Today we celebrated the feast day of St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St. Benedict. I have a great devotion to St. Benedict and also to St. Scholastica. I myself have a twin sister. I guess you might say it’s a twin thing. Side note: I have a friend who is a priest with a traditional
order Society of Apostolic Life who happens to have an identical twin brother. Fr. once remarked in my presence (clearly forgetting that I am a fraternal twin) that “fraternal twins are freaks of nature” and that identical twins are somehow the “more natural” variety. This is pure nonsense. I began my life from two distinct cells that were created just for my existence; not split off from someone else’s earmarked ovum. I jest, of course, but being one half of a boy-girl fraternal twin set has always given me a sense of unusual pride. My twin sister died when we were children but that doesn’t negate the relationship. If anything, I’d say it makes for a stronger bond. I was created at the same moment (more or less) with someone who went before the throne of Almighty God long before me. Presumably she prays for me. I have always known that I was somehow protected and I do not take it for granted.
And what is that twin bond of which they speak? It is hard to describe to singletons; but it is very real. I have heard stories from my early childhood, for instance, of how she was the “brains” of the operation and I was the “brawn”. She would hatch plots to, say, get us out of our playpen, do some kind of twin mind-meld with me, and then I would carry out the heavy lifting which usually resulted in a pinched finger or two. She could see how things needed to be done and I could do those things. We worked well together. I have the scars to prove it.
People ask me what it’s like to be a “twinless twin”. That’s the term for the infinitesimally small percentage of people worldwide like me. All I can say is that the bond doesn’t die. I still talk to her daily. And all of the behavior traits that I developed in the womb are still imbedded in me to this day. For instance, having started my existence with a roommate I find it incredibly painful being alone. I love having people around me pretty much all the time. I thrive on it. I also continue to work best in situations where I am given very clear instructions on what to do and then I do it. Ikea furniture? I’m your guy. Recipes? I can follow like the best of them. This isn’t to say that I lack imagination. I am an accomplished pianist, for instance, but I would be the worst jazz pianist ever because there’s no set script. I also had to learn early on to adapt myself to things that did not come naturally to me. For instance, I, the “quiet twin”, am a proficient public speaker. But at the end of the day I am a wandering man of sorts. I will probably always have a sense of intrigue as to what my life would be like if things had gone differently and yet I have hope that I may get to find that out eventually.
All this by way of coming back around to St. Scholastica. Benedict’s twin founded the order of Benedictine Nuns. She loved her brother and I have read that the devotion was mutual. The poignant story recounting the last time they saw each other on earth comes to us from St. Gregory the Great. The story goes that Benedict had gone to visit his sister in her monastery. They spent the day reveling in each other’s company. I imagine they shared much laughter over things that the people around them couldn’t possibly understand. As the day drew to a close Scholastica begged her brother to stay longer. Benedict was adamant. A monk should be in his cell at night. It was the rule. It was HIS rule. Scholastica, ever filled with supernatural charity – with deepest and true love – placed her head in her hands and began to pray and to weep. A storm of immense magnitude arose and Benedict, unable to leave, blurted, “Sister, what have you done?!” As I have always heard it, her response was simply, “You wouldn’t listen to my request so I asked God.”
Benedict remained through the night and the two said their goodbyes. Several days later, Benedict had a vision wherein he saw the soul of his beloved twin sister ascending to heaven in the form of a dove. In the collect at today’s Mass, we read the following:
Benedict sent for her body and had it placed in the tomb that had been prepared for him; and for a time, Benedict was a twinless twin.
Their bodies repose together awaiting the general judgment. Their souls are in heaven together for eternity.
St. Scholastica, pray for us!