My kids and I love learning about the saints. To see faith in action in a life well lived gives us encouragement to live like these holy heroes. So what a great opportunity to write about the early twin saints, Benedict and Scholastica. Benedict means “blessed” and Scholastica means “she who has leisure to devote to study.” The two names go hand in hand, as did the closeness of these kindred holy spirits. We read about them in a children’s book written by Kathleen Norris and illustrated by Tomie DePaola called Holy Twins, which is the starting point for this blog post.
The Holy Twins were were born in Nursia, Italy in the year 480 AD. St. Benedict went to Rome to learn as a young adult, while St. Scholastica was sent to a convent for her education. He learned while out in the world while her quiet education taught her many of the same lessons. The children’s book focused on St. Benedict mostly, of the pious adventures he had including finally, how the holy urgings of his sister made it rain and torrent so strongly that he couldn’t return to his Abbey. It came about that her death was near, and three days later, she died. When the time came, they were buried together in the oratory of St. John the Baptist, in Monte Cassino, but if they are still is debated.
When I went to look for a more materials on these twins, I was a bit surprised by what I found. I encountered a lot of information on St. Benedict. There are books and webpages by the tenfold. He is the founder of western monasticism and wrote the Rule of St. Benedict, which is still available and in use today. But, what I didn’t know as that all the sources refer back to Dialogues II attributed to Pope Gregory in 590 AD, who heard the stories from St. Benedict’s successor, who knew Benedict some fifty years earlier. It’s not like one would imagine, where Pope Gregory heard these stories right from St. Benedict himself.
What is not to like about St. Benedict? His life was full of miracles and faithfulness. His prayers were powerful to break a poisoned chalice, he bi-located and saved a drowning boy, and he went where the spirit led him. While he led brothers in a monastery, Scholastica also led a spiritual life. We know her prayers were also strong because one of the only things written about her in the same Dialogues II is that on their last visit together, she asked God to keep her brother close by when he desired to leave for the night and return to the abby. God did for her what her brother did not want to do, and he knew that she had done it.
The fact of the matter is that all of this depth comes from some short paragraphs. Everything else about her life is surmised by what is known about wealthy Romans in the time frame. This isn’t the only saint we know very little of, but now wouldn’t it be an adventure to go back to the source of all these writings?
St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, pray for us!
For more, see the following links.