Saint Scholastica was born in Italy in the year 480 A.D., and she was the twin sister of Saint Benedict of Nursia (AKA The Father of Western Monasticism). She was called to serve The Lord at a very young age and her name means “she who has leisure to devote to study”. Her feast day is February 10, and it is an Obligatory Memorial.
Scholastica is the Patron Saint of nuns may be called upon for intersession:
- against lightning
- against rain
- against storms
- convulsive children
- Le Mans, France
- Monte Cassino Abbey
In 543 A.D., Saint Scholastica died of natural causes. Here is a story about her life and legacy, and something amazing that happened shortly before her passing:
Scholastica was born in 480 in Nursia, Umbria, of wealthy parents and according to Gregory the Great’s Dialogues, was dedicated to God from a young age. She and her brother Benedict were brought up together until the time he left to pursue studies in Rome.
A young Roman woman of Scholastica’s class and time would likely have remained in her father’s house until marriage (likely arranged) or entry into religious life. But wealthy women could inherit property, divorce, and were generally literate. On occasion several young women would live together in a household and form a religious community.
Benedictine tradition holds that Scholastica lived in a convent at Plumbariola about five miles from Monte Cassino and that this was the first “Benedictine” convent. However, it has been suggested that it is more likely that she lived in a hermitage with one or two other religious women in a cluster of houses at the base of Mount Cassino where there is an ancient church named after her. Ruth Clifford Engs notes that since Dialogues indicates that Scholastica was dedicated to God at an early age, perhaps she lived in her father’s house with other religious women until his death and then moved nearer to Benedict.
The most commonly told story about her is that she would, once a year, go and visit her brother at a place near his abbey, and they would spend the day worshiping together and discussing sacred texts and issues.
One day they had supper and continued their conversation. When Benedict indicated it was time for him to leave, perhaps sensing the time of her death was drawing near, Scholastica asked him to stay with her for the evening so they could continue their discussions. Not wishing to break his own Rule, Benedict refused, insisting that he needed to return to his cell. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and after a moment, a wild storm started outside of the guest house in which they were housed. Benedict asked, “What have you done?”, to which she replied, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.” Benedict was unable to return to his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.
According to Gregory’s Dialogues, three days later, from his cell, he saw his sister’s soul leaving the earth and ascending to heaven in the form of a shining white dove. Benedict had her body brought to his monastery, where he caused it to be laid in the tomb which he had prepared for himself.
Scholastica is the foundress of the women’s branch of Benedictine Monasticism.
She was selected as the main motif for a high value commemorative coin: the Austria €50 ‘The Christian Religious Orders’, issued 13 March 2002. On the obverse (heads) side of the coin Scholastica is depicted alongside Benedict.
The Franciscans offer on their website this reflection on Saint Scholastica and Saint Benedict:
Scholastica and Benedict gave themselves totally to God and gave top priority to deepening their friendship with him through prayer. They sacrificed some of the opportunities they would have had to be together as brother and sister in order better to fulfill their vocation to the religious life. In coming closer to Christ, however, they found they were also closer to each other. In joining a religious community, they did not forget or forsake their family but rather found more brothers and sisters.
What a remarkable woman she was, and what a beautiful relationship she and her brother had. May we all learn from her example. My humble suggestion for honoring her memory is to get in touch with your siblings if you have any, and make peace with them if you need to. You will be glad that you did!
MJ Stevenson is best known on the web as Zilla of the Resistance at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about with her family and a large pack of animal companions.