Today is the feast day of Saint Scholastica. Ora pro nobis.
Everything we know about St Scholastica and her (traditionally: twin) brother St Benedict comes from the Dialogues of St Gregory the Great. (5) It is not known where she lived, whether at home or in a community; but after her brother had moved to Monte Cassino, she settled at Plombariola in that same neighbourhood, probably founding and ruling a nunnery about five miles to the south of St. Benedict’s monastery. St. Gregory tells us that St. Benedict governed nuns as well as monks, and i seems clear that St. Scholastica must have been their abbess, under his direction. She used to visit her brother once a year and, since she was not allowed to enter his monastery, he used to go with some of his monks to meet her at a house a little way off. They spent these visits in praising God and in conferring together on spiritual matters. (4)
by Dom Prosper Louis P. Gueranger
The sister of the Patriarch Saint Benedict comes to us today, sweetly inviting us to follow her to heaven. Apollonia the Martyr is succeeded by Scholastica the fervent daughter of the Cloister. Both of them are the Spouses of Jesus, both of them wear a crown, for both of them fought hard, and won the palm. Apollonia’s battle was with cruel persecutors, and in those hard times when one had to die to conquer; Scholastica’s combat was the life-long struggle, whose only truce is the soldier’s dying breath. The Martyr and the Nun are sisters now in the Heart of Him they both so bravely loved.
God, in his infinite wisdom, gave to St. Benedict a faithful co-operatrix,–a sister of such angelic gentleness of character, that she would be a sort of counterpoise to the brother, whose vocation, as the legislator of monastic life, needed a certain dignity of grave and stern resolve. We continually meet with these contrasts in the lives of the saints; and they show us that there is a link, of which flesh and blood know nothing; a link which binds two souls together, gives them power, harmonises their differences of character, and renders each complete. Thus it is in heaven with the several hierarchies of the Angels; a mutual love, which is founded on God Himself, unites them together, and makes them live in the eternal happiness of the tenderest brotherly affection.
Scholastica’s earthly pilgrimage was not a short one; and yet it has left us but the history of the Dove, which told the brother, by its flight to heaven, that his sister had reached the eternal home before him. We have to thank St. Gregory the Great for even this much, which he tells us as a sequel to the holy dispute she had with Benedict, three days previous to her death. But how admirable is the portrait thus drawn in St. Gregory’s best style! We seem to understand the whole character of Scholastica:–an earnest simplicity, and a child-like eagerness, for what was worth her desiring it; an affectionate and unshaken confidence in God; a winning persuasiveness, where there was opposition to God’s will, which, when it met such an opponent as Benedict, called on God to interpose, and gained its cause. The old poets tell us strange things about the swan, how sweetly it can sing when dying; how lovely must not have been the last notes of the Dove of the Benedictine Cloister, as she was soaring from earth to heaven!
But how came Scholastica, the humble retiring Nun, by that energy, which could make her resist the will of her brother, whom she revered as her master and guide? What was it told her that her prayer was not a rash one, and that what she asked for was a higher good than Benedict’s unflinching fidelity to the Rule he had written, and which it was his duty to teach by his own keeping it? Let us hear St. Gregory’s answer: “It is not to be wondered at, that the sister, who wished to prolong her brother’s stay, should have prevailed over him; for, whereas St. John tells us, that God is Charity, it happened by a most just judgment, that she that had the stronger love, had the stronger power.”
Our Season is appropriate for the beautiful lesson taught us by St. Scholastica,–fraternal charity. Her example should excite us to the love of our neighbor, that love which God bids us labour for, now that we are intent on giving Him our undivided service, and our complete conversion. The Easter Solemnity we are preparing for, is to unite us all in the grand Banquet, where we are all to feast on the one Divine Victim of Love. Let us have our nuptial garment ready; for He that invites us, insists on our having union of heart when we dwell in his House (Ps. lxvii. 7.) (2)
Scholastica is remembered for her deep faith in the Lord, as well as her love of spiritual discourse and discussion. While the orders of both siblings’ orders prevented them from remaining outside their respective communities overnight, Benedict and Scholastica met once each year at a farmhouse, as she also could not enter the Benedictine monastery. During this yearly meetings, the brother and sister would dine together and spend hours in spiritual discussion, enjoying the “mutual comfort of heavenly talk.” (6)
Image: Death of Saint Scholastica. Artist: Johann Baptist Berg, circa 1765.
Research by REGINA Staff