Woman of Grace: St. Scholastica (480 – 543)
St. Gregory the Great recounts this story from the life of St. Benedict’s beloved twin sister, St. Scholastica, which shows how expressing our petitions to God with childlike faith and confidence sometimes yields immediate and amazing results.
After Benedict founded a monastery for men, Scholastica remained very close to her brother, founding a convent for women some miles away. Every year Scholastica went to visit Benedict at a little place just outside the monastery gate.
During one of these annual visits, the two spent the day together, along with a few members of their communities, praising God and talking about sacred things. They had supper and their conversation wore on late into the night. Finally Scholastica entreated her brother to stay with her overnight, so they could continue to talk about the delights of the spiritual life. But Benedict refused, saying he could not stay outside of his cell.
Disappointed but undaunted, Scholastica clasped her hands together, laid her head on them, and began to pray. As she lifted her head, the sky lit up with brilliant flashes of lightning. Thunder clapped and sheets of rain descended from the heavens. So heavy was the downpour that Benedict and his disciples could not leave.
Benedict was not pleased. Turning to his sister, he complained, “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?”
Nonplussed, Scholastica answered, “Well, I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
Benedict had little choice but to stay with his sister, and they passed the night talking about the spiritual life. Three days later, as St. Benedict looked out of his cell, he saw a dove flying into the heavens, and knew instantly that the soul of his sister was leaving her body and going to the place God had prepared for her from all eternity. He rejoiced in the great glory of his sister and thanked God with hymns and words of praise.
St. Benedict sent his disciples to bring Scholastica’s body back to the monastery, and he laid her to rest in the tomb he had prepared for himself. St. Gregory wrote, “Their minds had always been united in God; their bodies were to share a common grave.” In granting Scholastica’s heartfelt petition of love, He permitted brother and sister to spend one last visit together in His holy name.
St. Gregory the Great concludes the story by commenting on Scholastica’s prayer: “Contrary to what Benedict wanted, he found that a miracle was worked by the courage of one woman in the strength of God. No wonder the woman was more powerful than he; she had long desired to see her brother. As St. John said, ‘God is love.’ So with good reason she was more powerful who loved more.”
Faith in Action
St. Scholastica’s petition to God was motivated by her deep love for Benedict and her desire to spend more time with her brother. What are three of my most recent petitions to God? To what extent are they motivated by selfless love versus selfish wants?
This is an excerpt from our Women of Grace Study program. To learn more about how you can bring this beautiful study to your area, click here.