Lent Madness: Monnica vs. C.S. Lewis

We are now halfway through the first round of Lent Madness 2011 with eight matches done and eight to go before heading into the round of the Saintly Sixteen. We move into the home stretch of the initial round with a battle between Monnica and C.S. Lewis.

In recent action, my namesake (Timothy) made quick work of Leo the Great and will face off against Thomas Becket in the next round. Click Lent Madness 2011 to view the updated tournament bracket. To update the matches so far: Polycarp, Justin Martyr, William Tyndale, Elizabeth of Hungary, Thomas Becket, Charles Simeon, Vincent, and Timothy have all advanced while Cyprian, John Keble, Bernard, John Donne, Barnabas, Clement of Alexandria, Philip, and Leo the Great were sent packing. Lent Madness continues tomorrow with Charles Wesley taking on Perpetua.

Monnica (331-387) is perhaps best known as the mother of St. Augustine. Indeed most of what we know of her life comes from Augustine’s famous book “Confessions.” Monnica was born to Christian parents and grew up in the part of North Africa now known as Tunisia. She married a pagan husband who reportedly had a hot temper. She was proud that over the course of their marriage he (and his mother) both converted to Christianity.

It wasn’t long before she recognized that her son was brilliant — both academically and as a leader. Being perhaps a typical son, he rejected her religion and sought meaning in various pagan philosophies. Monnica continued to pray for his conversion even as she moved with him first to Rome and then Milan as he pursued a career as an orator. It was in Milan that Augustine fell under the influence of the bishop — Ambrose — and became a convert much to his mother’s delight.

After Augustine’s baptism he sought to return to North Africa along with his mother. She fell ill along the journey and outside of a Roman port she told her son, “You will bury your mother here. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord. Do not fret because I am buried far from our home in Africa. Nothing is far from God, and I have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.” 

Collect for Monnica O Lord, who through spiritual discipline strengthened your servant Monnica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis  (1898-1963) was a professor in both Oxford and Cambridge, a beloved writer, and Christian apologist. He was both prolific and profound with a light touch as he moved between Christian allegory, personal spiritual journey, academics, and theology. His best known works include The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Suprised by Joy, and The Four Loves.

Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, and clung to his Irish identity even as his life’s work took him to England. Although he was raised in a Christian family, he declared himself an atheist at age 15. He served as an officer in World War I, fighting in the trenches and sustaining a friendly fire injury before his discharge. He slowly returned to the faith after much inner struggle, being strongly influenced by the arguments of his friend JRR Tolkien, and became a member of the Church of England in 1931.

Significant to his life as both a person and a Christian was his marriage to Joy Gresham in 1956. Gresham was 17 years his younger yet died of cancer four years after their marriage at the age of 45. His response was chronicled in the book A Grief Observed. Lewis died three years later, one week before his 65th birthday.

Collect for C.S. Lewis O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis whose sanctified imagination lights fires of faith in young and old alike; Surprise us also with your joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.



4 Comments on “Lent Madness: Monnica vs. C.S. Lewis”

  1. Jeffri Harre says:

    Hmmmm… I think I need a “none of the above” option today.

  2. Vicki says:

    And I need a couple of hundred extra votes for my favourite author (who has developed about 95% of my personal theology!)

  3. The Virtual Abbey says:

    Is that rreally howw herr namme iss sppelled? Who knew!

  4. Bob Chapman says:

    Monnica did what ever mother does. It was God’s prevenient grace that did the real work in converting Augustine. (See, I read more than one blog.) Besides, if there is something to attach to her because of Augustine, does this make Monnica ultimately responsible for Original Sin in Western Christian Theology?

    CS Lewis did not do theology, per se. As an apologist, we will never have to deal with theology from him like Original Sin.

    Comparing Lewis with Tolkien shows us what was the real genius with Lewis.

    Tolkien may have done what he did VERY well, but it really was only one thing. The LOTR can move me to tears. With BREGO for my motorcycle’s license plate, it is a testament to what Tolkien–and a certain person involved with movies–is able to do to inspire someone.

    Lewis was very good at many styles and types of writing. Arguably not the best, but very good. He could handle fiction and factual, poetic and prose. In fact, you could say Lewis was a Jack of all trades.

    (Some of you are groaning now, I know.)

    He was no mere author.

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