February 2021 - St. Scholastica, February 10

10 February: St. Scholastica of Nursia, Italy, 543. 

St. Scholastica was born in about 480 in the village of Nursia, Umbria, Italy of wealthy parents, Anicius Eupropius and his wife ClaudiaAbondantia Reguardati. She was the twin sister of St. Benedict, known as the Father of Western Monasticism. Her parents dedicated Scholastica to God from a young age and she grew up in a pious and prayerful home. She and her brother Benedict were brought up together until the time he left to study in Rome.

A young woman of Scholastica's class and time would likely have remained in her father's house until marriage or entry into consecrated life. Often several pious Christian women would live together in a household and form a community of prayer.  Scholastica lived in such a community for a few years before retreating into the country side to live a more secluded life of prayer.  Scholastica established a hermitage about five miles from Monte Cassino. Soon other pious women joined her and they established a series of hermitages around the ruins of an ancient church.

When he returned from Rome, Benedict established communities of monks and nuns and wrote his Holy Rule for monastics patterned after the rules set down for monks of the Eastern Church by St. Basil the Great and by the writings of the Church Father John Cassian. One of the monasteries founded by St. Benedict was at Monte Cassino where he lived as the Abbott.  His sister, Scholastica was his constant fellow-laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.  Together they established communities of pious men and women intent on the spiritual life of prayer and fasting and edifying labor. 


At Monte Casino, they lived in neighboring monasteries and had the custom of meeting once a year and spending the day in prayer and spiritual conversation, then parting after sharing a simple meal. At their meeting in 543, sensing her time of death was near, Scholastica asked her brother to stay with her in vigil and prayer throughout the night. Three days later, on 10 February, as Benedict looked out his cell window, he saw his sister's soul in the form of a dove ascending to heaven, as if to show that her whole life had been enriched with the fullest gifts of the Holy Spirit. Benedict had her body brought to his monastery where the monks and nuns mourned her passing for several days with prayers, reading of Scripture and celebration of the Divine Liturgy.  He buried his sister’s body in the tomb that he had prepared for himself saying “weep not, brothers and sisters; for assuredly Jesus has taken her before us to be our aid and defense.”  St. Benedict died in 547 at Monte Casino and he was buried next to his twin sister, St. Scholastica. 


Recommended: The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica, a beautifully illustrated children's book about the two Saints; by Kathleen Norris, illustrated by Tomie DiPaola.




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