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St. Scholastica (February 10)

February 10, 2005

Blessed feast of St. Scholastica!

Today we honor St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St. Benedict. They were born in 480 of a noble family in central Italy, just four years after the fall of the Roman Empire. History was in transition, moving into the Dark Ages. The old, structured life of the empire had collapsed and a new organization was still far in the future. Scholastica’s brother, Benedict (founder of western monasticism), was to have a critical role in keeping culture, education and the arts alive within monasteries until European society had settled enough to take them up again.

Little is known of Scholastica herself. Dedicated to God from her youth, she was the abbess of a monastery about 5 miles away from her brother’s monastery at Monte Cassino (it’s likely that Benedict himself founded the monastery and put her in charge). Once a year, Benedict, accompanied by some of his monks, would meet his sister at a house near Monte Cassino (women weren’t allowed inside his monastery). The story is told that once when both were very old, Scholastica begged her brother not to leave their yearly meeting. She didn’t know if she would ever see him again and longed to continue their prayer and holy conversation into the night. Benedict refused, as it was against the Rule of his monastery to spend the night away. At this Scholastica bowed her head in prayer, weeping copiously. As her tears fell, so did the rain. In fact, such a fierce storm sprang up that it was impossible for Benedict to leave. He complained to his sister, saying: “God forgive you, sister what have you done?” She answered: “I asked you a favor, and you refused it me; I asked it of Almighty God, and he has granted it me” (_Butler’s Lives of the Saints_). Benedict, having met his match, then proceeded to “pull a holy all-nighter” with his sister, talking about God and about the joys of the blessed in Heaven. The following morning he returned to his monastery. Three days later Scholastica died. Benedict, alone in contemplation on Monte Cassino, saw her soul winging its way to Heaven in the form of a dove.

St. Scholastica, confident in prayer despite chaotic times, pray for us! Help us to trust in God’s love for us despite our sins.

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