Scholastica v. Richard Hooker

Welcome to the FIRST FULL WEEK of Lent Madness 2023! Today in the Saintly Smackdown it's Scholastica vs. Richard Hooker. Sixth century Italian nun vs. 16th century English theologian. This is precisely the kind of unusual pairing of saintly souls we've come to expect with Lent Madness. Is it fair? No! Is it Madness? Yes!

On Saturday, Bertha of Kent soundly defeated Olga of Kiev 76% to 24% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen. Will today's matchup finally bring us a hotly contested battle? Or will we endure yet another rout? Only time, and your (single) vote, will tell.

Scholastica

Little is known about Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict (yes, the guy with the Rule) and founder of Benedictine nuns. Like Benedict, she was born to wealthy parents in Nursia, Umbria in the late fifth century. (Some later traditions have her as Benedict’s twin sister, but it is unclear if that is meant to be a literal or spiritual designation.)

An early glimpse of Scholastica’s piety comes to us from Gregory the Great’s Dialogues. He reports that Benedict and Scholastica would meet annually at a small house between their monasteries. On one occasion, as Benedict was preparing to return, Scholastica begged him to stay longer.

They had been discussing deep spiritual matters, and she wanted to continue the invigorating conversation deeper into the night. Benedict refused. One of the guidelines in his Rule was that he could not be absent from the monastery overnight.

Upon his refusal, Scholastica began to weep and pray. God responded to her prayers by causing a torrent of rain and thunder so great that Benedict and his companions could not leave the house. When he asked her what she had done, Scholastica retorted, “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.” Reluctantly, Benedict and his fellow monks stayed overnight, God’s will having been made clear. Gregory writes that God answered Scholastica’s prayers because her love for God was greater than that of Benedict’s (high praise indeed!).

Three days later, in February of 543, while Benedict was in his cell, he saw his sister’s soul ascend to heaven as a dove. He had her body brought to the monastery and buried in the grave he had prepared for himself.

Scholastica is the patron saint of Benedictine nuns, education, and convulsive children. For obvious reasons, she is sometimes invoked against storms and rain. Her feast day is celebrated on February 10.

Collect for Scholastica
Assist us, O God, to love one other 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.

David Creech

Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker was a priest and philosopher whose writings laid the groundwork for Anglican theology. Born to a family of moderate means in 1553, he was sent to Oxford through the generosity of local merchants. At Oxford, he studied for holy orders. While he read the Calvinism tracts popular in Protestant countries at the time, Hooker also dabbled in Thomas Aquinas and the church fathers. By the time he graduated, he managed to obtain a more diverse education than many other Anglican clergy.

Hooker initially received a fellowship for preaching at Oxford but lost it soon after because his preaching was not considered strictly Calvinist enough for the staunch Protestants. He was reinstated soon after the controversy but departed instead to take the position of Master of the Temple in London in 1585. He shared this prestigious post with a more Puritan-inclined preacher, Walter Travers. Often the two would spar in their respective sermons, which increased the overall attendance. In his first sermon, Hooker caused Travers untold fury by preaching a sermon that suggested that double predestination was nonsense and that Roman Catholics might be saved after all through the grace of a merciful God. Hooker refused to live in the church rectory with Travers and instead lived nearby with John Churchman—and ended up marrying Churchman’s daughter, Jean.

In 1591, fed up with this life of churchly drama, Hooker moved to Boscombe in Wiltshire, where he began to compose what would become his magnum opus: The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. This multi-volume work was Hooker’s entry into a debate about how the church and government ought to properly organize themselves. In the initial entries, Hooker offered the first glimpse of what has become the classic Anglican approach of via media.

Hooker argued that God didn’t care much about institutions. Instead, he contended that what mattered was how pious and devout people were—and whether institutions fostered an environment of faithfulness and devotion. He also argued that the debate over salvation via works or by grace was pointless: good works were the inevitable result of a heart saved by grace and thus overcome with gratitude, and the two could not be separated. Despite completing only five of the eight planned volumes, Hooker’s work lasted long past his death in 1600 and remains a cornerstone of Anglican philosophy.

Collect for Richard Hooker
O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Megan Castellan

 

Scholastica: Gabriel Wüger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Richard Hooker: Wenceslaus Hollar, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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116 comments on “Scholastica v. Richard Hooker”

  1. Richard Hooker (so says Wikipedia)
    Spent his life seeking out via media;
    Ecclesiastical Politie
    Caused no Puritan jollity;
    But his work made the process much speedia.

    71
      1. Caused no RC/Puritan Jollity

        —————-
        Aside to John Cabot: Nevertheless, thank you for the clarity

        4
  2. Learned something new, that Benedict had a sister, so I voted Scholastica. Now I will say whether that story about the rain is true!

    7
    1. Yes. I too voted for Scholastica. Her faith was so pure…. The faith of a child. Then when she died and Benedict had the vision, I think that deepened his faith…. and not just deeper, wider and created a sense of awe that previously may not have been present. His faith through his sister’s faith, in my opinion, had a profound impact on him; I have to believe Scholastica’s humility and love created a more intimate relationship for Benedict with Christ.

      7
    1. I cannot take credit for the collect—that’s straight Lesser Feasts and Fasts but I agree, it’s one of my all-time favorites.

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      1. I would have voted for Richard Hooker no matter whom he was up against because of via media, but I had never seen that definition in the Collect: "not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth." Wonderful! Thank you, Megan Castellan, for bringing this prayer to our attention.

        10
  3. In the midst of EfM in the third year, am interested to read more about Richard Hooker. iIct is always interesting to reflect on the lives of these Saints and how they lived their lives especially as todays reading from the Washington National Cathedral was of the sheep and the goats.

  4. I am so glad you included Scholastica. She surely belongs here. But where would we Anglicans be without Hooker? Vis Media all the way.

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  5. I appreciate how Scholastica exemplifies Richard's theory: "...balance discipline with love and rules with compassion..."

    Via media in action.

    18
    1. And I believe Scholastica was born much earlier than Hooker. So, maybe he created his writings, and elaborated on what Scholastica’s practices…..

  6. While I loved "balance discipline with love and rules with compassion" from Scholastica's collect, I felt more stronly moved by Hooker's "via media" approach to faith and worship. I was "Hooked"

    2
  7. Hooker was hugely important to Anglicanism, but it is raining torrents here in Chicago, so God has spoken. Go Scholatica!

    23
  8. I wanted so badly to vote for Scholastica becuase she is the patron saint of Education. But after reading Hooker's that good works are the natural result of a "heart saved by grace and thus overcome by gratitude," I had to vote for him. Dagnabbit!

    21
  9. "He also argued that the debate over salvation via works or by grace was pointless: good works were the inevitable result of a heart saved by grace and thus overcome with gratitude, and the two could not be separated."

    That settled my vote. Though I wish we had learned more about Scholastica than just the storm story. If she makes it to the next round, perhaps we will learn more.

    14
  10. I feel that this is where my bracket will have a losing quadrant, as I am voting for female monastics all the way! Scholastica!!! Also, it’s raining and I’d prefer it not. 😉

    10
  11. Since this winter's weather has been notably dangerous, has caused more than one uncomfortable, extended power outages, I consider it wise to have Scholastica on "my side," at least until Eastertide. And should she wish it, I would sit up with her many a night discussing and learning from her deep, spiritual insights.

    12
  12. Many comments have included quotes from the write-ups, but so far I haven't seen my favorite: Hooker argued that God didn't care much about institutions.

    23
    1. Kathy, I have always loved that line of Hooker's. I would imagine it is even more true today than it was in the 16th century when Hooker wrote it.

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  13. As an Episcopalian, I will ever be indebted to Hooker for his role in establishing the via media at the heart of our tradition. But I voted today for Scholastica because of her loving sisterliness. I Have a biological big sister who is not a person of faith, but we've grown to love each other dearly as we've aged. And I'm blessed with three sisters by heart of mutual adoption in our adulthood, whose love and faithfulness are great gifts to me.

    7
  14. Both are worthy contestants. However, recently, I've been hanging out with my local Benedictines, so Scholastica gets my vote!

    3
  15. Scholastica's story is lovely, but how can I not be on Richard Hooker's team? Without the genius and legacy of his via media and three-legged stool, Robin Williams could never have come up with his Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian!
    And thank you, Tim and Scott, for finding a via media on the visibility of voting results -- the comment thread is now much more streamlined and navigable!

    7
  16. Scholastica and her brother Benedict were the subject of a children’s book, The Holy Twins, written by Kathleen Norris and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. Our family has enjoyed this book; we have known about Scholastica for many years. As we globally face climate change, perhaps there is a lot she can teach us about contacting the Almighty about the weather!

    4
    1. Thank you for the information about the Norris book. I love her and Tomi and will look for the book.

  17. Scholastica for me. Her name is awesome but otherwise, she’s uneventful. John Lee, I mean Richard Hooker is an important fellow and is the be thanked for his work on polity. However, I have had it up to my ears with church politics and Presbyterian polity of late. Can’t push the button for Hooker.

    8
  18. I greatly admire Scholastica, but I must vote for Richard Hooker and his via media and belief that reason is an important component of faith.

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  19. Well, even though it may be another losing vote, I had to go with Scholastica on this one. That said, both of these are great candidates, and I have great respect for Richard Hooker, a man who seems to have been a great advocate for moderation -- the via media -- in most matters.

    Still, as someone who was a bookish little girl born too early -- or to the wrong family -- to have been properly guided toward a scholarly career, Scholastica has my heart.

    4
  20. As a retired educator my heart immediately went to Scholastica. However after reading both posts I had mixed feelings. I took a break prayed over it and ended up voting for Hooker. I hope I don’t regret my choice. How could I? They are both highly qualified

    3
  21. Since Richard Hooker is one of our choices today, here is an excellent scholarly book about the via media and its development, "The Goldilocks God," by Guy Collins, rector of St. Thomas Church, Hanover, New Hampshire. Published in 2022, Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, http://www.rowman.com

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