Ambrose, also became Monica’s spiritual adviser. She was deeply engaged in his teachings and she became a leader of the Christian women in Milan.  In the year 386, Augustine converted to Christianity largely due to the influence of Bishop Ambrose who baptized Augustine in 387.  

The Baptism of St. Augustine
In the year 387, Bishop Ambrose baptized Augustine along with some of his friends.  Soon after, his party left for Africa.  Monica knew she was going to die.  She told her son after he was baptized, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.”  

St. Augustine wrote about the death of his mother, Monica:

"In silence I struggled against tears. My brother replied to the effect that he would prefer her to die at home rather than in a foreign land. When she heard this, she punished him by an anguished look for having thought such things. Then she looked to me and said: Did you hear what he said! And then she enjoined on both of us: Bury this body wherever it may be, and do not let it bother you further. The one thing that I do ask of you is a memento at the altar of the Lord, and that wherever you happen to be.

Monica and Augustine

"When she had said this as best she could, she became silent, and her sickness grew worse. But I could not forget how often and with what anxiety she had made preparations to be interred beside her husband. It was on the ninth day of her illness, when she was 55 years old and I was 33, that the pure and holy soul of my mother was released from her body. I pressed her eyelids together. Then my heart was overwhelmed by grief and it welled up in tears. Only my resolute determination restrained them, and my eyes remained dry. And my inner impulses to weep aloud like a child were likewise hushed. For we realized that it was unbecoming to surround this death with loud cries and tearful moaning as is done at the death of evil men, who have gone down to eternal death. Her death was not an unhappy one, nor did she forfeit life everlasting.

St. Monica
"And when she was buried I accompanied that body and I returned without shedding a tear. Nor did I weep during the prayers offered up to You as the holy Sacrifice of our redemption was offered for her soul, even though, as is customary there, the body lay still uninterred alongside the grave. But within the depths of my soul I suffered intensely throughout the day; and in my confused state of mind I besought You, as best I could, to heal my sorrows. But You did not do it; because by this one instance You perhaps intended to show me how even the soul that already nourishes itself on the Word that never deceives may yet be opposed by the tyranny of habit and affection" (Confessions of St. Augustine, 9, 10-12).



"Most visitors to the Eternal City find it puzzling and wondrous that Monnica’s remains would be in Rome and even more so that Augustine’s should be in northern Italy, or that we have them at all.  How did this come to pass?  Monnica died at age 56 of a malarial fever at Ostia, Rome’s port city, not far from where modern Rome’s port, DaVinci airport, is situated.  

After Augustine’s baptism in 386 by Milan’s bishop St. Ambrose (+ AD 397), Monnica and Augustine together with his brother Navigius, Adeodatus the future bishop’s son by his concubine of many years whom Monnica had forced Augustine to put aside, and friends Nebridius, Alypius and the former Imperial secret service agent (agens in rebus) Evodius were all waiting at Ostia to return home to Africa by ship. 

They were stuck there for some time because the port was blockaded during a period of civil strife.  As she lay dying near Rome, Monnica told Augustine (conf. 9): “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.” 

Interior of St. Augustine
 She was buried there in Ostia.  In the 6th century she was moved to a little church named for St. Aurea, an early martyr of the city, and there she remained until 1430 when her remains were translated by Pope Martin V to the Roman Basilica of St. Augustine built in 1420 by the famous Guillaume Card. D’Estouteville of Rouen, then Camerlengo under Pope Sixtus IV.  

As fate or God’s directing have would have it, in December 1945, some children were digging a hole in the courtyard of the little church of St. Aurea next to the ruins of ancient Ostia.  They wanted to put up a basketball hoop, probably having been taught the exciting new game – so different from soccer – by American GIs.  While digging they discovered the broken marble epitaph which had marked Monnica’s ancient grave.  Scholars were able to authenticate the inscription, the text of which had been preserved in a medieval manuscript.  

The epitaph had been composed during Augustine’s lifetime by no less then a former Consul of AD 408 and resident at Ostia, Anicius Auchenius Bassus, perhaps Augustine’s host during their sojourn.  It is possible that Anicius Bassus placed the epitaph there after 410 which saw the ravages of Alaric the Visigoth and the sacking of Rome and its environs.  One can almost feel behind these traces of ancient evidence Augustine’s plea to his old friend sent by letter from the port of Hippo Regius over the waves to Ostia.  Hearing of the devastation to the area, far more shocking to the ancients than the events of 11 September were for us, did Augustine, now a renowned bishop, ask his old friend to tend the grave of the mother whom he had so loved and who in her time had wept for her son’s sins and rejoiced in his conversion?"   Source:  http://wdtprs.com/blog/2007/08/27-august-st-monica-widow-her-tomb/