St. Augustine records that his mother had two types of labor pains, one for his physical body and the other for his spiritual soul.
Normally mothers will give birth to their children once, but sometimes a “second birth” occurs when a child is in need of conversion.
Such was the case with St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine.
As St. Augustine explains it this way in his Confessions: “whereupon the mother of my flesh, being much troubled (since, with a heart pure in Thy faith, she even more lovingly travailed in birth of my salvation).”
Pope Benedict XVI similarly reflects on this reality in an Angelus message from 2006.
Monica courageously devoted herself to caring for her three children, including Augustine, who initially caused her suffering with his somewhat rebellious temperament. As Augustine himself was to say, his mother gave birth to him twice; the second time required a lengthy spiritual travail of prayers and tears, but it was crowned at last with the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive Baptism, but also dedicate himself without reserve to the service of Christ.
This type of vocabulary also recalls the words of Jesus to Nicodemus.
Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.John 3:5-6
Sometimes our “second birth” can seem more difficult than the first, and in some ways cause more suffering.
Yet, for those who persevere in prayer, like St. Monica, that “second birth” can be beautiful to behold and bear much fruit.