Scholastica’s Last Day with Benedict

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 of Monte Cassino, where she followed the path of orans et laborans, praying and working, which would form 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 the hurly-burly of life for contemplation, thought, study, and, of course, God. It is where we get the term ‘school’ – which 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 convent, and the conversation and company being so delightful, they shared a meal, the post-prandial discussion going late, she asked them to prolong their stay. Benedict remonstrated, that a monk should not be 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 had to stay.

As Pope Gregory put it:

Reluctant as (Benedict) was to stay of his own will, he remained against his will. So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life.
Against his will, perhaps, but not God’s:
It is not surprising that she was more effective than he, since as John says, God is love, it was absolutely right that she could do more, as she loved more.
And, really, is it not in the end all about love, and finding our peace in God’s holy will? For it turns out that this would be the last meeting between the two holy siblings:
Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven
Benedict had his monks take her body, and place it in the grave he had prepared for himself, and that is where their bodies both rest, awaiting the resurrection, while their souls rejoice together in heaven. Would that all our family ties – so fractious in today’s world, if they exist at all – be seen sub specie aeternitatis, under the aspect of eternity, for only such does this passing life make any sense at all.
Saint Scholastica, ora pro nobis!