By Ibar Quirke
St Scholastica – the twin sister of St Benedict of Norcia – is a saint of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. Born into the wealthy family of Anicius Eupropius and Claudia Abondantia Reguardati in the Umbrian town of Norcia on 2 March 480, she and her brother were privileged to enjoy all the luxuries with which their parents were pleased to supply them. Both Sts Benedict and Scholastica would eventually exchange this way-of-life for one based on the three counsels of perfection: - poverty, chastity, and obedience.
As they matured, Sts Benedict and Scholastica felt called to a more intense form of religious expression. St Benedict composed a rule for religious which became popular between 550 and 1150. In the Rule, unvarying routine, protection from the outside world, obedience to the abbot, and respect for silence would be its cornerstones.
Similarly, St Scholastica – who spent her life as a consecrated virgin – sought to bring the Rule of St Benedict to the women who would form her immediate monastic sisterhood and to those who still live by it to this day. After her brother established the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino, she took up her abode in the neighbourhood at Plombariola, where she founded and governed a monastery of nuns, about five miles from that of St Benedict, who directed his sister and her nuns throughout their spiritual life. St Scholastica visited her brother annually in the company of some of his brethren at a farmhouse some distance away, as the Constitution of the Order forbade her from entering his monastery. Such visits were spent in prayer and pious conversation. Even though the Constitution of the Order also forbade him from staying a night outside the confines of his monastery, St Scholastica begged her brother to remain with her until the next day because she felt a very strong premonition of her impending death. She prayed so hard about her brother at this moment that a furious thunderstorm occurred so that neither he nor any of his companions could return home. They spent the night in spiritual conferences. The next morning they parted to meet no more on earth. As St Scholastica herself had sensed, she did indeed die three days later, and her holy brother beheld her soul in a vision as it ascended into heaven. He instructed his spiritual brothers to bring her body to his monastery so that it could be laid in the tomb which he had prepared for himself.
Benedictines – male and female – spend their time in liturgical and private prayer, reading, and manual work. Sts Benedict (21 March 547) and Scholastica (10 February 543) are buried at the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Together with the Cistercians, those who lived by the Rule of St Benedict did much to shape the Europe of today through teaching and preaching, living and praying in accordance with a Rule distinguished by its wisdom and balance. Canonised as a Pre-Congregation saint, St Scholastica has as her attributes a crosier and a crucifix, and a dove flying from her mouth. She is the patroness of convulsive children.