Feast of St Scholastica, twin sister of St Benedict. Praying last night about siblings and nearly overcome by horror to think about the lost brother in the wilderness. That we are unable to save or cure those whom we love, that we have to simply wait and trust that the loved one will reach out.
The bright allegorical stories from medieval hagiography have always enchanted me — akin to mystery plays and filled with miracles and deep human truths.
“How little do we know revealing who you are: this silence, born of peace, perhaps speaks even more.”
Benedict and Scholastica were born around 480 to a Roman noble family in Nursia, Italy. Scholastica seems to have devoted herself to God from her earliest youth, as the account of Benedict’s life by Pope Gregory the Great mentions that his sister was “dedicated from her infancy to Our Lord.”
The twins’ mother died at their birth. When Benedict was old enough he left home to study in Rome leaving Scholastica with her father to tend the Nursian estate. In time, Benedict left his studies to live first as a hermit, and then as the head of a community of monks in Italy.
When Scholastica learned of her brother’s total dedication to the Lord, she determined to follow his example and in time would found a community of religious, within walkiing distance to her brother’s monastery at Monte Cassino.
In the year 543, in a vision Benedict saw the soul of his sister, departed from her body and in the likeness of a white dove, ascend into heaven. He rejoiced with hymns and praise, giving thanks to God. His monks brought her body to his monastery and buried it in the grave that he had provided for himself. St. Benedict followed her soon after, and was buried in the same grave with his sister.
From an unauthenticated letter written by St Scholastica:
The School of the Lord’s Service
Your letter brought me much joy and, bound by the sweetness of affection that unites us in holy friendship, I hasten to respond to your questions ‘with sincere and humble charity’ (RB 72:10). Know that I have no teaching of my own; from the time of my veiling (velatio) the commands and teaching of my brother, blessed by grace and by name, ‘have mingled like the leaven of divine justice in my mind’ (RB 25). In truth, dear sister, he who is my brother according to the flesh, has become my father in the Spirit. It was he who named me Scholastica, saying that, like him, I was destined to remain in the ‘school of the Lord’s service’ (RB Pro:45). In this school I have found ‘nothing that is harsh or hard to bear’ (RB Pro:46). On the contrary, through the continual practice of monastic observance and the life of faith’ (RB Pro:49), my heart is opened wide, and even now I am running in the way of God’s commandments in a sweetness of love that is beyond words (cf. RB Pro: 49).