Scholastica vs. Macrina the Younger

OF COURSE we finish up a full week of saintly action by ignoring the cultural phenomenon of St. Patrick's Day. No green beer for us -- we're all purple all the time anyway. No, today in Lent Madness it's Scholastica vs. Macrina the Younger with nary a shamrock in sight! This contest is chock-full of sibling rivalry as Scholastica was St. Benedict of Nursia's twin sister while Macrina had a plethora of saintly siblings. Read on for details...

Yesterday Amelia Bloomer yanked down Phillipp Melanchthon by a wide margin of 74% to 26% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen.

As you prepare for a full 48 hours of saintly voting deprivation, we wanted to point out that you don't have to wait until Monday morning to discover the results of this matchup. After the polls close in 24 hours, simply click on this post and scroll down to see the results. You can also click on the Bracket tab for all the current results.

We'll see you bright and early on Monday for the Battle of the Consonants aka Name-a-Geddon as Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky faces Nikolaus von Zinzendorf. Now go vote!


Double the pleasure; double the fun! Born in fifth-century Italy, Scholastica was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Benedictine monasticism. Stories report that from an early age, Scholastica was dedicated to God. As a daughter from a wealthy family, she received an excellent education.

Learned, devout, and authoritative, Scholastica is considered the founder of the female branch of Benedictine monasticism. The historical record is not entirely clear about whether she began a convent or merely lived in a hermitage with other female monastics at the base of Mount Cassino, where there is an ancient church named after her.

Pope Gregory records the most well-known story of Scholastica, showing her to be a twin to her visionary brother in every way. She was believed to visit Benedict annually, and they would spend the day in prayer and discussion. When the evening drew near on one such visit, Benedict announced he needed to return to his cell. Scholastica asked him to stay so they could continue talking. Not wishing to break his own rule, Benedict insisted upon returning to his cell. In response, Scholastica brought her hands together in an attitude of prayer. Almost instantly a fierce storm rose up outside. Benedict asked, “What have you done?” She replied, “I asked you, and you would not listen; so I asked my God, and he did listen.” Benedict was unable to return to his monastery, and the twins spent the night in discussion, as Scholastica requested.

Three days later, while looking out the window of his cell, Benedict saw his sister’s soul ascending to heaven. He sent for her body and laid it in a tomb that he he had prepared for himself. Scholastica’s death from natural causes was recorded in 543. Scholastica is petitioned during storms and is also the patron saint of female monastics and epileptic children. Her feast day is February 10.

Collect for Scholastica 
God, giver of wisdom and ruler of will, we thank you for the gift of our sister Scholastica, who spent a life devoted to family, prayer, and spiritual discipline. Grant us a portion of that same spirit of conviction and tenacity, so that when faced with difficult conversations or partings, we might also remember the true joy and peace that is found in serving you, through Jesus Christ our Lord who, with you and the Holy Spirit, reigns now and for ever. Amen.

— Amber Belldene

Macrina the Younger

Born around 327, Macrina was the eldest of nine (or ten) children and was named after her grandmother (Macrina the Elder) who endured persecution under the Romans. Her parents Basil the Elder and Emmelia of Caesarea must have known something about raising children—half of their offspring are remembered as saints—Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa (two of the three Cappadocian Fathers), Peter of Sebaste, Naucratius, and Macrina.

Macrina was betrothed to a young man who died shortly before their marriage. Upon his death, Macrina took a vow of chastity, considering herself already married to the young man and expecting to be reunited at the resurrection. After the death of her father, Macrina convinced her mother to take vows, and they both became nuns. Some time later, a tumor began to grow on Macrina’s breast. Her mother begged her to see a doctor to have the tumor removed. Macrina refused, asking her mother to make the sign of the cross on her chest. Her mother did this, and the tumor miraculously disappeared with a faint, cross-shaped scar taking its place.

Upon her mother’s death, with the help of her brother Peter, Macrina turned the family home into a monastery and convent. Living an ascetic life, she worked with her hands and lived simply with the other monastics. She gave herself to the study of scriptures and continued to offer counsel and inspiration to her better-known, younger brothers.

In 379, shortly after Basil died, a still-mourning Gregory came to visit Macrina and found her on her deathbed—a rough plank of wood with a smaller piece of wood for a pillow. So extreme was her poverty and asceticism that they could not find even a cloth to cover her. Although she neared death, she offered words of comfort to her brother and encouraged him to remember the promise of the resurrection. Their conversation inspired Gregory’s treatise, On the Soul and the Resurrection. Gregory also wrote a biography of his sister, The Life of Macrina.

Collect for Macrina the Younger 
Merciful God, you called your servant Macrina to reveal in her life and her teaching the riches of your grace and truth: May we, following her example, seek after your wisdom and live according to her way; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— David Creech

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Scholastica—Clarence Eugene Woodman; The Catholic Publication Society, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Macrina the Younger—By Unknown Artist, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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230 comments on “Scholastica vs. Macrina the Younger”


      1. Oh, my gosh. Forming an order of nuns that have done so much good for thousands over the years is a major use of God's gifts to Scholastica. The Erie Benedictines and many other of the Benedictine orders in the USA, at least, are dedicated to peace and social justice.

      2. I agree- we had several bouts with amazing Saints facing off and now 2 that seem nothing and one will go on. I don't like it.

        1. I'm sorry, but your comments seem superficial and uninformed.

          [Ed. note: Please be respectful in the comments section. There is no need to critique harshly others' comments. Thank you.]

    2. That's who I voted for! Scholastica seemed a little selfish, asking God to intervene so here brother would have to spend more time with her.

  1. I chose Macrina the Younger, because she helped her family, and she turned her home into a monistary. I just love how she had so much will power and determination, even though she was taking care of all her siblings.

    And Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

    1. I chose Macrina the Younger for the very same reasons. She surely had her hands full with those brothers whom I remember studying in seminary. And a Happy St. Patrick's day to you! Sarah Fox (77 years old).

    2. Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, too! I think both saints are worthy of inclusion. Two women who "seem nothing"? I must disagree. Macrina for me.

        1. David, I went to the website and read the interview with Juan Maldacena. Thank you for sending it. In my old parish the priest started talking about string theory during a sermon and almost immediately the white noise began in my head. I'm not dissing string theory or physics or anything, but I am not blessed with a scientific mind! I'm much better at dance crazes!

  2. Machina kept faith evenin the state of total poverty...I give her my vote. They are both so worthy. Hard choice today.

  3. Neither of these ladies really excited me, but I had to vote for Macrina the Younger, who kept her faith even in the face of poverty and dedicated her family home as a monistary.

    1. Agreed. I was also unimpressed with Scholatica summoning God with the clap of her hands to call up a storm just to have her own way.

  4. For Scholastica and Macrina the Younger
    Tune: Nun danket alle Gott, Hymnal ’82, 397, Now Thank We All Our God

    Now thank we all our God
    For women of devotion.
    For two whose lives were giv’n
    So fully to the notion
    That love trumps all that tries
    To take away the joy
    Of serving, kindness, prayer
    Lived fully in each day.

    Scholastica was not
    A woman to be gainsaid.
    To speak of holy things
    Was joy that kept her heart fed.
    Her brother stuck to rules,
    But she was free to pray.
    God gave her what she asked,
    Their joy her heart allayed.

    Macrina, she survived
    A bunch of strong-willed siblings.
    A saint among those saints,
    She comforted and calmed them.
    Through grief she found her way
    To live a holy life.
    Her simple, austere style
    Can teach us still today.

    Dear God how can we choose
    Between such awesome women?
    Their strength and constancy
    Has us a challenge given.
    So thanks we offer you
    For strong, wise saints like these.
    They show us that your way
    Is what our world still needs.

    1. This is wonderful. Your hymn inspired my first ever LM comment. Thanks for writing and sharing this little gem.

    2. Whoever you are, I hope you belong to the Hymn Society of the US & Canada and that I will see you in Waterloo in July!

    3. I love this. Thanks Diana. What permission do I need to have to use these words in a worship service?

    4. In addition to the fun of Lent Madness, we now have the pleasure of a LM Poet Laureate. Woo hoo! You go, Diana!

    5. But what of Macrina - who was a key figure in the formation of the great and noble church fathers???

      1. You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine. I prefer Scholastica that was considered an equal by her brother who founded the Benedictine order. And as I mentioned, the ladies of Mt. St. Scholastica also influence my decision with their openness to all.

    6. With all of your "new" hymns, if you collected them we could sing, "WE sing some songS of the saints of God, patient and brave and true..."

      1. I have been think that too. Maybe someone can talk the official publisher of Lent Madness to move forward and publish a collection of these lovely works if Diana for All Saints 2017.

      2. I thought the faith healing aspect of Macrina's story was a little sketchy, too. But the scar-like cross leads me to believe a little surreptitious lumpectomy surgery may also have occurred, along with prayer. Like Scholastica's storm, there is a natural explanation available. With Providential assistance, of course.

      3. Yes, praying for Scholastique. May her future be bright and beautiful and may America find it's heart and soul again soon!

    7. I never used to read comments, and now I read them, well, religiously, looking for inspired additions to the hymnody.

  5. I haven't a clue who to vote for. Ascetism is not high on my list of virtues. A coin toss! And... Scholastica it is.

  6. For all the great Benedictines of Erie and the wonderful girls they educated--Scholastica!

    1. I agree, Monica. Besides, I graduated St. Benedict Academy - who else could I vote for?

    2. Yes! Had to vote Scholastica because I have a child with epilepsy, and people with seizure disorders need all the help they can get.

      1. Deacon Nancy Oliver, please do not be disheartened by the unkind reply to your post. God bless you!

      2. I was expecting to read that Macrina was invoked for breast cancer, given her miraculous cure, but apparently not!

  7. As a fraternal twin, I feel a connection to Scholastica and Benedict. My brother and I were born on August 28, which is the feast day of both Moses the Black and Augustine of Hippo.
    And speaking of feasts, Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!

  8. Diana has done it again! I love these hymn texts, lady!

    As to the vote, I've long been a fan of Marina, and pouted that her brothers have had almost all the glory for centuries. So I thought that's where I'd go. But the blogs were too close to ensure that decision...and as a mother of twins--awesome ladies, both--I think I must go for Scholastica today, even though that storm thing is juuuussst a bit over the top.

    1. The storm thing is indeed a little over the top, but so is the tumor cure. (And no, no pun involving the word "top" intended.) Both stories left me unwilling to suspend disbelief.

  9. I had to vote for Scholastica, if not for her name alone (although I do want to say: Hey, Ma-acrina!). I love her combination of education and devotion, and because I grew up with a fear of thunderstorms, I could definitely invoke her if I become afraid. I also have a brother, and I smile at the way she handled the famous Benedict.

  10. Had to go with Scholastica, having just met yesterday a young woman named for her. This young woman was a refugee and now a recent immigrant, and starts a job today. So- praying today for Scholastique, and voting for Scholastica.

    1. I voted for Scholastica, too, and now will say prayers for Scholastique. May America welcome her with love and kindness, and may she know that is who we really are.

      1. Thank you. Your post made my decision. Scholastica it is! (I was sort of leaning to her anyway.)

  11. HAd to vote for Macrina in hnor of all those in my family who suffered from breast cancer. I too would have liked to vote for her mother, who cured it! It would otherwise have been a very difficult choice and I might have opted for Scholastica.

  12. As an elementary and Jr. High student, I loved ordering books from the Scholastic flyer that came to our classrooms monthly. Reading about Scholastica brought all those great feelings and memories back.

  13. Scholastica, for her influence on Benedictine spirituality. Also for the thunderstorm trick.

  14. Despite the extraordinary stories surrounding Macrina the Well-Connected, I went for Scholastica, whose contribution to the Benedictine tradition was enormous. She held up half the sky at Monte Cassino, and the fruits of her labors are spread abroad through many branches of Christendom.

  15. "so that when faced with difficult conversations" - these words in Scholastica's collect, and her determination to continue the conversation with her brother, offer much needed support for when I have to have those difficult conversations in life. Scholastica it is.

  16. What Marcrina's bio here leaves out is how deeply she influenced the thinking of her brother Gregory of Nyssa--she truly was a theologian in her own right, but, like many women in the ancient world, did not leave her own written text behind. Gregory considered her his teacher. His Life of Marcrina is worth reading--she is pretty hard core!

    1. Agreed! Macrina was an unsung hero whose voice is certainly heard in the BIG VOICES of her celebrated brothers. I'm not angry she's not more celebrated or for that matter, had fewer choices available to her. On the contrary, she inspires me to do what I can with what I've got. Thank GOD that the early church had their thinking caps on and celebrated her!!
      I'm a Macrina girl every day, all the way!

  17. Scholastic for the Benedictines and her two foul relationship,with her brother. Plus I love her name. I also admire Macrina's deep devotion. More madness.

  18. Both Scholastica and Macrina seem a bit selfish with their miracles: Scholastica using the power of prayer to force her brother to talk to her and Macrina heals herself. In the end, I chose Scholastica because I can see myself praying to her the next time I'm stuck in a storm. It's like she's a superheroine!

  19. I voted for Macrina. We've driven through Uniontown, PA many times over the past 50 years, where we've seen signs for Mt. Macrina Manor (where the elderly are cared for.) I always wondered who
    Saint Macrina was. Thanks to LENTEN MADNESS, I now know for a little about her.

  20. Hard to choose between them. Went for Scholastica for her turning to God to get a recalcitrant brother to listen to the rightness of her request.