Have you ever wished that everyone you loved lived in one place?
As a child, my world was compact. All the people I loved lived in the same small Midwestern town, and my grandparents’ farm about twenty minutes away marked the edge of my reality. Now my family is scattered across the Midwest, and friendships I have formed over the years stretch far afield. When I move to a new place, as I have done several times in my adult life, the hardest part in leaving is saying goodbye to those who are dear to me. True friendships endure across distance, but nothing replaces the joy of being with loved ones.
With another move on the horizon, I find myself wishing I could pack up my friends and take them along. In August, I plan to join an associate’s program at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Lay women in this program are invited to live in community with Benedictine sisters, sharing in their life of prayer and service for a year or two. In getting to know the monastery’s namesake, I have found not only another friend among the saints, but also one who understands my instinct to keep loved ones close.
The Dialogues of Saint Gregory tell of St. Scholastica’s love for her brother, St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine monastic movement. As his visit with her draws to a close and he prepares to leave, St. Scholastica pleads with him to extend their precious moments together. Still he insists that he must depart. In response, she weeps and prays, and the Lord converts her tears into a mighty rainstorm that prevents St. Benedict from returning to his abbey. “I desired you to stay, and you would not hear me,” says St. Scholastica. “I have desired our good Lord, and he hath vouchsafed to grant my petition.”
St. Gregory’s final commentary on this story is a fitting tribute to the power of God’s love to bind us to those we love: “And it is not a thing to be marveled at, that a woman which of long time had not seen her brother, might do more at that time than he could, seeing, according to the saying of St. John, ‘God is charity’ [I John 4:8] and therefore of right she did more which loved more.”
My life is once again carrying me away from familiar friends and places. It is my choice, and I believe it is a good one. Yet with St. Scholastica I pray that God will keep those I love near to me in heart, even as a physical parting approaches. And when my dearest friends visit, don’t be surprised if I pray for a rainstorm or, since it is Minnesota, a blizzard!