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 at Monte Cassino, where she too 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 and for souls – one’s own, and all those around us.
Her name is derived from the Greek schola, which means ‘leisure’ – which does 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 founded on prayer, and 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‘, after which God sent such a thunderstorm and deluge that they simply could not depart.
As Pope Gregory put it: