Cloud of Witnesses

Siblings united in love, prayer and the pursuit of holiness: on the feast day of St. Scholastica

My sister claims that she “mooched” off of my conversion experience; she says that she benefited from the graces that I received as if they were her own. This is true: she did gain from my experience and I thank God for it. But at the same time I also believe to have gained from her spiritual journey. As I’ve written before, we seem to bounce off each other’s pursuit of holiness. We are indeed united in faith, hope, and love. We are united in prayer. I am truly blessed to have a sister, a holy sibling. Just as she is sustained by my prayers and my witless of holiness, I am sustained by her prayers and by her witness of holiness. Truly it is a blessing of the Lord to be united together in our common mission of love manifested in different ways according to our unique callings. We are both giving glory to God in everything we do, especially by way of encouraging each other. I am particularly reminded of all of this today on the feast day of St. Scholastica.

St. Scholastica was the twin sister of St. Benedict of Norcia, Western father of monasticism. Theirs was a holy bond of brother and sister dedicated to serving God through lives of holiness. St. Scholastica was inspired by the example of her brother St. Benedict and was determined to follow suit. In time, just as others had flocked around Benedict and became monks in his monasteries, women came to Scholastica and joined her as nuns. Benedict led his sister and her nuns in the same rule that he gave to his monks. The communities in which the brother sister lived were about 5 miles apart. They had opportunities to spend some time together at a house located halfway between the two communities.

On one occasion, according to a story recounted by St. Gregory the Great, the brother and sister passed time as usual, discussing things of God and praying together. Scholastica implored her brother to stay longer and leave the next day. But Benedict refused to do so, insisting that he could not stay. Taking matters into her own hands, or I should say putting matters into God’s hands, Scholastica began to pray, bowing her head. Before long, as she lifted her head up from the table, it began to storm violently. Realizing that he could not leave because of all the thunder and lightning and heavy rain, Benedict turned to his sister and exclaimed, “God forgive you for what you have done!” Scholastica calmly responded, “I asked you to stay and you wouldn’t listen. I asked our good Lord and he graciously granted my request.” Having no other choice, Benedict stayed with his sister and the both of them spent the whole night in holy conversation. I also like this story because whenever she comes to visit, my sister and I like to have some deep conversations for as long as possible; we spend time in prayer as well, praying evening prayer from the Divine Office.

Three days after Scholastica had convinced her brother to stay by praying for it to rain like crazy, Benedict saw, while in his monastery, a vision of his sister’s soul departing from her body ascending into heaven in the likeness of a dove. Thereupon, he immediately praised God and rejoiced for the life of his beloved sister. Not too long afterwards, St. Benedict also died. Both were buried in the same grave. Through the prayers of St. Scholastica, I pray that my sister and I continue to build each other up in the service of love and holiness that we may become Saints, and the greatest saints possible.

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