5th Sunday of the Year

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Tuesday is the Feast of Saint Scholastica, the twin sister of Saint Benedict, father of Western monasticism. These two saints were born in the Italian mountain town of Nursia (Norcia in Italian) around the year 480, and Scholastica died on 10 February 547. To put their lives in the context of the times, Saint Patrick was born around 387 and died in 493, when Benedict and Scholastica were 13 years old. We know very little for certain about the life of this holy woman, and the only reliable written source is a book called Dialogues written by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who was himself a Benedictine monk. In his book, written in 593, Pope Gregory tells us that Scholastica was the superior of a community of nuns living under the Rule of St. Benedict about five miles from her brother’s famous monastery at Monte Cassino. Saint Scholastica is the patroness of all women living under the Rule of St. Benedict.

Despite being the birthplace of Benedict and Scholastica, the town of Norcia did not have an active monastery of Benedictines from 1810 until 2000, when a new community of monks — founded by an American living and teaching in Rome — took up residence there. In the fifteen years since the return of monastic life to Norcia, the Monastero di San Benedetto has prospered and received many new vocations, among whom is a young man from the Upstate now testing his call to the monastic life. The Monks of Norcia follow the traditional pattern of life established by Saint Benedict in his famous Rule for Monks, and it is an arduous existence of prayer and work, Ora et Labora. To learn more about this remarkable community, please visit www.osbnorcia.org. Part of the struggle to establish a new monastery in an ancient and remote place is the need for generous assistance from those who want to see contemplative life flourish in the Church, so please consider making a gift at www.osbnorcia.org/donate, and you can also learn more on YouTube and Facebook by searching for Monks of Norcia.

Next week is the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, 18 February. The schedule for Ash Wednesday and a summary of the Church’s disciplines of fasting and abstinence from meat are in the e-bulletin, and these simple reminders of the coming 40 Days should spur us to find concrete ways before Lent begins to deepen our faith and resolve to follow the Lord Jesus ever more perfectly in the Way of the Cross. On Ash Wednesday the Church will remind us starkly of our mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These words are an invitation to conversion and the obedience of faith, and that is confirmed by the prayer of blessing which precedes the imposition of ashes: “O God, who desire not the death of sinners, but their conversion, mercifully hear our prayers and in your kindness be pleased to bless these ashes, which we intend to receive upon our heads, that we, who acknowledge we are but ashes and shall return to dust, may through a steadfast observance of Lent gain pardon for sins and newness of life after the likeness of your Risen Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”

Father Newman