Joan Chittister: Women and Their Stories

St. Scholastica by Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506)

St. Scholastica by Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506)

“February 10 is the feast day of Saint Scholastica, the twin sister of Saint Benedict. She’s the patron saint of women’s Benedictine contemplative communities.

Saint Benedict had a sister named Scholastica who also dedicated her life to the pursuit of God. She, too, founded monasteries and became an abbatial figure. The only story we have of Scholastica is told when Benedict was already an abbot of renown. The incident demonstrates clearly that the brother and sister were emotionally close and a spiritual influence on each other till the time of her death.

During one of their annual visits, Scholastica, inspired by the depth of their conversation, asked Benedict to remain overnight in the place where they were meeting in order to continue their talk and reflection on spiritual things. Benedict wouldn’t even think of it. It was getting dark; it was time to get back to the monastery; it was time to get on with the regular routine of the spiritual life. Unable to persuade him with words, Scholastica put her head down on the table in deep prayer. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a great storm brought with it flash floods and Benedict realized that he could not possibly return to the monastery that night. And the Dialogues say, “he complained bitterly.” He said, “God forgive you, sister! What have you done?” Scholastica answered simply, “I asked you for a favor and your refused. I asked my God and I got it.”

The story is a vein worth mining for a lifetime.
• It tells us that law is never greater than love
• It tells us to be intent on pursuing the values of the life, not simply its rules
• It tells us that discipline is necessary in the spiritual life but that religious discipline is not enough, that depth is a process and that depth costs
• It tells us that God lurks in strange places. And waits for us. And puts in our paths just what we need in order to become what we are meant to be
• It reminds us that a woman has as much power in the eyes of God as any man and that we must recognize women, too, as spiritual guides.”–Joan Chittister, OSB

From The Radical Christian Life: A Year with Saint Benedict by Joan Chittister (Liturgical Press)

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Jim February 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Thanks for this posting. I had no idea that Scholastica was Benedict’s sister. And…what a wonderful story!

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  • patricia allan February 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    I am so touched by your application of the story of love between Scholastica and Benedict, her twin. Love comes before law. We recently lost one of our twin grandsons to suicide. Our surviving grandson, his twin, is in a searching state of mind and I pray that he will come closer to me and to his grandfather. To be with us, so that we may speak of heaven and of a merciful God. If we can only storm heaven with prayers such as Scholastica did to keep her twim close, we may find the grace to rain down on us. Thank you for the inspiration, you are our umbrella in the storm.

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  • Sister Esther February 8, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for the reflection after the story!

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