Thomas Hobbes considered human civilization as an endless war of all against all with the only viable solution being the power of the state to regulate, order and control. George Frederich Hegel postulated that existence was an experience of inescapeable dialectics, a violent collision of opposites and it was only in this state of affairs that new growth and development was possible. Frederich Nietzshe insisted that all is “will to power” and that it is the master of power alone that escapes the heavy hand of fate.
These ideas have all had great weight. Whether we know about them or recognize their validity or not, these ideas have shaped, formed and defined our culture.
And they are not entirely wrong.
Yet to say that these intuitions concerning the ultimate nature of things are all that there is and therefore we should adapt and get used to it, well, that is a nihilism that the Christian must resist.
The Christian knows that these thinkers are somewhat right in their assessments because they descriptions are of a world laid flat and broken by sin. But the Christian accepts more about the world than these thinkers permitted. This “more” that Christians accept is a vantage point, a vision that was opened up for humanity by Christ. He gave to us a new way of seeing and through this vision, a new way of life.
Throughout the Church’s life saints have demonstrated this way of life and a great example is Saint Scholastica, the saint the Church celebrates today.
Saint Scholastica was born in Italy in the year 480. Along with her brother Saint Benedict, she retreated from the world in order to discover its deepest purpose and meaning, seeking in this discovery to instantiate a radical expression of Gospel living in community and in vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
And so instead of conflict, they sought community. In place of work done for the sake of status and self- promotion, they sought work for the sake of goodness and truth. Instead of frittering away time worrying and fretting, they surrendered their hours, their days, their weeks, their years to prayer. Rejecting endless arguments and the pursuit of worldly power, they sought to live as servants and by making their talents and skills a gift, they made made their lives an act of praise and thanksgiving for what the Lord had bestowed upon them.
The religious life of monks and nuns is not simply meant as a means of getting out of the world and escaping its evident problems. Religious life is meant as a kind of revelation to us that the way of Jesus Christ is not just an abstraction or ideal but a real and practical possibility for our lives.
Saints like Scholastica show us this possibility and invite us to consider it for ourselves. They also show us that there is a wisdom to the Gospel that this world often cannot or will not comprehend.