July 11th marks the feast of Saint Benedict in the Catholic liturgical calendar. He is a 5th-6th century abbot and monk. Benedict created the Benedictine Rule that is the foundation of the entire monastic life in the Church as we now know it.
While I’ve never had a particularly strong devotion to him, I do remember my high school youth minister talking about him and his sister Saint Scholastica.
These two saintly siblings had a solid, friendly relationship. When I learned about this in high school youth group, I certainly never thought of my siblings and I ever having strong friendships with one another as adults.
Even though I was near adulthood myself at the time, all I could really think about was that my older sister still seemed to want to ditch me to hang out with her own friends. My younger sister and I seemed to have less and less in common by the day. Even my younger brother annoyed the living daylights out of me on a regular basis.
I don’t know if Saints Benedict and Scholastica ever had struggles like these. But I do know that, even if their everyday holiness is still quite a ways beyond where most of us are, the friendship they shared is probably not.
Benedict’s early, lonely pursuits
As a young man, Benedict went to Rome for educational purposes. He was dismayed at the hedonistic lifestyle of his fellow students, and he felt the need to flee from that environment.
He soon began living the life of a hermit. Benedict’s reputation for holiness spread. Some other monks asked him to lead their orders. But when Benedict’s ways proved to be too strict for them, they actually attempted to poison him.
He soon had another set of followers, but these men, too, were not up to the task of following his holy ways. The holy monk had to leave their company when an envious fellow-hermit began attacking him.
It wasn’t until he founded his legendary monastery at Monte Casino (that would set the foundation for monastic life in the Church!) that he found peace.
Scholastica’s similar, holy pursuits
Not as much is known about Scholastica as about her brother. Even less is known about their childhood together. However, most sources agree that she dedicated herself to God when she was young. Scholastica settled in religious life about five miles from her brother’s Monte Casino monastery.
While the rules of their religious life did not allow the siblings to visit often, Benedict would visit his sister once per year. They would spend much time praying together and discussing spiritual matters.
Legend has it that the last time they ever met before Scholastica’s death, she asked her brother to remain for the night and not return to his monastery. He refused, and she prayed — which then brought about a huge thunderstorm too treacherous for Benedict to travel through.
Scholastica died three days after this meeting, and Benedict buried her in his monastery.
Can Catholic singles imitate these saintly siblings today?
Our first impulse might be to answer no. These were two exceptionally holy people after all! One of them developed an entire way of life that the Church was to perpetuate to this day.
But once we get past that initial feeling of unattainability, I think there is a lot we can do to try to have holy and fulfilling sibling relationships like theirs.
We often overlook our siblings as legitimate sources of friendship and community, especially during our seasons of singleness. It can be easy to think only of the squabbles and immaturity of our youth, like I was guilty of.
But today, I have a fairly solid relationship with my siblings. Our relationships are definitely not perfect or close to as saintly as Benedict and Scholastica’s by any means, but they’re good. When I look back on exactly how that happened, I think a lot of it was God’s grace. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help make it happen.
Take the first step
If you want a good relationship with your siblings, one concrete step you can take is to pray for that relationship. You might even consider asking Saints Benedict and Scholastic to intercede for this intention for you.
But there are other concrete things you can do as well. If your siblings are practicing the Catholic faith at all, you instantly have something in common with them – despite what other aspects of your lives might differ. Try using your shared faith as a springboard and conversation starter.
Sometimes, though, we might have siblings who fall away. Maybe they were just never that interested in being Catholic to begin with. If this is the case with your siblings, don’t fall into the temptation of hiding who you are in regards to the faith. While there’s no need to preach down their throat, don’t hesitate to be authentic and real about where you yourself are at.
Either way, you’ll probably be able to find some points of common interests if you shared a childhood together. Put in some effort to start conversations and spend quality time with them.
For me, what really started to change things was when I let my siblings in to my biggest struggles and difficulties. Opening up and sharing in this way helped form a bond that is continuing to grow stronger. I’m no saint, and neither are my siblings, but I still think the example of Benedict and Scholastica is something we all can strive for.