Sunday, November 20, 2016
52 Saints ~ Week 47 ~ St. Scholastica
It is surprising how many cases of saintly twins there are: Medard and Gildard, Mark and Marcellian, Crispin and Crispinian, Gervase and Protase, and Cosmas and Damian. There may be others. But surely the most famous pair are St Benedict and St Scholastica.
Scholastica lives very much in the shadow of her brother, but she was close to him and shared in his mission. Benedict, though certainly not the first Christian monastic, is nonetheless the father of Christian monasticism on account of his great influence and example, and Scholastica, by a convenient parity, occupies something like the same position for female contemplatives.
What little we know about her comes from St Gregory the Great's Dialogues. He tells us that she was born (c.480) into the Italian nobility, in Nursia, and was dedicated to the Lord from infancy. The historical sources are mostly silent on the events of her life. We do know that by the time Benedict had founded the monastery at Montecassino (c.530) she was living in a women's religious community nearby, and that she made an annual pilgrimage to visit her brother and to speak with him about spiritual matters.
Two famous stories have come down to us, both from the last days of her life, in the year 542. During one of her annual visits it came time for the two to part, but Scholastica, unwilling to be parted just yet, asked Benedict to stay. When he protested that he was needed in the monastery, she quietly bowed her head and prayed. Immediately "there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightening and thundering, and such abundance of rain" that Benedict was forced to prolong his time with her. (On account of this incident, she is invoked as intercessor against storms.)
Just three days later, Scholastica died. We do not know the reason or the circumstances. Perhaps it was sudden, for Benedict was not present with her. Instead, he is said to have seen her soul ascending to heaven in the form of a dove, a symbol of purity and peace, and thereby knew that she had died. At his instruction, her body was brought to Montecassino and interred in the same tomb in which Benedict himself was later laid.
What became of her relics I do not know. Raids by Lombard soldiers forced the evacuation of Montecassino for most of the 7th century, and during that period St Benedict's remains are believed to have been taken to France, but I've found no record of what happened to St Scholastica's. In death, as in life, it seems she remains largely hidden.
Yet despite this poverty of knowledge, the Church has through the centuries remembered and honoured her; her feast day is February 10. Her tender affection for her brother, her devotion to Our Lord, and her place at the fount of Benedictine spirituality have endeared her to many of the faithful.
Indeed, she is rather close to my own heart. My wife and I even gave her name to our eldest child (as a middle name). Initially some people took that name as an indication that her over-educated parents were tagging her for a life of academic achievement, but of course this was not the case. For each of our children, we've tried to give them a saintly middle name that, we hope, will give them a personal connection to a saint who will, by example and prayer, teach them something essential, something that the world is otherwise unlikely to teach them. In the case of St Scholastica, it was precisely her vocation as a contemplative that appealed to us, for if anything can be said to be wanting in our culture, and if any virtue can best equip a soul for a life of communion with God, it is surely a disposition to contemplation, of goodness, of beauty, and of truth. And so our daughter, and ourselves, we commend to the intercession of St Scholastica.
Saint Scholastica, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, true sister of St. Benedict, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, chosen by God from eternity, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, prevented by the grace of Christ Our Lord, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, consecrated to God from thy infancy, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, always a virgin incorrupt, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, espoused to Jesus Christ, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, scholar of the Holy Ghost, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, mirror of innocence, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, model of perfection, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, pattern of virtues, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, glory of the monastic life, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, mother of numberless virgins, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, imitator of the angelic life, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, full of faith in God, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, replenished with hope of the goods of heaven, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, ever burning with the love of thy Spouse, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, resplendent with humility, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, trusting as a daughter in the Lord, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, intent on prayer, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, quickly heard by the Lord, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, famed for the praise of perseverance, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, who didst enter the courts of Heaven in the form of a dove, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, who dost now follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, who dost rejoice in delights of thy Spouse for ever, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, adorned with a crown of glory, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, advocate with God of those who invoke thee, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, generous patron of those who imitate thee, pray for us.
St. Scholastica, holy and innocent virgin, pray for us.
-- from the Litany of St Scholastica
-- Craig Burrell blogs at All Manner of Thing and is curator of The Hebdomadal Chesterton. In this series he has also written about St. Andre Bessette, Beato Angelico, and St. Nicholas Owen.
If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.