Floods of Tears and of Rain

New South Wales is awash with rain, so is much of the U.K. following Storm Ciara. Online news sites are treating us to the obligatory photos of water inundating houses, people paddling about on upturned waste bins or emerging from cars roof-deep in flood-water. Lighthouses are shown being swamped by massive waves while brave members of the R.N.L.I. battle to save surfers silly enough to go into the sea in such conditions. For those directly affected, it is miserable and will go on being miserable for a long time to come, but we shall soon be focusing on something else. Our appetite for the sensational is intense but short-lived. In any case, we prefer the secondary detail, the appealing stories of rescued pets and madcap attempts to resist the irresistible, to considering more difficult questions about climate change, weather and planning for the future. It is rather the same with St Scholastica, twin sister of St Benedict, whose feast we keep today. Many will speak of her tears but few will speak of the love for both God and her brother that summoned a storm when Benedict was being an idiot, or the strength of mind and heart that made her a saint in advance of him.

I’ve often written about St Scholastica and give below a few links to previous posts. If you follow them up, you will see that I have no time for the weak and emotional Scholastica portrayed by those whose ideas of sanctity (and of women) are far from reality. I daresay many would argue that the Scholastica narrative is made to conform to long-held ideas about the place of women in the Church and our tendency to behave in ways male authors find disturbing. I’ve done so myself at times. I think part of the problem is caused by the concentration on secondary matters. Take those tears, for example. They are a mere detail, but some people latch onto them and draw conclusions that, the more I think about them, are absurd.

Saints do not become saints by being wimps. St Scholastica was a strong woman. She could not have lived the life she did had she been given to fits and starts of excited emotion. Just as St Gregory says of Benedict that he cannot have written other than as he lived, so I think Scholastica cannot have lived other than as she was written about, as a truly devout and prayerful woman who had grown in knowledge and love of God her whole life long. How much she influenced St Benedict, we cannot know; but we do know that twins often have a special bond, and there was clearly mutual love and understanding between them. Benedict was wise enough to recognize that his sister had mastered something he himself had not yet learned but which was more important than the dutiful pursuit of monastic observance. He saw her being welcomed into heaven before him because she had learned that love of God comes first, before everything else. That is a lesson we too must learn. It does not matter whether we learn it early or late, provided we do. Not long after St Scholastica’s death, St Benedict also died — finally a master in the school of the Lord’s service. I like to think he had Scholastica, in part, to thank for that.

A few links

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Mr Trump’s Hair and Other Weighty Matters by Bro Duncan PBGV

Human Beans never cease to surprise me. Up here in Beyond, where all is light, joy and peace, we smile over the preoccupations of Below. The number of column inches devoted to Mr Trump’s hair or the Winter Olympics cheerleaders from North Korea, the fuming and fretting over the government of the day, the feud between Brexiteers and Remainers, it all looks very different from here. So do your preparations for Lent. They are all so very serious! What you really need to do is to learn to be more simple and more dog.

Learning to be simple is natural to us dogs. We have a thought for each paw: food, food, sleep and food. Everyone is our very best friend, and we don’t hold grudges. We live in the moment. BigSis used to say that the sacrament of the present moment is the most neglected of all, and it’s true. You Human Beans are always regretting the past or worrying about the future and ignoring what is right under your noses. You make life complicated and never really enjoy anything because you are too busy having guilt trips. We don’t do guilt. Instead we do joy, lots of it! And our joy is infectious, because it’s impossible to look at our big noses and constantly wagging tails without feeling more cheerful. That’s why God gave them to us, and us to you.

BigSis says that joy is the key to making a good Lent: doing everything with the joy of the Holy Spirit. I asked St Benedict about that and he said she was quite right. Nuns always are. Then he coughed and looked a bit self-conscious and I realised he was thinking about his sister, Scholastica, whose feast day is tomorrow, and who taught the Father of Western Monasticism all about prayer and stuff. So I gave him a big Peeby kiss and looked very understanding until he was himself again. We chaps have to stick together, don’t we? Even Fathers of Western Monasticism have to put up with twin sisters who know and understand some things better than they do.

Anyway, the message to take from all BigSis’s spouting about preparing for Lent is this: Lent is meant to be a time of joyful simplicity when you Human Beans run free on the road to salvation. Of course, some parts of Lent are a bit like doing obedience work, but Easter itself is wonderful. It’s all about banquets and endless food and drink, a foretaste of what you will experience when you get Beyond. St Benedict says you Human Beans should look forward to it with the joy of spiritual longing. If you can’t manage that just yet, take a good look at your nearest dog and try to be more like him. We have the secret of eternal joy. Perhaps that’s why God lets us share his holy name in reverse. Perhaps.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail