'True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons', Pope Francis says, 'something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey.'
On 10 February, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St Scholastica, a nun and the twin sister of St Benedict (the father of monasticism in Western Europe).
The twins were born to an affluent family around 480 in Nursia, Italy. When Benedict came of age, he left home to study leaving Scholastica with her father to care for their estate. Benedict eventually left his studies and lived as a hermit, before becoming the head of a community of monks in Italy.
The early life of Scholastica is hidden to biographers, but it is said that upon learning of her brother's dedication to the Lord, she was determined to follow his example. Scholastica eventually founded her own religious community near Monte Cassino under the guidance of her brother Benedict.
According to the Dialogues of St Gregory the Great (which tells of the life of Benedict), the siblings would visit each other in a farmhouse since Scholastica was not allowed to stay in his brother’s monastery. There, the siblings discussed spiritual matters and it is said that one night, Scholastica begged her brother to stay and continue their discussions on the faith. Benedict refused but, after Scholastica’s fervent prayers, a thunderstorm suddenly hit which prevented Benedict from departing. The two ended up continuing their spiritual conversation.
It is said that three days after their meeting, in the year 543, Benedict saw a vision of his sister’s soul rising to heaven in the form of a white dove. Scholastica died that day and was buried in a tomb prepared by Benedict himself.
They say twins are inseparable. However, in the case of Scholastica and Benedict, they sacrificed being together in order to fulfill their vocations. The siblings may have travelled different paths, but it seems both led them to the same destination: a life in Christ.
In fulfilling one’s vocation, the role of the family should never be neglected. Saints Scholastica and Benedict were witnesses to the power of God's love at work in the family. As Pope Francis says, 'The family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.'
A woman of faith, St Scholastica also teaches us the power of prayer. At times when we find ourselves helpless, let us be reminded that we can always run to God who is our Father in Heaven. As the Scriptures tell us, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Finally, may the friendship of Scholastica and Benedict inspire us to build friendships founded on Christ. As we journey with our friends, may we bring each other closer to Christ. Aside from spiritual discussions, we can lead our friends to Christ through our simple gestures of love, trust and support. It is through our sincere actions that we can lead others to Christ.
Melbourne Catholic11 February 2021
Archbishop Mark Coleridge11 January 2021