St. Scholastica As a Sibling
On his visit to Washington D.C. in 1979, St. Pope John Paul II said this regarding siblings: “. . . parents will remind themselves that it is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety.”
Looking back on my childhood, I recognize that my older brother and I had our share of arguments and differences. We competed against one another, we made fun of one another, occasionally, we enjoyed each other’s company. As I reflect now, in an indirect way, I can say my brother helped lead me to holiness. First, I learned that I am not the center of the universe. I also learned how I would want to be treated and that I should show this kindness to others. In addition, I learned patience, how to control myself, and how to forgive.
How much more true would this be when your sibling was a Saint? St. Benedict, who is seen as the father of western monasticism, had for his sister St. Scholastica. With her holiness and heroic virtue, the positive role she played in his life cannot be understated.
In my research, I found that not much is readily available regarding the life of St. Scholastica. However, there are revelations about her given by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, who received visions from saints’ lives by touching their relics. These visions are private and since they do not contradict Church teaching in morals or dogma they have been allowed to be printed by the Church. While the visions do not have authoritative qualities, it is my hope that their inclusion here may allow better insight into what St. Scholastica’s life may have looked like.
In her revelation about St. Scholastica, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich shares “. . . I saw Benedict and his little sister Scholastica, playing as loving, innocent children are wont to amuse themselves . . .The brother and sister were not often allowed to be alone together; but whenever they could steal off for awhile, they were very gleeful and happy. . . Scholastica slept on a low bed behind a curtain. I saw her in the morning when her nurse left the room, spring out of bed and prostrate in prayer before a crucifix on the wall. . .”
St. Benedict and St. Scholastica came from a noble Roman family. St. Benedict was sent to Rome where he studied for some time before becoming a monk. It is reasonable to assume that St. Scholastica would have also learned how to read and write. This would allow her to study scripture and share in correspondence with St. Benedict.
Bl. Catherine Emmerich continues her vision by saying “More than once I saw Benedict’s sister, who lived at home, going on foot to visit her brother. He never allowed her to stay with him overnight. Sometimes she brought him a roll of parchment which she had written. Then he showed her what he had done, and they conversed together on divine things. Benedict was always very grave in his sister’s presence while she, in her innocence, was all mirth and joy. When she found him too serious, she turned to God in prayer, and he instantly became like herself, bright and gay.” Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich then makes mention of how St. Scholastica started a convent near St. Benedict’s monastery.
It was during one of these trips from her convent to see St. Benedict at Monte Casino that we find a truly remarkable account. It was written by St. Gregory the Great who lived about one generation after Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. In his writing, he describes how St. Scholastica would visit St. Benedict once a year. St. Benedict would always meet his sister in a house not far from his monastery. He would visit with her and bring his disciples with him.
St. Gregory recounts that on one visit St. Scholastica requested that her brother would stay longer so that they could continue to talk of the “joys of the heavenly life.” St. Benedict responded that this would not be possible, as he needed to return to the monastery. While the sky was clear of clouds at that moment, St. Scholastica began to pray. After she lifted her head from prayer an intense thunderstorm had begun outside. It was so devastating, that Benedict was incapable of returning to Monte Casino. Benedict then asked his sister “God Almighty forgive you, sister, what is this you have done?” She simply answered, “I prayed you to stay and you would not hear me: I prayed to Almighty God and He heard me. Now, therefore, if you can, go forth to the monastery and leave me.” Since this was impossible, he stayed and spoke of God with her.
Such was their connection with one another. Seeing the holiness in the other, they desired each other’s correspondence and company. This connection transcended temporal things as well.
This is apparent in another contribution from St. Gregory the Great. This happened a few days after St. Scholastica's visit where God had changed the weather. St. Benedict, standing in his cell, saw the soul of his sister depart from her body. He announced her death to his fellow monks and sent for her body to be brought to Monte Casino. She was buried in the same tomb that was reserved for him.
I don’t know about you, but I never even wanted to share a backseat with my brother! Even in death, they did not wish to be separated. Come wind, rain, or weather, their fellowship helped to sustain them on their road to heaven.
St. Scholastica has been a help to my wife and I as well. With her intercession for all things weather-related, we have never been shy in asking for her assistance. For example, we prayed for her intercession when asking for fair weather on our wedding day. Also, as a Catholic school teacher, I’ve added her to my “Snow Day Saint Team” whenever a surprise break from school and studies would be most appreciated.
In the end, it was her love for heavenly things that deepened her bonds with her brother. They led each other to holiness of life and this is something that can be a model for us and our siblings. Even for those who may not have siblings we have adopted brothers and sisters in Christ to call us to greater holiness. We must remember that The Blood of Christ runs deep in his adopted children and unites us.