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St. Scholastica was the twin sister of St. Benedict, the Patriarch of Western monasticism. She was born in Umbria, Italy, about 480. Under Benedict's direction, Scholastica founded a community of nuns near the great Benedictine monastery Monte Cassino. Inspired by Benedict's teaching, his sister devoted her whole life to seeking and serving God. She died in 547 and tradition holds that at her death her soul ascended to heaven in the form of a dove.
St. Scholastica, like her brother St. Benedict, dedicated herself to God from early youth. Information on the virgin Scholastica is very scanty. In his Second Book of Dialogues (Ch. 33 and 34) Pope St. Gregory has described for us the last meeting between brother and sister:
"His sister Scholastica, who had been consecrated to God in early childhood, used to visit with him once a year. On these occasions he would go to meet her in a house belonging to the monastery a short distance from the entrance. For this particular visit he joined her there with a few of his disciples and they spent the whole day singing God's praises and conversing about the spiritual life.
"When darkness was setting in they took their meal together and continued their conversation at table until it was quite late. Then the holy nun said to him, 'Please do not leave me tonight, brother. Let us keep on talking about the joys of heaven till morning.' ‘What are you saying, sister?’ he replied. 'You know that I cannot stay away from the monastery.' The sky was so clear at the time, there was not a cloud in sight.
"At her brother's refusal Scholastica folded her hands on the table and rested her head upon them in earnest prayer. When she looked up again, there was a sudden burst of lightning and thunder accompanied by such a downpour that Benedict and his companions were unable to set foot outside the door. By shedding a flood of tears while she prayed, this holy nun had darkened the cloudless sky with a heavy rain. The storm began as soon as her prayer was over. In fact, the two coincided so closely that the thunder was already resounding as she raised her head from the table. The very instant she ended her prayer the rain poured down.
"Realizing that he could not return to the abbey in this terrible storm, Benedict complained bitterly. 'God forgive you, sister!' he said. 'What have you done?' Scholastica simply answered, 'When I appealed to you, you would not listen to me. So I turned to my God and He heard my prayer. Leave now if you can. Leave me here and go back to your monastery.'
"This, of course, he could not do. He had no choice now but to stay, in spite of his unwillingness. They spent the entire night together and both of them derived great profit from the holy thoughts they exchanged about the interior life. The next morning Scholastica returned to her convent and Benedict to his monastery.
"Three days later as he stood in his room looking up toward the sky, he beheld his sister's soul leaving her body and entering the heavenly court in the form of a dove. Overjoyed at her eternal glory, he gave thanks to God in hymns of praise. Then, after informing his brethren of her death, he sent some of them to bring her body to the abbey and bury it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. The bodies of these two were now to share a common resting place, just as in life their souls had always been one in God."
Her tomb is at Monte Cassino.
—Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patronage: Against rain; convulsive children; nuns; storms.
against lightning; against rain; against storms; Benedictines; convulsive children; nuns; Le Mans, France; Monte Cassino Abbey
Symbols and Representation: Nun with crozier and crucifix; nun with dove flying from her mouth; dove; lily
Highlights and Things to Do:
- Read more about the life of St. Scholastica:
- Tell your children about the "holy twins": St. Scholastica and the tender love she had for her brother St. Benedict. Ask them how they can help one another to become saints. There is a wonderful picture book The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica by Kathleen Norris and illustrated by Tomie dePaola to share about their lives.
- Make an altar hanging or window transparency in the shape of a dove to honor St. Scholastica.
- If your travels ever take you to Italy, try to visit St. Benedict's Abbey of Monte Cassino. Here is a YouTube video with more pictures. If not, make a virtual visit.
- St. Scholastica's relics are primarily located in Monte Cassino.
- Learn how to prayerfully read Sacred Scripture in this article, Lectio Divina: Daily Information for a New Life by Fr. Adam Ryan, O.S.B.
- See Catholic Cuisine for clever food ideas for this feast.