St. Scholastica

Nun (d. 543)
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St. Scholastica by Cornelius Wittmann, OSB. Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota.

St. Scholastica was the twin sister of St. Benedict, founder of Western monasticism. Our knowledge of her story depends on two chapters in the Life of Benedict by St. Gregory the Great. There we learn that she entered religious life at an early age and apparently rose to the office of abbess in a convent near her brother’s monastery at Monte Cassino. Gregory’s account of her last days illustrates the affectionate and yet somewhat competitive relationship between the siblings. It also provides a monastic parable about the power and virtue of love versus a rigid devotion to rules. 

Benedict and Scholastica had the custom of meeting once a year in a house between their respective monasteries to spend the day talking of spiritual matters. One year, as dusk began to fall, Scholastica begged Benedict to spend the night that they might continue to discuss the joys of life in heaven. Benedict refused, citing the monastic rules, from which it was “impossible” to deviate. Scholastica began to pray, whereupon the heavens erupted in a thunderous downpour that made travel impossible. “What have you done?” Benedict asked in alarm. Scholastica answered simply, “I asked you, but you were unwilling to listen to me. I asked my Lord and He listened to me.” And so they passed the night and “had their fill of spiritual talk.” 

It was their last meeting. Scholastica died three days later. 

“[Benedict] had them place [her body] in the tomb he had prepared for himself. In that way it came about that those who had always been of one mind in the Lord were not even bodily separated in the tomb.” 

—Commentary of St. Gregory the Great 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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