Ten days ago (on February 10th) we celebrated the feast of St. Scholastica. It’s kind of funny to me that her biggest “claim-to-fame” — what she is most well known for — is being the twin sister of St. Benedict. Now, I don’t mean to bash the founder of monastic life… I’m a big fan of St. Benedict and his iconic Medal; it helps me fight through my spiritual warfare on a regular basis. I’m also a bit of a free spirit, but I weirdly like order and routine because it helps me keep track of things and remember tasks and appointments I would have forgotten to do otherwise. Benedict wrote the “Rule of St. Benedict”– and while I do not follow it strictly, I do pull bits of wisdom from it… because again, I thrive with the help of a routine. So truly… I do admire St. Benedict.
However, I do find it comical that the only thing most people know about Scholastica is the fact that she’s his twin sister, when in fact, there’s reason to believe that she might have been a little bit further along in her quest for holiness than her former “womb-mate.”
Once a year, Scholastica (a religious herself) would leave her cloister to visit her brother. Benedict would come outside the gate to a building that housed guests of the abbey. During this particular visit, the holy twins were having an incredible conversation, praising God and speaking of heavenly things. Scholastica was incredibly enriched, enlightened, and uplifted by this holy exchange… so much so that when evening came, she begged Benedict to stay for the night so they could continue their pious powwow.
St. Benedict refused. In staying, he would be rejecting the rules and order of his own monastery.
Rejected by her brother, St. Scholastic turned to a Higher Power. She bowed her head, closed her eyes, and folded her hands in prayer. Almost immediately, a storm swelled — and it was no coincidence! Prior to this, the weather had been lovely. However, after Scholastica’s prayer, rain poured, thunder shook and wind swept violently. The precipitation was so fierce that Benedict could not leave the building (even though they weren’t far from the gate of his own abbey).
“God forgive you, what have you done?” St. Benedict accused.
Scholastica spoke to her brother in a manner that only siblings can relate:
“I asked to stay, and you would not hear me; I asked it of God, and he has granted my petition. Therefore if you can, depart, and leave me here alone.”
(emphasis on the “if” is my own)
St. Benedict couldn’t leave — and the twins continued to spend quality time together.
I’ve been familiar with this story for a long time, but recently, it’s been speaking to my heart in a different way…
- Our society values busy-ness and accomplishments… and as a creative day-dreamer, I have a bad habit of sometimes thinking that not being busy or breaking my routine is somehow failure… sometimes even a sin. I criticize myself when I don’t meet my goals, accomplish all my tasks, or keep a steady spiritual order. Isn’t that kind of what St. Benedict was doing in this situation? Placing a spiritual value on the “Rule” itself… rather than seeing the “Rule” as merely a means –one single way– of growing in holiness.
- Our relationships with one another glorify God. Taking quality time to relax and enjoy the goodness of another human being, this pleases God. We are taking joy in his creation. We are reveling in that piece of His personality that our friend or family member’s possess. Loving relationships glorify him — and taking the time out of our regular life and order to revel in these relationships can be like a spiritual retreat. They fill us up, making us holier and more loving.
- St. Benedict and St. Scholastica kind of remind me of Mary and Martha. Martha thought the better task was to act, serve… be busy. Mary just wanted to spend time with Jesus. Both of these stories show us that the person in front of us is always more important than the routine tasks. Don’t be afraid to take the time to enjoy it… it’s not a sin.
- I find this message especially helpful during Lent… maybe that’s why God placed it on my heart when he did. It’s easy to get caught up the sacrifice itself and forget that it is not holy in and of itself, but merely a means to holiness. Do not let your task at hand, your Lenten penance, be a distraction from love. As St. Paul said, ” …if I have not love… i have nothing.” Don’t let your sacrifices brood vice. First and foremost — love.
Take a minute and think: have I made an idol of my Lenten penance? Does it make me more or less loving? Do I need to reevaluate, shift my focus, or change my penance?
P.S. It’s okay to change your penance during Lent if it’s to help you in this matter. It’s not okay to change your penance simply because it’s hard. 😉