SAINT SCHOLASTICA (c.480-c.542), virgin and foundress – Patron saint of religious sisters and against storms
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Scholastica, a holy woman who followed the ascetic lifestyle of her brother, seeking to serve her God through love and prayer, founding the first community of Benedictine nuns who devoted themselves to living the contemplative life.
Saint Scholastica was the twin sister of Saint Benedict. They were born around the year 480 to a Roman family of some nobility in Nursia, Italy. Very little is known about the life of Scholastica, except for what we read from the Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great. Her brother, Benedict, is much more renowned, as he became the Patriarch of Western Monasticism.
Scholastica seems to have consecrated her life to God from her earliest youth as Pope Gregory mentions. Her mother died while giving birth to her and her brother. When Benedict was old enough, he left home to study in Rome, leaving Scholastica with her father to tend the estate the family owned in Nursia.
When Scholastica learned of her brother’s total dedication to her Savior, she was determined to follow his example. In time, she founded a religious community for women in nearby Plombariola, Italy, about five miles south of where her brother’s monastery was located at Monte Cassino. Sister Scholastica’s community of religious sisters was under the direction of Benedict; she thus became the first Benedictine nun.
Saint Gregory tells us that Sister Scholastica “…used to come once a year to visit her brother” to confer on spiritual matters. This once-a-year meeting took place at a Benedictine house situated halfway between the two communities. Saint Gregory tells the charming story of the last meeting of these two saints three days before Scholastica’s death.
It was a clear day, and Benedict went in company with some of his brethren to meet her at the usual location. Brother and sister passed the time, as they had always done in the past, in both prayer and pious conversation.
When nightfall arrived, Scholastica begged her brother to stay for the evening, but he refused, not wishing to violate the Rule of his own Order. She then joined her hands together, laid them on the table and bowed her head upon them in supplication to God. When she lifted her head from the table, immediately there arose such a storm that neither Benedict nor his brother monks could leave.
Saint Gregory recounts, “Seeing that he could not return to his abbey because of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain, the man of God became sad and began to complain to his sister, saying, ‘God forgive you; what have you done?’
“‘I wanted you to stay, and you wouldn’t listen,’ she answered. ‘I have asked our good Lord, and He graciously granted my request, so if you can still depart, in God’s name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone.’” Benedict had no choice but to stay and speak to his sister throughout the entire night about spiritual matters, including Heaven.
In Saint Gregory’s account, he continues, “Three days later as he stood in his room looking up toward the sky, he beheld his sister’s soul leaving her body and entering the heavenly court…Overjoyed at her eternal glory, he gave thanks to God in hymns of praise. Then, after informing his brethren of her death, he sent some of them to bring her body to the abbey and bury it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. The bodies of these two were now to share a common resting place, just as in life their souls had always been one in God.”
Inspired by her brother’s teaching, Saint Scholastica devoted her whole life to seeking and serving God. She died of natural causes around the year 542. Saint Benedict followed her about five years later and was buried in the same grave with his sister, their joint tomb located at the Monte Cassino Abbey in Monte Cassino, Italy
We commemorate her feastday on February 10.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, newadvent.org and saintbenedict.org/stscholastica)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Scholastica)
“Lord, as we recall the memory of Saint Scholastica, we ask that by her example we may serve You with love and obtain perfect joy.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”