St. Scholastica: of scholarship, conversation & soup

Feb. 10 is the Feast of St. Scholastica, traditionally depicted in art with the crozier of an abbess, a dove – symbolic of her own pure soul – and a book symbolic of her spiritual studies. 

When in context with her saintly, brilliant twin brother, St. Benedict, she’s often painted imploring him  to stay longer than he intended to during their annual  meeting so they can continue their powerful dinner time conversation on matters spiritual.

The meeting — three days before she died — has captured the imagination of artists from the Middle Ages – where she’s portrayed reverently pleading for him to stay – to modern times where they frankly paint her harranging her saintly brother even as a heavenly thunderstorm looms in the background.

This meeting – considered miraculous because God, taking St. Scholastica’s side in the flap, sent forth that rain storm to detain Benedict overnight and keep him talking – is one of the few insights into this formidable feminine soul whose name translates literally to “she who has the leisure to devote to study.”

From the looks of the table scene presented by numerous artists down through the ages, the fare at the dinner consumed by brother and sister was in keeping with Benedict’s Rule – a healthy collection of breads, bowls of soup, fruit and moderate amounts of wine.

With Lent on the near horizon, this recipe for Mushroom, Barley & Pasta Soup adapted from a collection of  “wellness recipes” from the University of California, seemed like a good choice for St. Scholastica’s feast.

Mushroom, Barley & Pasta Soup

Ingredients: 2 teaspoons olive oil; 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped; 3 cloves garlic, minced; 1/2 pound mushrooms of your choice, thinly sliced; 2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped with their juice; 3/4 cup pearl barley; 1/2 teaspoon sage; 4 1/2 cups water; 1/2 cup small pasta shells; 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Directions: In a nonstick Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently until tender (about 7 minues).

Stir in the mushrooms and cook 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, barley, salt, sage and water, bring to a rolling boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Stir in the pasta, cover and cook until the barley and pasta are tender, about 10 minutes. Serve the soup sprinkled with the Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Prayer: O god, to show us where innocence leads, you made the soul of your virgin Saint Scholastica soar to heaven like a dove in flight. Grant through her merits and her prayers that we may so live in innocence as to attain to joys everlasting. This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.           


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