Monica died while she and Augustine were at the port town of Ostia late in the year 387. Augustine had wanted to sail back to Africa with Monica, his mother, and several of his friends, but shipping was at a standstill because of a civil war. After their mystical experience of joy and happiness had passed, Augustine and his mother became silent. Almost as if she sensed her forthcoming death, Monica later turned to her son and said, "My son, as to me, I no longer find any pleasure in this life. What more I have to do here, and why I am still here I do not know."
"Put this body anywhere. Do not let care about it disturb you. I ask only this: that you remember me at the altar of the Lord, wherever you may be." [Confessions 9, 11, 27] Within five days, Monica was very ill with a fever. One day she was actually unconscious, regained consciousness another day, but was confused of her surroundings. Towards her ending hours, she asked where she was. The brother of Augustine, Navigius, told her and she replied, "Bury your mother here."
Navigius then asked his mother if she would rather be buried in her home country in North Africa. At one point previously she had wanted to be buried with Patricius, her deceased husband, but then she changed her mind. She died at Ostia on the 13th November 387 of fever - possibly malaria, which was then common in the area.
In one of the most touching passages of all literature, Augustine wrote of the event thus: "I closed her eyelids, and sorrow beyond measure filled my heart and would have overflowed in tears. But by a strong effort of will I had no tears. It was not fitting that her funeral should be conducted with moaning and weeping, for such is normal when death is seen as only misery or as the complete end of existence. But she had not died in misery, and death was not her end. Of the one fact we were certain by reason of her character, of the other by our Faith." [Confessions 9, 12, 1]
In recounting the funeral of Monica at Ostia, Augustine explained that the Eucharist was celebrated at the grave site prior to burial. He specified that this was the Italian custom, and implied that it was not the practice in Africa.Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on Ostia where Saints Monica and Augustine lived briefly immediately before Monica died, click here.AN1113