SAINT BENEDICT’S HOLY SISTER,
THE ABBESS SCHOLASTICA
St. Benedict, as we mentioned earlier, had a twin sister, Scholastica, who had been consecrated to God from infancy. It was her custom, once a year, to make a pilgrimage to the monastery to see Father Benedict the Abbot. The man of God did not bring her into his cell, but would go down to meet her at a monastery holding not far from the gate. On that property was a house, where the saint would come. Their mountainside meeting place was actually half the distance between her monastery at Plumbariola, some three miles distant, and the men’s monastery. She arrived with a few of her nuns, just as Father Benedict was coming through the gate. For this particular visit, he also came with a few of his disciples. When the siblings were together, one could easily see a striking resemblance between the two, now in their sixty-seventh year. Their monastic habits were also the same, since her garb was modeled after that which her brother had established at Monte Cassino; a dark wool tunic with scapular and belt. On her head she also wore a coarse black veil. There was a great affection between them. They were now the sole survivors of their family. “You are grieved about something,” she said to her brother. He remarked, “I was thinking of our sixty-seven years. This century has been a troubled one; but there shall be more wars and suffering, far greater in magnitude.
Brother and sister then conversed about the spiritual life. They also gave praise to God as they chanted. When darkness set in, tables were set in different chambers; one for monks, one for nuns and one for the abbot and abbess. Benedict and Scholastica took their meal together and conversed at table until it was late. After they finished eating, Father Benedict rose up and made ready to leave. Scholastica then said, “Tarry longer, my brother. Let us keep talking about the joys of heaven until morning.” Benedict looked out the window at the sky. It was very clear, without a cloud in sight. He then said to her, “But you would not have me break the monastic rule, sister, would you? The sun has set; you must see that, I ought not to be away from the monastery at night. She then asked, “Could you give yourself a dispensation this one time? I am no longer young and my earthly sojourn shall soon come to an end. Do me this favor.” He then asked, “And set a bad example for my monks” She quickly answered, “no, of course not. Let them stay also. We should al l wish to hear you converse about God for the rest of the night.” He asked, “The whole night? What are you saying? There is time enough not only for me and the brothers to reach Monte Cassino, but also for your return to Plumbariola. Come now, walk with me to the gate.
She made no response. She then joined her hands and placed them on the table before her. She rested her head upon then and engaged in earnest prayer and shedding an abundance of tears. Benedict looked at her and became uneasy. What is she doing?” he thought. Suddenly, as she looked up again at him, there came a burst of lighting and the crashing sound of thunder that shook the house. These phenomenon were accompanied by such a downpour of rain that Benedict and the brothers could not even step outside. A cloudless sky a few moments earlier was now the scene of torrential rains and violent winds, accompanied by more thunder and lightning. Father Benedict had never seen such a fearful storm. By shedding a flood of tears as she prayed to the Almighty, this holy nun darkened the sky with heavy rains. The storm began precisely when she finished her prayer. The two coincided so closely that the thunder was already resounding, even as she was raising her head from the table. When she lifted her head completely, the rains came.
The storm was terrible. Father Benedict perceived he could not return to the abbey, without introducing grave peril to his monks. He then gazed at his sister. He was upset and complained, saying, “May Almighty God forgive you, sister! What have you done?” She gave him a simple reply: “When I appealed to you, you would not listen to me. So I appealed to my God and he heard my prayer. Leave now if you can. Leave me behind and return to your monastery.” But he was unable to leave. He was made to stay there against his will, since he refused to stay there voluntarily. As a result, they kept vigil that night, from which both derived great spiritual benefit from the holy thoughts they exchanged regarding the interior life.