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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The sister of the patriarch St. Benedict comes to us to-day, sweetly inviting us to follow her to heaven. Apollonia the martyr is succeeded by Scholastica, the fervent daughter of the cloister. Both of them are the brides of Jesus, both of them wear crowns, for both of them fought hard, and won the palm. Apollonia’s battle was with cruel persecutors, and in those hard times when one had to die to conquer; Scholastica’s combat was the lifelong struggle, whose only truce is the soldier’s dying breath. The martyr and the nun are sisters now in the Heart of Him they both so bravely loved.

God, in His infinite wisdom, gave to St. Benedict a faithful co-operatrix, a sister of such angelic gentleness of character, that she would be a sort of counterpoise to the brother, whose vocation, as the legislator of monastic life, needed a certain dignity of grave and stern resolve. We continually meet with these contrasts in the lives of the saints; and they show us that there is a link, of which flesh and blood know nothing; a link which binds two souls together, gives them power, harmonizes their differences of character, and renders each complete. Thus it is in heaven with the several hierarchies of the angels; a mutual love, which is founded on God Himself, unites them together, and makes them live in the eternal happiness of the tenderest brotherly affection.

Scholastica’s earthly pilgrimage was not a short one; and yet it has left us but the history of the dove, which told the brother, by its flight to heaven, that his sister had reached the eternal home before him. We have to thank St. Gregory the Great for even this much, which he tells us as a sequel to the holy dispute she had with Benedict, three days previous to her death. But how admirable is the portrait thus drawn in St. Gregory’s best style! We seem to understand the whole character of Scholastica:—an earnest simplicity, and a child-like eagerness for what was worth desiring; an affectionate and unshaken confidence in God; a winning persuasiveness, where there was opposition to God’s will, which, when it met such an opponent as Benedict, called on God to interpose, and gained its cause. The old poets tell us strange things about the swan, how sweetly it can sing when dying; how lovely must have been the last notes of the dove of the Benedictine cloister, as she was soaring from earth to heaven!

But how came Scholastica, the humble retiring nun, by that energy, which could make her resist the will of her brother, whom she revered as her master and guide? What was it told her that her prayer was not a rash one, and that what she asked was a higher good than Benedict’s unflinching fidelity to the rule he had written, and which it was his duty to teach by his own observance of it? Let us hear St. Gregory’s answer: 'It is not to be wondered at, that the sister, who wished to prolong her brother’s stay, should have prevailed over him; for, whereas St. John tells us that God is charity, it happened, by a most just judgment, that she that had the stronger love had the stronger power.’

Our season is appropriate for the beautiful lesson taught us by St. Scholastica, fraternal charity. Her example should excite us to the love of our neighbour, that love for which God bids us labour, now that we are intent on giving Him our undivided service, and our complete conversion. The Easter solemnity for which we are preparing, is to unite us all in the grand banquet, where we are all to feast on the one divine Victim of love. Let us have our nuptial garment ready: for He that invites us insists on our having union of heart when we dwell in His house.[1]

The Church has inserted in her Office of this feast the account given by St. Gregory of the last interview between St. Scholastica and St. Benedict. It is as follows:

Ex libro secundo Dialogorum sancti Gregorii Papæ.

Scholastica venerabilis patris Benedicti soror, omnipotenti Domino ab ipso infantiæ tempore dedicata, ad eum semel per annum venire consueverat. Ad quam vir Dei non longe extra januam in possessione monasterii descendebat. Quadam vero die venit ex more, atque ad eam cum discipulis venerabilis ejus descendit frater; qui totum diem in Dei laudibus, sacrisque colloquiis ducentes, incumbentibus jam noctis tenebris, simul accepemnt cibum. Cumque adhuc ad mensam sederent, et inter sacra colloquia tardior se hora protraheret, eadem sanctimonialis femina soror ejus eum rogavit dicens: Quæso te, ut ista nocte me non deseras, ut usquo mane de cœlestis vitæ gaudiis lo quamur. Cui ille respondit: Quid est quod loqueris, soror? manere extra cellam nullatenus possum. Tanta vero erat cœli serenitas, ut nulla in aëre nubes appareret. Sanctimonialis autem femina, cum verba fratris negantis audivisset, insertas digitis manus super mensam posuit, et caput in manibus omnipotentem Dominum rogatura declinavit. Cumque levaret de mensa caput, tanta coruscationis et tonitrui virtus, tantaque inundatio pluviæ erupit, ut neque venerabilis Benedictus, neque fratres qui cum eo aderant, extra loci limen, quo consederant, pedem movere potuerint.

Sanctimonialis quippe femina caput in manibus declinans, lacrymarum fluvium in mensam fuderat, per quas serenitatem aëris ad pluviam traxit. Nec paulo tardiua post orationem inundatio illa secuta est: sed tanta fuit convenientia orationis et inundationis, ut de mensa caput jam cum tonitruo levaret: quatenus unum idemque esset momentum, et levare caput, et pluviam deponere. Tunc vir Dei inter coruscos, et tonitruos, atque ingentis pluviæ inundationem, videns se ad monasterium non posse remeare, cœpit conqueri contristatus, dicens: Parcat tibi omnipotens Deus, soror, quid est quod fecisti? Cui illa respondit: Ecce rogavi te, et audire me noluisti; rogavi Deum meum, et audivit me: modo ergo, si potes, egredere, et me dimissa, ad monasterium recede. Ipse autem exire extra tectum non valens, qui remanere sponte noluit, in loco mansit invitus. Sicque factum est, ut totam noctem pervigilem ducerent, atque per sacra spiritalis vitæ colloquia, sese vicaria relatione satiarent.

Cumque die altero eadem venerabilis femina ad cellam propriam recessisset, vir Dei ad monasterium rediit. Cum ecce post triduum in cella consistens, elevatis in aëra oculis, vidit ejusdem sororis suæ animam de corpore egressam, in columbæ specie cœli secreta penetrare. Qui tantæ ejus gloriæ congaudens, omnipotenti Deo in hymnis et laudibus gratias reddidit, ejusque obitura fratribus denuntiavit. Quos etiam protinus misit, ut ejus corpus ad monasterium deferrent, atque in sepulchro, quod sibi ipsi paraverat, ponerent. Quo facto, contigit ut quorum mens una semper in Deo fuerat, eorum quoque corpora nec sepultura separaret.
From the second book of the Dialogues of St. Gregory, Pope.

Scholastica was the sister of the venerable father Benedict. She had been consecrated to almighty God from her very infancy, and was accustomed to visit her brother once a year. The man of God came down to meet her at a house belonging to the monastery, not far from the gate. It was the day for the usual visit, and her venerable brother came down to her accompanied by some of his brethren. The whole day was spent in the praises of God and holy conversation, and at night fall they took their repast together. While they were at table, and it grew late as they conferred with each other on sacred things, the holy nun thus spoke to her brother: ‘I beseech thee, stay the night with me, and let us talk till morning on the joys of heaven.’ He replied: ‘What is this thou sayest, sister? On no account may I remain out of the monastery.’ The evening was so fair, that not a cloud could be seen in the sky. When, therefore, the holy nun heard her brother’s refusal, she clasped her hands together, and resting them on the table, she hid her face in them, and made a prayer to the God of all power. As soon as she raised her head from the table, there came down so great a storm of thunder and lightning, and rain, that neither the venerable Benedict, nor the brethren who were with him, could set foot outside the place where they were sitting.

The holy virgin had shed a flood of tears as she leaned her head upon the table, and the cloudless sky poured down the wished-for rain. The prayer was said, the rain fell in torrents; there was no interval; but so closely on each other were prayer and rain, that the storm came as she raised her head. Then the man of God, seeing that it was impossible to reach his monastery amidst all this lightning, thunder, and rain, was sad, and said complainingly: 'God forgive thee, sister! What hast thou done?’ But she replied: 'I asked thee a favour, and thou wouldst not hear me; I asked it of my God, and he granted it. Go now, if thou canst, to the monastery, and leave me here!’ But it was not in his power to stir from the place; so that he who would not stay willingly, had to stay unwillingly, and spend the whole night with his sister, delighting each other with their questions and answers about the secrets of the spiritual life.

On the morrow, the holy woman returned to her monastery, and the man of God to his. When lo! three days after, he was in his cell; and raising his eyes, he saw the soul of his sister going up to heaven, in the shape of a dove. Full of joy at her being thus glorified, he thanked his God in hymns of praise, and told the brethren of her death. He straightway bade them go and bring her body to the monastery; which having done, he had it buried in the tomb he had prepared for himself. Thus it was that, as they had ever been one soul in God, their bodies were united in the same grave.

We select the following from the monastic Office for the feast of our saint:

Responsories and Antiphons

R. Alma Scholastica, sanctissimi patris Benedicti soror, * Ab ipso infantiætempore omnipotenti Domino dedicata, viam justitiæ non deseruit.
V. Laudate pueri Dominum, laudate nomen Domini. * Ab ipso infantiæ.

R.
Exemplo vitæ venerabilis, et verbo sanctæ prædicationis informari cupiens, ad eum semel in anno venire consueverat: * Et eam vir Dei doctrinis cœlestibus instruebat.
V. Beatus qui audit verba ipsius, et servat ea quæ scripta sunt. * Et eam.

R.
Sancta virgo Scholastica, quasi hortus irriguus,* Gratiarum cœlestium jugi rore perfundebatur.
V. Sicut fons aquarum, cujus non deficient aquæ. * Gratiarum.

R.
Desideriuin cordis ejus tribuit ei Dominus: * A quo obtinuit quod a fratre obtinere non potuit.
V. Bonus est Dominus omnibus sperantibus in eum, animæ quærenti illum. * A quo obtinuit.

R.
Moram faciente Sponso, ingemiscebat Scholastica dicens: * Quis dabit mihi pennas sicut columbæ, et volabo et requiescam?
V. En dilectus meus loquitur mihi: Surge, amica mea, et veni. * Quis dabit.

R
. In columbæ specie Scholasticæ anima visa est, fraterna mens lætata est hymnis et immensis laudibus: * Benedictus sit talis exitus, multo magis talis introitus!
V. Totus cœlesti gaudio perfusus remansit pater Benedictus. * Benedictus.

R
. Anima Scholasticæ ex arca corporis instar columbæ egressa, portans ramum olivæ, signum pacis et gratiæ. * In cœlos evolavit.
V. Quæ cum non inveniret ubi requiesceret pes ejus. * In cœlos evolavit.

Ant. Exsultet omnium turba fidelium pro gloria Virginis almæ Scholasticæ: lætentur præcipue catervæ virginum, celebrantes ejus solemnitatem, quæ fundens lacrymas, Dominum rogavit, et ab eo plus potuit, quia plus amavit.

Ant. Hodie sacra virgo Scholastica in specie columbae, ad æthera tota festiva perrexit: hodie cœlestis vitæ gaudiis cum fratre suo meretur perfrui in sempiternum.
R. The venerable Scholastica, the sister of the most holy father Benedict, * Being from her very infancy consecrated to almighty God, never left the path of righteousness.
V. O ye children, praise the Lord; praise ye the name of the Lord. * Being.

R.
Anxious to be trained by the saintly life and the words of his holy teaching, she used to visit him once a year: * And the man of God instructed her in heavenly doctrine.
V. Blessed is he that heareth Benedict’s words, and keepeth those things which he hath written. * And.

R.
The holy virgin Scholastica like a watered garden, * Was enriched with the ceaseless dew of heaven’s graces.
V. Like a fountain of water whose stream shall not fail. * Was enriched.

R.
The Lord granted her the desire of her heart: * And from him she obtained what her brother refused.
V. The Lord is good to all them that trust in him, to the soul that seeketh him. * And.

R
. The Bridegroom tarrying, Scholastica moaned, saying: * Who will give me the wings of a dove, and I will fly and take my rest?
V. Lo! my beloved speaketh unto me: Arise, my love, and come. * Who will.

R.
Scholastica’s soul was seen in the form of a dove, and the brother’s glad heart sang hymns and praises beyond measure: * Blessed be such a departure, and still more blessed such an entrance!
V. Father Benedict was filled with heavenly joy. * Blessed.

R.
Scholastica’s soul went forth, like a dove, from the ark of her body, bearing an olive branch, the sign of peace and grace. * She took her flight to heaven.
V. She found not whereon to rest her feet. * She took.

Ant. Let all the assembly of the faithful rejoice at the glory of the venerable virgin Scholastica; but above the rest, let the choirs of virgins be glad, as they celebrate the feast of her who besought her Lord with many tears, and had more power with him, because she had more love.

Ant. On this day, the holy virgin Scholastica took her flight, in the shape of a dove, all joyfully to heaven: on this day she is enjoying, with her brother, the eternal joys of the heavenly life she so well deserves.

The same Benedictine breviary gives us these two hymns for this feast:

Hymn

Te beata sponsa Christi,
Te columba virginum,
Siderum tollunt coloni
Laudibus, Scholastica:
Nostra te lætis salutant
Vocibus præcordia.

Sceptra mundi cum coronis
Docta quondam spernere,
Dogma fratris insecuta
Atque sanctæ regulæ,
Ex odore gratiarum,
Astra nosti quærere.

O potens virtus amoris!
O decus victoriæ!
Dum fluentis lacrymarum
Cogis imbres currere,
Ore Nursini parentis
Verba cœli suscipis.

Luce fulges expetita
In polorum vertice,
Clara flammis charitatis
Cum nitore gratiæ:
Juncta Sponso conquiescis
In decore gloriæ.

Nunc benigna pelle nubes
Cordibus fidelium,
Ut serena fronte splendens
Sol perennis luminis,
Sempiternæ claritatis
Impleat nos gaudiis.

Gloriam Patri canamus
Unicoque Filio;
Par tributum proferamus
Inclyto Paraclito,
Nutibus cujus creantur,
Et reguntur sæcula.

Amen.
O Scholastica, blessed bride of Christ!
O dove of the cloister!
the citizens of heaven proclaim thy merits,
and we, too, sing thy praises
with joyful hymns
and loving hearts.

Thou didst scorn
the honours and glory of the world;
thou didst follow the teaching of thy brother
and his holy rule;
and, rich in the fragrance of every grace,
thou caredst for heaven alone.

Oh I what power was in thy love,
and how glorious thy victory,
when thy tears drew rain from the skies,
and forced the patriarch of Nursia
to tell thee what he knew
of the land above!

And now thou shinest
in heaven’s longed for light;
thou art as a seraph in thy burning love,
beautiful in thy bright grace;
and united with thy divine Spouse,
thou art reposing in the splendour of glory.

Have pity on us the faithful of Christ,
and drive from us the miseries
which cloud our hearts;
that thus the Sun of light eternal
may sweetly shine upon us,
and fill us with the joys of his everlasting beams.

Let us sing a hymn of glory to the Father,
and to his only Son;
let us give an equal homage of our praise
to the blessed Paraclete:
yea, to God, the Creator and Ruler of all,
be glory without end.

Amen.

Hymn

Jam noctis umbræ concidunt,
Dies cupita nascitur,
Qua virgini Scholasticæ
Sponsus perennis jungitur.

Brumæ recedit tædium,
Fugantur imbres nubibus,
Vernantque campi siderum
Æternitatis fiori bus.

Amoris auctor evocat,
Dilecta pennas induit;
Ardens ad oris oscula
Columba velox evolat.

Quam pulchra gressum promoves,
O chara proles Principis!
Nursinus Abbas aspicit,
Grates rependit Nummi.

Amplexa Sponsi dextera,
Metit coronas debitas,
Immersa rivis gloriæ,
Deique pota gaudiis.

Te, Christe, flos convallium,
Patremque cum Paraclito,
Cunctos per orbis cardines
Adoret omne sæculum.

Amen.
The shades of night are passing away:
the longed-for day is come,
when the virgin Scholastica
is united to her God, her Spouse.

Winter’s tedious gloom is over;
the rainy clouds are gone;
and the Spring of the starry land
yields its eternal flowers.

The God of love bids his beloved come;
and she, taking the wings of a dove,
flies swiftly to the embrace
so ardently desired.

How beautiful is thy soaring,
dear daughter of the King!
Thy brother, the abbot, sees thee,
and fervently thanks his God.

Scholastica receives the embrace of her Spouse,
and the crown her works have won;
inebriated with the torrent of glory,
she drinks of the joys of her Lord.

May the world-wide creation
of every age adore thee,
O Jesus, sweet Flower of the vale,
together with the Father and the Holy Ghost.

Amen.

Dear bride of the Lamb! Innocent and simple dove! How rapid was thy flight to thy Jesus, when called home from thine exile! Thy brother’s eye followed thee for an instant, and then heaven received thee, with a joyous welcome from the choirs of the angels and saints. Thou art now at the very source of that love, which here filled thy soul, and gained thee everything thou askedst of thy divine Master. Drink of this fount of life to thy heart’s eternal content. Satiate the ambition taught thee by thy brother in his rule, when he says that we must ‘desire heaven with all the might of our spirit.’[2] Feed on that sovereign Beauty, who Himself feeds, as He tells us, among the lilies.[3]

But forget not this lower world, which was to thee, what it is to us, a place of trial for winning heavenly honours. During thy sojourn here, thou wast the dove in the clefts of the rock,[4] as the Canticle describes a soul like thine own; there was nothing on this earth which tempted thee to spread thy wings in its pursuit, there was nothing worthy of the love which God had put in thy heart. Timid before men, and simple as innocence ever is, thou knewest not that thou hadst wounded the Heart of the Spouse.[5] Thy prayers were made to Him with all the humility and confidence of a soul that had never been disloyal; and He granted thee thy petitions with the promptness of tender love: so that thy brother, the venerable saint, who was accustomed to see nature obedient to his command, was overcome by thee in that contest, wherein thy simplicity was more penetrating than his profound wisdom.

And who was it, O Scholastica, that gave thee this sublime knowledge, and made thee, on that day of thy last visit, wiser than the great patriarch, who was raised up in the Church to be the living rule of them that are called to perfection? It was the same God, who chose Benedict to be one of the pillars of the religious state, but who wished to show that a holy and pure and tender charity is dearer to Him than the most scrupulous fidelity to rules, which are only made for leading men to what thou hadst already attained. Benedict, himself such a lover of God, knew all this; the subject so dear to thy heart was renewed, and brother and sister were soon lost in the contemplation of that infinite Beauty, who had just given such a proof that He would have thee neglect all else. Thou wast ripe for heaven, O Scholastica! Creatures could teach thee no more love of thy Creator; He would take thee to Himself. A few short hours more, and the divine Spouse would speak to thee those words of the ineffable Canticle, which the holy Spirit seems to have dictated for a soul like thine: 'Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! Show me thy face; let thy voice sound in mine ears; for thy voice is sweet, and comely is thy face.’[6]

Thou hast left us, O Scholastica! but do not forget us. Our souls have not the same beauty in the eyes of our God as thine, and yet they are called to the same heaven. It may be that years are still needed to fit them for the celestial abode, where we shall see thy grand glory. Thy prayer drew down a torrent of rain upon the earth; let it now be offered for us, and obtain for us tears of repentance. Thou couldst endure no conversation which had not eternity for its subject; give us a disgust for useless and dangerous talk, and a relish for hearing of God and of heaven. Thy heart had mastered the secret of fraternal charity, yea of that affectionate charity which is so well-pleasing to our Lord; soften our hearts to the love of our neighbour, banish from them all coldness and indifference, and make us love one another as God would have us love.

Dear dove of holy solitude! remember the tree, whose branches gave thee shelter here on earth. The Benedictine cloister venerates thee, not only as the sister, but also as the daughter of its sainted patriarch. Cast thine eye upon the remnants of that tree, which was once so vigorous in its beauty and its fruits, and under whose shadow the nations of the west found shelter for so many long ages. Alas! the hack and hew of impious persecutions have struck its root and branches. Every land of Europe, as well as our own, sits weeping over the ruins. And yet, root and branches, both must needs revive; for we know that it is the will of thy divine Spouse, O Scholastica, that the destinies of this venerable tree keep pace with those of the Church herself. Pray that its primitive vigour be soon restored; protect, with thy maternal care, the tender buds it is now giving forth; cover them from the storm; bless them; make them worthy of the confidence wherewith the Church deigns to honour them!

 


[1] Ps. lxvii. 7.
[2] Ch. iv., Instrument 46.
[3] Cant. ii. 16.
[4] Ibid., 14.
[5] Ibid., iv. 9.
[6] Cant. ii. 10, 14.