Monica married early in life. Rather she was given in marriage early in life. Her husband, a brutal and dissolute man, regularly demeaned her and committed infidelity. Monica committed to prayer continually for this man. Her wayward husband eventually became a Christian, reaching salvation, but died shortly thereafter, leaving their three children who were licentious as well. From youth, the eldest stole fruit for the sheer ephemeral thrill of sin. He went on to have a child out of wedlock and became an adherent of Manichaeism, a gnostic heresy. She committed to prayer for him as she had done with her faithless husband. Years later, he became a Christian, like his father. Though he did not die shortly after. He went on to become one of the most well known Early Church Fathers. City of God and Confessions being among the most reputable of his works, Augustine of Hippo and his writings are still studied by serious Christian thinkers and theologians to this day. Augustine, a product of an arranged, abusive and most unhappy marriage, was shaped and no doubt influenced by the example his mother had shown him of Christ's love.
Had Monica lived in 21st Century America, would she have been advised to stay with her faithless husband? I think we know the answer to that question. Did she deserve better? Absolutely. Does Christ deserve better? Yes. We are not worthy, yet He loves us the same. Did her husband love her like Christ loves the Church? No. Did she love him like Christ loves the Church? Yes! Her love for him is a manifestation of true love. It is the kind of love that Christ shows us. Christ is faithful to the faithless and He loves the unlovable. Christ loved us even when we were sinners. He loved us when we spat on Him and nailed Him to the cross. She loved when there was no earthly reason to love, but Christ showed us how to love truly. Monica understood this and followed The Divine Exemplar. And this example was no doubt a powerful witness to her own children. The spiritual fruit of which is evidenced in life and work of Augustine.
"From my tenderest infancy, I had in a manner sucked with my mother's milk that name of my Saviour, Thy Son; I kept it in the recesses of my heart; and all that presented itself to me without that Divine Name, though it might be elegant, well written, and even replete with truth, did not altogether carry me away." (Confessions, I, iv)
Here we see the promise of our Lord, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6). Through obedience, the Holy Spirit implemented His glorious and transforming power, which is able to penetrate and change the hearts of the hardened brute and the hedonistic intellectual. Monica, believing this, and devoting her ways and prayer to God, demonstrated true love. What if we who claim that Divine Name exercised such love to the unlovable and the enrichment of marriages and godly children that would accompany? The Kingdom indistinguishable and abhorrent becomes vivid and attractive. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34-35)