Rules are Made to (at Least Sometimes) Be Broken

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Scholatica, twin sister of Saint Benedict. Scholastica followed her brother to Mounte Cassino, where she founded a religious order for women, not far from Benedict’s monastery. There, she dedicated her life to God.

I know very little about Scholastica’s life; it is the story of an incident that occurred immediately before her death that I love and that reminds us that slavish adherence to man-made rules is not necessarily required by God.

It is told that Benedict and Scholastica visited each other once a year in a farmhouse near their respective communities, since Benedictine rule forbade women inside the monsatery. They would spend the day taking and praying together. Near the end of one of those visits, Scholastica, sensing that she was close to death and asked her brother not to leave, but to stay with her until the next day.

Benedict refused her request. The Rule of Benedict prohibited him from spending a night away from the monastery. Not being able to persuade her brother to break his rule, Scholastica turned to God, praying that He let her brother remain. According to the story, her prayer was answered when God sent a severe enough thunderstorm to prevent Benedict from returning to his monastery. Her response when Benedict asked what she has done was simple: You wouldn’t grant my favor, but God did.

Scholastica and Benedict spent the night together in continued prayer and discussion. Three days later, Scholatica died.

Sure, there was good reason for the rule. But we need to recognize that our human rules are not inviolable and there are times when breaking them serves a greater good than adhering to them. God apparently thinks so too.