Saint Scholastica (+543) was the sister – some sources say the twin – of Saint Benedict. Like her brother, she forsook everything to follow Christ, setting up a community of virgins at the foot of her brother’s monastery, Monte Cassino, where she followed the path of orans et laborans, praying and working, which forms the basis of Benedictine spirituality. In fact, such is in some way the path of all Christians, to ‘pray and work’ for the kingdom, for souls, one’s own, and all those around us.
Her name is derived from the Greek schola, which means ‘leisure’ – not loafing around, but, rather, leaving space in all the chaos of life for contemplation, thought, study, reflection and, of course, God. It is where we get the concept of a ‘school’. All education should, in the end, be a preparation for eternity.
The most famous story of Scholastica is from Saint Gregory the Great (+604) – where we derive most of what details we have of her life. Benedict and some of his fellow monks were visiting her outside of their monastery, and the conversation and company being so delightful, they shared a meal. The after-dinner discussion going late, Scholastica asked them to prolong their stay. Benedict remonstrated, that a monk should not spend the night away from his cell. So Scholastica ‘folded her hands, placed her head on the table and prayed’, and God sent such a thunderstorm and deluge that they simply could not depart.
As Pope Gregory put it: