“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Matthew 6:7-8, NRSV
Today, Feb. 10, is the day set aside in the church calendar to recognize Scholastica, who was a monastic and the sister of Benedict. She founded the women’s branch of Benedictine monasticism by establishing the first Benedictine Convent, about 5 miles from Benedict’s Monastery.
“The most commonly told story about her is that she would, once a year, go and visit her brother at a place near his abbey, and they would spend the day worshiping together and discussing sacred texts and issues.
One day they had supper and continued their conversation. When Benedict indicated it was time for him to leave, perhaps sensing the time of her death was drawing near, Scholastica asked him to stay with her for the evening so they could continue their discussions. Not wishing to break his own Rule, Benedict refused, insisting that he needed to return to his cell. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and after a moment, a wild storm started outside of the guest house in which they were housed. Benedict asked, "What have you done?", to which she replied, "I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery." Benedict was unable to return to his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.”[i]
Scholastica died three days later and Benedict buried her in his own tomb.
Notice we don’t have an account that tells the words of Scholastica’s prayer, for God already knows what we need even before we ask. When we pray, we do not need to be worried about the words we say because God knows what we ask even when we cannot find adequate words to express our prayers. It is OK to pray without words, to simply be silent with God, listening and experiencing God’s presence in our lives. Sometimes we experience God in a beautiful sunset or in the music of a melodious songbird, or in silence experienced the early morning just before sunrise. Today, when you say your prayers, try praying without words and then reflect on how you experience God’s presence in your life.
A Prayer for Today
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.[ii]