For All the Saints: Scholastica

It is easy to dismiss as legend the one and only chestnut we usually read about St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict: That she prayed to God to be allowed to talk longer with her brother; that God rewarded her with a lightning storm that forced the siblings to spend the night together in spiritual conversation; and that three days later, when his sister died, Benedict had a vision of a dove rising to heaven. Just another Catholic legend, right?

But wait. Consider the source. “Almost everything we know about Saint Scholastica comes from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great.” Gregory is a Doctor of the Church, one of the great Catholics in all of history, and he was born (540 AD) three years before the death of St. Scholastica. Gregory was born in Rome, about 90 miles from the place of Scholastica’s death in or near Montecassino, site of Benedict’s first monastery. Montecassino is on a road south from Rome, effectively en route to Sicily, where Gregory’s father had extensive land holdings. Gregory himself became a Benedictine monk and abbot before becoming Pope.

If the final days of St. Scholastica are “only legend,” then they are not legends like Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox Babe. They are more like a family story told by one generation, who saw the events, to the next generation, eager to learn—young and impressionable maybe, but hardly gullible or stupid.

Witnesses testified that when Joan of Arc died at the stake about 900 years after Scholastica’s death, a dove flew out of the flames. Another legend, right? Except that no life of a saint is more documented than Joan’s.

These things interest me as the older brother of four sisters and the father of two grown daughters. I am always deeply impressed by the reverence my Church shows for great women of faith. In the story of the lightning storm, God was on Scholastica’s side, not that of her older, more powerful brother.

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

Leonard Nimoy Explains The Origin Of ..."
"Thank you for sharing"

To Break My Fast from Being ..."
"I've seen Matt Maher live four times...twice since this song was released. I absolutely love ..."

WYD Flashback With Matt Maher, And ..."
"Yes, and Dolan should have corrected the scandalous and wrong decison of his predecessor when ..."

Archdiocese of New York Health Plan ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Webster Bull

    In his homily on St. Scholastica this morning, Father Barnes said that in first grade at parochial school, his nun teacher told the class that she and her sisters always prayed to St. Scholastica for a snow day on February 10. FB that was to be was shocked! "I thought the nuns liked school!" Seems that someone is praying to St. S today in Beverly, because a storm is coming and our religious ed class for this afternoon has already been cancelled.

  • St. Scholatica answered many prayers today. ALL the Catholic schools in our region are closed. I heard that even the archdiocese of NY is closed! Thank you St. Scholastica for a day of reprieve from school, and a morning to lounge around as the blizzard hits our hamlet.

  • Thank God for St. Scholastica; I have a free afternoon of personal reflections. No work.

  • Anonymous

    What perfect timing for a snowstorm!

  • Brian

    St. Scholastica is the saint featured for February on our Catholic calendar. The story you reference above is also on the calendar, and I thought it was a great story!Interestingly, at the March for Life this year, the person standing next to me in the crowd had the name of Scholastica. She is the only person I have met so far with this name!

  • Webster Bull

    The joke here in Beverly late Wednesday afternoon is that St. Scholastica laid an egg: The great storm wasn't! This morning, with a blizzard still in the forecast, Adoration was canceled today and tomorrow, and religious ed class was canceled his afternoon. And all for a pathetic little windstorm with some frozen rain hanging off of it. . . . Somewhere St. Benedict is laughing and teasing his kid sister.

  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed this post. Sometimes legend becomes mixed with truth, but I appreciate your point that we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss particular stories because they don't stand up to "critical" analysis. Our Catholic forbearers were much more intelligent and capable than we give them credit for.

  • Maria

    Webster:If you no longer see my posts, I have died in the snow in Baltimore. My electricity went out. I said a rosary/glorious mysteries. Before I was done, the lights came back on. I know. No dove though.

  • Webster Bull

    Maria, Still no snow to speak of north of Boston. You poor mid-Atlantic folks took the brunt of it. And my daughter in North Carolina. I'm sure when your time really comes, there will be a dove.

  • Maria

    Webster: LOL. I have never in all my, ahem ,years seen ANYTHING like this. We are now prisoners. God likes reminding who us in charge.

  • Webster Bull

    Maria, In Boston, we will always have our "Blizzard of 78," the storm of the century. Today? Pfffft. St. Scholastica must have been busy in Baltimore & Washington.