Saint of the week

St Scholastica, 10th February

St Scholastica was the twin sister of St Benedict of Nursia, the sixth century founder of the Order of St Benedict and a patron saint of Europe.

She is the founding mother of female orders of Benedictine monasticism and is invoked as the patron saint of nuns.

She was born in Nursia in 480 and, according to St Gregory, she consecrated herself to God at an early age.

When her brother moved to Monte Cassino she followed him there, settling in the nearby vicinity of Plombariola. Butler’s Lives of the Saints says that Scholastica founded and probably ruled a nunnery just five miles south of the monastery established by her brother. St Gregory tells us that St Benedict governed nuns as well as monks and it seems clear that his sister was abbess to the women in his community.

The pair would often meet at a house near to his monastery – to which she was not admitted – and their time was spent in praising God and conferring on spiritual matters.

St ScholasticaSt Gregory recounts the last of these visits, in the year 543. The siblings sat down to supper at the time their meeting would normally end then St Scholastica received an intuition it was the last time they would meet on earth.

She begged her brother to delay his return to his monastery until they could further discuss the joys of heaven. But St Benedict was keen to fully observe his own rule and said he could not spend a single evening away from his monastery. When Scholastica saw she could not move him, she clasped her hands and prayed that God might make him stay. Before she had finished her entreaty a violent thunder storm erupted and St Benedict had little option but to remain where he was.

He exclaimed: “God forgive you sister, what have you done?,” to which she answered: “I asked a favour of you and you refused it. I asked it of God and He granted it.”

The pair spent the night discussing holy matters before Benedict departed the next morning. Three days later St Scholastica died.

At the time of her death, St Benedict was alone in his cell absorbed in prayer. According to tradition, he lifted up his eyes and saw his sister’s soul ascending into heaven like a dove. Filled with joy at her happiness, he informed his fellow monks of her death and asked some of them to fetch her body which he placed in a tomb he had prepared for himself. The relics of both St Scholastica and St Benedict were translated to France in the 7th century and were deposited at Le Mans.