Thursday, February 09, 2006

"I asked you, and you would not listen. So I asked my Lord ...."

Aside from the Rule which he wrote, what little we have about the life of Saint Benedict comes from Book II of the Dialogues (traditionally said to be written by Pope Gregory the Great, in the late 500s), a rather brief text. What we know of his twin sister, Scholastica, is even less, comprising merely two chapters of the Dialogues. Yet, it is an impressive story, and she serves us well as the patron saint of Benedictine women. For us, her celebration on February 10 is a Solemnity, the highest level of liturgical feast.

This stained-glass window is in our monastery church. This icon of the story was written by Sister Mary Charles McGough, OSB; it hangs on my wall as a gift to me from the Formation Team on the occasion of my first monastic profession.

In looking online for her story, I came across this article about Scholastica and discovered that it included a translation done by none other than Fr. Harry Hagan of Saint Meinrad Archabbey – one of our brother monks and, in fact, the one that taught me Latin for Benedictine Novices. (He also taught my Psalms and Prayer class, made forever famous with The Lament of the Lonely Cornflake – need I say he's a good guy? But then again, they're all pretty cool over there ...).

But, without further ado, I present to you .... Chapters 33 & 34 of Dialogues, Book II.

Book II, Ch. XXXIII:
1. Gregory [said to Peter the Deacon]:Tell me, Peter, who in this life was lifted higher than Paul? Still he asked the Lord three times to take away the thorn in his flesh, but he was not able to get what he wanted. Likewise, I must tell you about what the venerable Father Benedict wanted to do but could not.

2. Now Benedict had a sister named Scholastica, who had been consecrated to the Almighty Lord from the time of her childhood. She had the custom of visiting him once a year, and the man of God would come down to meet her at a place belonging to the monastery not far beyond the gate. One day she came, as was her custom, and her venerable brother came down to meet her with his disciples. They spent the whole day in the praise of God and in holy conversation. The darkness of night was already falling when they took their meal together. The hour grew later and later as they sat there at table carrying on their holy conversation. His sister, a holy monastic woman, then made a request: "I beg you. Do not leave me this night so that we may talk until morning more about the joys of heavenly life. But he responded, "What are you talking about, my sister? Under no circumstances can I stay outside my cell."

3. Now the heavens were so calm that no cloud appeared in the sky. When this holy monastic woman heard her brother's refusal, she folded her hands and put them upon the table. Leaning down, she put her head on her hands to make a prayer to God. When she raised her head from the table, there broke forth such powerful lightning and thunder and such a flood of rain that neither the venerable Benedict nor the brothers with him could set foot outside the door of the place where they were sitting. Indeed, while resting her head on her hands, this holy monastic woman had poured out a flood of tears on the table, and in this way she had attracted the rain to the calm skies. The flood followed her prayer in an instant. The connection between the prayer and the storm was such that her head rose from the table together with the thunder as if both the raising of her head and the falling of the rain were one and the same action.

4. When the man of God saw that he could not get back to the monastery because of the lightning and thunder and the great flood of rain, he was irritated and began to complain: "May God have mercy on you, my sister. Why have you done this?" And she replied to him: "See, I asked you, and you would not listen to me. So I asked my Lord, and he has listened to me. Now then, go, if you can. Leave me, and go back to the monastery." But unable to go outside, he stayed against his will in a place where he had been unwilling to stay on his own. So it happened that they spent the whole night in vigil, and during their holy conversation about the spiritual life they found fulfillment for themselves in their relationship with one another.

5. I have told this story about what the venerable man wanted but was unable to have. And when we examine his mind, there can be no doubt that he had wanted the sky to remain calm, as it had been when he had come down. But contrary to what he wanted, he found a miracle worked by a woman's heart with the power of the omnipotent God. It is no wonder that the woman who had desired to see her brother that day proved at the same time that she was more powerful than he was. For as John says: "God is love," and according to that most just precept, she proved more powerful because she loved more.

Peter: I confess that your story gives me great pleasure.

Book II, Ch. XXXIV:
1. Gregory: The next day the venerable woman went back to her own cell, and the man of God to his monastery. Three days later while in his cell, he looked up at the sky and saw the soul of his sister after it had gone forth from her body. It was in the form of a dove, and he saw it penetrate the hidden mysteries of heaven. Rejoicing because such glory was hers, he gave thanks to the omnipotent God with hymns and praises, and he announced her death to his brothers.

2. Moreover, he sent people at once to bring her body back to the monastery and to put it in a tomb which he had prepared for himself. And so it happened that even the tomb could not separate the bodies of these two who were always of one mind in God.


Blogger Lorem ipsum said...

Have a blessed feast day tomorrow!

2/09/2006 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Feast Day, precious one!!!!

2/09/2006 11:47 PM  
Blogger see-through faith said...


Scholastica, we had a nun at school of that name (taught music) I always thought she'd made it up. HOw come I've never even goodgled it ??? thanks for the info

2/11/2006 11:49 AM  

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