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  • Rev. Dr. Anthony Hutchinson

Discipline with Love; Rules with Compassion

“Assist us, O God, to love one another as sisters and brothers, and to balance discipline with love and rules with compassion, according to the example shown by your servant Scholastica; for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.” (Lesser Feasts and Fasts Collect for February 10)

Today is the feast day of Scholastica, the founder of Western women’s monasticism, who died on this day in A.D. 543. She was the sister (some sources say the twin, whether physical or spiritual we do not know) of Benedict of Nursia, founder of the great monastic abbey at Monte Cassino and writer of the Rule that bears his name. She wanted to follow the practices and rule of Benedict’s spirituality, and so founded a religious house for women called to such a life.

She remained close to her brother throughout her life, despite the two being separately cloistered. She wrote letters, and once a year would take a day trip to Monte Cassino (about 10 kilometers away from her nunnery) to worship, pray, and talk with her brother. They would meet at a small cottage close to his Abbey. Both would be recharged and renewed, having reconnected and spent a “Sabbath” freed from the silence and hard work schedule imposed by their rules.

On one occasion, she wanted to have Benedict continue their conversation into the night, but he declined, saying he had to get back to his monks. So she prayed, and it is said immediately a thunderstorm broke out that was so violent Benedict dared not leave the cottage. “What have you done?” he asked her. “I asked you to stay and you refused. So I asked my God to keep you here so we could finish our study and discussion. And God heard me!”

Scholastica was beloved by her sisters because she tempered her strict observance of the Rule with love and compassion, being flexible when these demanded it. As we go into the disciplines of Lent, it is important to remember Scholastica’s keeping of Sabbaths from the Rule, and departing from its rigors out of love.

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We will be having live-streamed service at 12 noon that will remain online for viewing later in the day as possible for each of you. Since we cannot impose ashes in the normal fashion due to the need to remain distanced and separated, we ask that each of you take a sheet of paper and write on it what you hope to turn from during this Lent. Then burn the paper in a sink and take the ashes and crush them in a small bowl. When the time to impose ashes in the service comes, impose the ashes you have thus made on your own heads.

We are making plans for a limited reentry into face-to-face worship, distanced and masked but with Eucharist (in one species), just as we did from May to November last year. We hope this can happen mid-Lent.

Grace and Peace,

Fr. Tony+

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