This morning we celebrate the patron saint of nuns, Saint Scholastica. She was born in central Italy sometime in the late fifth century. Her twin brother was Saint Benedict of Nursia.
Scholastica and Benedict were not only twins, they also shared a beautiful lifelong friendship. The religious communities they each founded separately were just a few miles from each other. Scholastica, however, was forbidden by rule to set foot inside of Benedict’s monastery. So once a year, Scholastica and Benedict would arrange to meet in a farmhouse just outside the monastery grounds.
Scholastica and Benedict would use this yearly meeting to pray together and discuss the issues of their lives as religious. There are many beautiful works of art portraying this yearly reunion. I spent the retreat day yesterday praying with some. I noticed that the one thing that nearly all these works of art have in common is that Benedict and Scholastica are always face to face, fully engaged in their conversation. My personal favorite example of this was from a fresco in a Benedictine monastery in Germany. In this fresco, the twins are seated at a table with a Bible and a skull in between them. They are both leaning over the Bible and skull with their hands and faces expressive in mid conversation. You get the feeling that they are both trying to squeeze out as much as they can from their one day a year together.
So what can we learn from this beautiful friendship rooted in God between Scholastica and Benedict? I will name three things:
One, a friendship rooted in God is timeless. I think we have all had the experience of not seeing a friend for many years but when you finally do see them, it feels like no time has passed. It’s a wonderful feeling of timelessness and I think Scholastica and Benedict felt this way when they saw each other each year.
Two, a friendship rooted in God has stamina. Every relationship over time has its peaks and valleys and I think it’s safe to say Scholastica and Benedict’s friendship was no different. The fact that they met every year for their entire lives shows how their friendship was able to endure through the ups and downs we are all subject to.
Third and finally, a friendship rooted in God gives us a foretaste of heaven. The yearly reuniting of Scholastica and Benedict is just a sample of the joyful banquet that awaits all of us in the communion of saints. The joy we will feel being reunited with our loved ones is simply beyond our understanding.
So today let us pray with Saint Scholastica and her Brother Benedict, and give thanks for the joys of friendship. Amen.
“A great deal of our politics, our ecclesiastical life, often our personal life as well, is dominated by the assumption that everything would be all right, if only some people would go away.” – Rowan Williams, The Way of Benedict
Of course, other people are not going to “go away”! But there has been, throughout history, this continual assumption, at least in politics, that if you gain enough power, you can effectively make these other people whom you dislike or fear, disappear, through systematically disempowering them, disenfranchising them, or at the most extreme, ethnically cleansing them. For the Christian, all such attempts to make other people “go away,” are essentially sinful and a gross abuse of power. For the Christian, every single person is a beloved child of God “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). For the Christian, power and authority are given to us by God in trust, for the building of God’s Kingdom on earth. In God’s Kingdom everyone is important, because our faith teaches us to see the face of Jesus in the face of every person, however unlike me they are. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).