February 9, 2017

Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin and Foundress

Saint Scholastica
On February 10th, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Scholastica (c. 480 – 547), the sixth century nun and twin sister of Saint Benedict of Nursia. In possession of numerous spiritual gifts, as a young girl, she dedicated her life and her virginity to God. What little we know about her comes from Saint Gregory the Great's Dialogues, (Chapters 33 and 34) in passages concerning Benedict. Once a year, she would visit her brother and together, they would spend the day praying, reading Sacred Scripture and discussing issues. She is the foundress of the women's Order of Benedictine Monasticism.

The two siblings were born to a wealthy Roman noble family in Nursia, Italy, around the year 480. Their mother Claudia, died at their birth. When Benedict left to pursue his studies in Rome, Scholastica remained behind. It was customary for a young Roman woman of Scholastica's standing to reside with her family until marriage or her entrance into religious life. Accounts differ, but the earliest versions of Scholastica's life indicate she joined a group of pious virgins during the time that Benedict established his first monastery. Scholastica would herself begin a convent for religious women, likely under Benedict's guidance.

St. Scholastica and St. Benedict relied on each other for support and shared a singular devotion to God and His Church. Their respective communities were five miles apart. Benedict preached in front of Scholastica's nuns using the same rule by which his own monks lived. One popular story evidences their mutual sanctity.

As recounted by Pope St. Gregory, at their final meeting together, after a day of prayer and reflection, St. Benedict stood up to leave. Perhaps sensing her time on earth was short, St. Scholastica implored him to stay. Benedict refused stating "You know that I cannot stay away from the monastery." Although the hour was late, the moment he said these words, the night sky was calm. "At her brother's refusal Scholastica folded her hands in earnest prayer. When she looked up again, there was a sudden burst of lightning and thunder accompanied by such a great downpour that Benedict and his companions were unable to set foot outside the door." Benedict remained and spoke to Scholastica all night about spiritual matters, including the kingdom of heaven for which she would soon depart.

Saint Gregory's Dialogues record that three days later, as he stood in his room looking up toward the sky, Benedict beheld his sister's soul leaving her body and entering heaven in the form of a dove. Overjoyed at her eternal glory, he gave thanks to God in hymns of praise. St. Scholastica's tomb is in the Abbey at Monte Cassino. She is the patron of nuns, convulsive children, and against rain and violent storms. As we celebrate the Memorial of the Virgin Saint Scholastica, we pray, O Lord, that, following her example, we may serve you with pure love and happily receive what comes from loving you in imitation of your Most Holy Son.

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