My two patron saints: Saint Scholastica and Saint Veronica

Today, I’m grateful for my beloved patron saints! Yes, I’ve decided I have two of them 😉 and I’ll explain why…

The first is the saint I chose for my confirmation saint, Saint Scholastica. She was the twin sister of Saint Benedict, and according to Saint Gregory the Great, she was “as devoted to Christ as she was to her brother.”

Saint Scholastica

I come from a family who valued the son, my brother, more than the daughters, and I grew up in an environment where the thoughts and aspirations of my sisters and I were given short shrift. We were raised in the culture described in this article.

Men interrupt women, speak over them, and discount their contributions to a discussion with surprising regularity.

…Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical. We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse, and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.

I routinely find myself in mixed-gender environments (life) where men interrupt me. Now that I’ve decided to try and keep track, just out of curiosity, it’s quite amazing how often it happens. It’s particularly pronounced when other men are around.

…A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

This is something I’ve struggled against my whole life — an environment and culture that dismisses and belittles women and their work. So many scholars and scientists and artists never acknowledged, their contributions ignored or appropriated by men. And Saint Scholastica?

Unlike her brother, Saint Scholastica was never the subject of a formal biography. As such, little is known of her life apart from her commitment to religious life which paralleled that of her brother.

But rather than harboring grievances and bitterness, I’ve always believed women need to assert themselves in a different manner than men, create a different and more loving, inclusive culture than the one we now inhabit. It is said that Saint Scholastica was “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.” Saint Scholastica is often depicted with a dove, a symbol of her gentle compassion, and of her departing, recounted here:

Scholastica used to come once a year to visit Benedict, at a house situated halfway between the two communities.

Saint Benedict’s biographer recounted a story which is frequently told about the last such visit between the siblings. They passed the time as usual in prayer and pious conversation – after which Scholastica begged her brother to remain for the night, but he refused.

She then joined her hands together, laid them on the table and bowed her head upon them in supplication to God. When she lifted her head from the table, immediately there arose such a storm that neither Benedict nor his fellow monks could leave.

“Seeing that he could not return to his abbey because of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain,” Pope Gregory wrote, “the man of God became sad and began to complain to his sister, saying, ‘God forgive you, what have you done?'”

“‘I wanted you to stay, and you wouldn’t listen,’ she answered. ‘I have asked our good Lord, and He graciously granted my request, so if you can still depart, in God’s name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone.'” Saint Benedict had no choice but to stay and speak to his sister all night long about spiritual matters – including the kingdom of heaven for which she would soon depart.

Three days later in the year 543, in a vision Benedict saw the soul of his sister, departed from her body and in the likeness of a dove, ascend into heaven. He rejoiced with hymns and praise, giving thanks to God. His monks brought her body to his monastery and buried it in the grave that he had provided for himself. Saint Benedict followed her soon after, and was buried in the same grave with his sister.

So, at Easter Vigil, Saint Scholastica and her brother, Saint Benedict, were added to our prayer of the Litany of the Saints. It is not surprising that she was more effective than he. Since as John says, God is love, it was absolutely right that she could do more, as she loved more.”

green leaf

Right before the Easter Vigil, I privately chose a second patron saint as well, because Father instructed me, as penance at my first confession, to “pray to Saint Veronica”. He said that Saint Veronica could show me how to bravely step out from the crowd to offer compassion to others. Such a beautiful talk Father had with me about her, and such a moving penance he gave me!

Saint Veronica

I’ve grown very fond of Saint Veronica, and often pray to her now, as well as to Saint Scholastica. And both these saints are such wonderful examples of compassion and gentleness, and especially of selfless work for others, relying on God as their all.

My Saint Veronica medal.

My Saint Veronica medal.

A Beautiful Saint honored today

I was so moved by the story of today’s saint that I thought I’d post a link to his biography. Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was very humble, died fairly young, and is the patron saint of young people, students and clerics. Unfortunately most of his writings were destroyed, as he requested from his deathbed. A short biographical passage from the Catholic Culture website:

[Saint Gabriel joined] the Passionists, a religious congregation dedicated to the veneration of and meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ [in 1856].

After overcoming many difficulties, he carried out his resolution and received the religious name, Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows. Even as a novice, he was regarded as a model of perfect holiness both within and beyond the cloister.

Saint Gabriel did not stand out from his community in any extraordinary way — his heroism lay in his obedient attitude. He conformed himself to his community in complete humility. Little is known of his life — only that he was blessed with an excellent memory and other gifts that made him an outstanding student. He also had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary. Pius X and Leo XIII especially desired that he be the patron saint of young people and novices in religious orders, as their model in the interior life. He died in the year 1862.

And here is a lovely quote from him about Our Lady:

Love Mary! …She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity.

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

“I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God’s Holy Will, not my own.”

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Loving and despising the world

How interesting that both the reading for December 30 and the saint celebrated on this day speak to the same virtue: despising the things of this world. How do we reconcile loving God’s creation, recognizing that He proclaimed it “Good”, and the call to despise the world?

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

1 John 2: 15-17

I studied and meditated on a very similar virtue in Buddhism, called nekkhamma, often translated as “renunciation”. It is the active renouncing, or letting go, of whatever binds us to what causes our suffering. I think the same thing is meant by John above. Renunciation is not meant to cause suffering, but just the opposite! Grasping at “the world and its enticement” is what will cause us to suffer, precisely because it is transitory, “passing away”, and can never fulfill our real desire! It can entice us, and in our frailty we can lust after the things of this world, but soon enough we find how empty it all is, and how much we still suffer. If we obtained what we desired, we desire more, and if we didn’t, how miserable we are!

We’re meant to love and enjoy this beautiful creation God has given us, but not attach ourselves to it, and make it the goal, the object of our desires. That leads instead to the ugliness and misery of sin. Separated from God, racing after these created things cannot bring us happiness, and even worldly philosophers recognized this. Renouncing this depressing, hopeless quest will bring us what we seek.

We will realize the truth that Saint Augustine spoke, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” We’ll discover that this world is the reflection, the brief flicker, of the beauty and glory of what will be revealed to us in the world to come, the wondrous gift to “whoever does the will of God…”

bubble

Butler’s Lives of the Saints speaks beautifully about renouncing the transitory enticement of the things of this world, in the context of the biography of today’s saints, Sabinus and his companions, who were martyred in the year 303:

How powerfully do the martyrs cry out to us by their example, exhorting us to despise a false and wicked world! What have all the philosophers and princes found by all their researches and efforts in quest of happiness in it! They only fell from one precipice into another. Departing from its true center they sought it in every other object, but in their pursuits only wandered further and further from it. A soul can find no rest in creatures. How long then shall we suffer ourselves to be seduced in their favor! be always deceived, yet always ready to deceive ourselves again! How long shall we give false names to objects round about us, and imagine a virtue in them which they have not! Is not the experience of near six thousand years enough to undeceive us! Let the light of heaven, the truths of the gospel, shine upon us, and the illusions of the world and our senses will disappear. But were the goods and evils of the world real, they can have no weight if they are compared with eternity. They are contemptible, because transient and momentary. In this light the martyrs viewed them.

How I love the beauty of this world, especially because I live in such a beautiful corner of it! 🙂

And, at the end of another year, realizing how transitory is my allotted time here, how much more do I love this wondrous world, knowing now that it is a promise of the splendor and glory to come…

The Communion of Saints

Tonight’s RCIA class was great fun! We discussed the Saints, the process of becoming a saint (step 1: you have to be dead… 🙂 and Catholic devotions in general (scapulars, rosaries, saints medals and medallions). And we played a Jeopardy-type game with the categories: popes, saints, canonization, patron saints 1, and patron saints 2. We had two teams: the “Benedictines” and the “Jesuits”, I was in the latter, and my team won. Yay!

Tonight’s leader also played a recording of the Litany of the Saints, but it was a modern version that I didn’t like quite as much as the older, Latin version:

Next week we talk about the Virgin Mary. Can’t wait!

I’m hoping to write more often now that things have calmed down after Thanksgiving. I’ve still so much to write about from the past few weeks of RCIA classes, so heads up, lots more posts coming! 🙂