Benedict and Scholastica – a Brother / Sister Team
(In this short presentation, Benedict and Scholastica meet at a farmhouse.)
Scholastica: My dear brother, Benedict. It’s good to see you again.
Benedict: I’m so glad to be with you, Scholastica. I’ve really missed you since our last meeting. How are you?
Scholastica: All things considered, I’m doing well for a 63 year old. You know, my heart leaps when I see this farmhouse where we meet once a year. But my walk here to see you seems to get longer every time.
Benedict: I know. The years seem to be taking their toll on me too. We’ve traveled many miles in life since our birth in Italy in 480. Because we’re twins, our lives have been entwined since the very beginning.
The Early Years
Scholastica: Sometimes I like to think back on those early years when we were so close. We did everything together until you went away. I remember when you left to go to school in Rome. The law of the empire required you to do this in order to enter a noble profession. So Father sent you away along with a housekeeper. We were barely in our teens. That’s when I decided to totally dedicate myself to God. So I never married after you left.
Benedict: I think you made a wise decision. I had to learn my lesson the hard way. My school friends and I fell into all kinds of dissolute and shameless behavior. But it’s no wonder that happened. Back then life was so depressing. Everything was in shambles and the barbarian hordes were always at the door. Our whole world was falling apart. And to make matters even worse, Rome itself was like an open sewer, winking at even the worst immorality. Everyone I knew lived a decadent life. So when God showed me how revolting this was in his holy sight, I just had to sneak away. That way father wouldn’t know and my friends couldn’t find me.
Scholastica: I remember that. Father was so angry when he got the news that you ran away from your studies. He was even more furious when he realized that you had taken his servant, the housekeeper, with you to that mountain village outside Rome. But I understood. I knew how you always struggled so I wasn’t surprised when you took the next step and decided to live all by yourself in a cave.
Adventures in Religious Life
Benedict: Oh, that was such a hard time for me. I began to realize that just being away from the temptations of Rome wasn’t enough to satisfy my longing to live a holy life. So I decided to leave the village and my housekeeper to seek complete solitude. That’s when I met a monk named Romanus. He helped me find a cave above the lake and gave me a sheepskin to wear. Every day he put bread in a basket which I lifted up over the rock with a rope.
Scholastica: You may have been alone, but you weren’t obscure for very long. After only three years in that cave your name was known and respected by many. So when the abbot of the neighboring monastery died, the community came and dragged you out of your cave to take his place.
Benedict: Yes, but that didn’t work out too well. The monks started to resent my severe lifestyle and they ended up trying to poison me. But by God’s grace I survived and returned to my cave of solitude.
Scholastica: That experience taught you a valuable lesson that you never forgot. I think you finally came to the conclusion that the religious life is lived out together in community and not in solitude. So you founded twelve monasteries there. But persecution drove you and your followers to move to Monte Cassino. I remember how you built the new monastery on the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Greek god, Apollo. And that’s when I followed you and started a community for women nearby.
Benedict: Yes, then after praying and asking God’s guidance, I finally wrote my famous Rule of Benedict. Originally I wrote it for laypeople so that they could live the type of life that we read about in the Gospels but it has become the model for Benedictine monasteries all over the world in the last 1500 years. In my rule I wrote about the importance of physical labor. I also stressed that the religious life is social at its heart. It can’t be lived out alone. So the rule helped my community learn to live, work, and pray together.
Scholastica: You know, I learned a lot from you that helped me to direct the lives of the spiritual sisters in my own community. I remember you had a monk who often wandered off at prayer time. One of my nuns did the same thing. She would stand outside by herself while the others said prayers and chanted Psalms. One day when I found her standing idle, I simply touched her. This cast out the demon that had lured her away from the prayers of the community.
Benedict: Well, I certainly don’t see any demons here tonight. It’s a perfect evening. Look at the stars shining so brightly in the clear dark sky.
Scholastica: It’s a beautiful night. But our time has passed so quickly and I am afraid.
Benedict: Afraid of what?
Scholastica: Afraid I may never see you again. Please, my dear brother, let us stay here through the night and say goodbye in the morning.
Benedict: God forbid! I can’t break my own rule and stay away overnight. And neither can you.
(Scholastica bows her head in silent prayer)
Benedict: (Shudders in sudden fear.) What on earth was that? Peels of thunder from a cloudless sky? And look, the hail and rain are so thick I can’t even see past the door step. Well, I can’t go back now. I hope God will forgive you for this.
Scholastica: Benedict, I know I will never see you again. I asked you to stay and you didn’t listen to me. I asked God and he understood. So let’s spend this one last night together speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(She looks into his eyes, pauses for a moment, then turns and walks off.)
Rising to Heaven
Benedict: Three days later I was praying alone in my room. In a vision I saw the soul of my dear sister, Scholastica, leave her body and rise up to heaven in the form of a dove. Her body was brought to my monastery and buried in the tomb I had prepared for myself.
That same year, in 543, I prophesied my death to my own community. Six days before I died, I ordered the tomb to be re-opened. Immediately I fell ill with a burning fever and faintness. On the sixth day I asked my fellow monks to carry me to the chapel where I received the Holy Communion. Standing with my hands lifted in prayer, I gave up my spirit to the Lord. The monks lovingly buried me next to my devoted sister, Scholastica. Together we will bask in the eternal glory of God forever.