St. Scholastica, Virgin and Religious

February 8, 2013

The Pastor's Page

St. Benedict speaking to St. Scholastica detail at Seven Dolors in Albany

St. Benedict speaking to St. Scholastica detail at Seven Dolors in Albany

St. Scholastica (480-547) was born in Nursia, Italy, in 480 AD.  She is the twin sister of St. Benedict.  As a young woman she consecrated herself to God, and she remained at home to assist her father while her brother Benedict went to Rome to study.

St. Benedict is the founder of Western monasticism, the one who developed the concept of men living together in a religious community in a monastery for a spiritual purpose under a rule of life.  Upon his return from Rome he founded a monastery at Monte Casino.

In parallel fashion, St. Scholastica founded a house for women religious or a convent at Plombariola only five miles south of Monte Casino.  Previously women who wished to live a more intense spiritual life did so on their own in seclusion and occasionally a few women would live together.  St. Scholastica expanded the communal life dimension.  She gathered women who wished to focus more exclusively on God into larger groups, usually younger virgins and older widows.  In the convent they were able to separate themselves from the concerns and temptations of the world to concentrate on a life of prayer, mutual support, and good works.

St. Benedict was the abbot or superior of the monastery, and St. Scholastica was the abbess or superior of the convent.  Even though they lived separately they stayed in close communication and shared a strong spiritual bond.  Once each year they met for a single day to pray and discuss spiritual matters, and because Scholastica was not permitted to enter the monastery, their meeting took place at a home between the two.

They had a remarkable final meeting.  Scholastica was advanced in age and had a premonition that her time was short, so after dinner she asked her brother to stay longer.  The Benedictine Rule requires a monk to be in the monastery every night, so Benedict declined.  Scholastica said a quick prayer and almost instantly a violent thunderstorm broke out which forced Benedict to remain indoors.  Benedict exclaimed, “Sister, what have you done?”  She answered, “I asked a favor of you and you refused it.  I asked it of God and he has granted it.”

Three days later St. Scholastica died and St. Benedict, who was praying at that moment, looked up and saw her soul ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.

St. Scholastica is considered the founder of the Benedictine sisters; her symbols are a dove, the book of the Benedictine Rule, and a pastoral staff; she is the patron saint of women religious; and she is a special intercessor against storms and lightening, and for children suffering convulsions.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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