February 10: Scholastica Schools Her Sainted Brother

Sometimes being a saint runs in a family. In this case, Scholastica and Benedict (both later canonized) were sister and brother. She ran a nunnery and he a monastery. They would meet to confer and pray, but Benedict could never host because the rule at his monastery (that he presumably set) was “No Women Allowed”–rather like a boy’s clubhouse: Girls Keep Out!

So, once a year, brother and sister would meet for a day at some house not far from Benedict’s place. And Benefict would have to leave their annual get-together before nightfall because of another rule: No monks could be out after curfew. A Cinderella rule.

One particular year–and perhaps because Scholastica was herself aware that she did not have much time left to live–the two met for the day, and as nightfall approached, Scholastica asked, nay begged, her brother to spend the night until the next day with her. But rules are rules, and Benedict told her he dare not, he could not, he would not.

So Scholastica went over her brother’s head: in tears over her brother’s intransigence, she prayed to God to make her brother stay. Butler writes of Scholastica, “Her prayer was scarce ended, when there happened such a storm of rain, thunder, and lightning” that Benedict was not able even to set foot out-of-doors! So, perhaps unsurprisingly, Benedict scolded Scholastica, saying “God forgive you sister; what have you done?” to which Scholastica replied quite simply, “I asked you a favour, and you refused it me; I asked it of Almighty God, and he has granted it me.” So Benedict spent the night with his sister after all, to what turned out to be their mutual joy. Three days later, Scholastica died.

There are so many great teachings available in this vignette. First, it is ok to ask for what you want and for what matters to you. Second, you don’t have to give a reason for something you want if it is something that you want–that alone is justification for asking. Third, the man doesn’t always get to have the final word. Fourth, if you want something enough, don’t stop because the first one you ask says “No”–escalate the request! Fifth, rules for rules’ sake are Just Not That Important. And sixth, don’t let someone make you feel bad for getting what you want.

Ave, Scholastica!

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