Celebrating Hildegard

Today is the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen. (No offense to Robert Bellarmine, whose memorial is also celebrated today.)

Hildegard was a fascinating woman who had tremendous fame and influence during her life, but who faded from people’s memories almost immediately after her death. She was forgotten for centuries, only to be rediscovered in 1979, on the 800th anniversary of her death. In more recent times she has attracted quite a following by various groups – feminists who embrace her as a pioneer of women’s equality, natural health aficionados who admire her work on medicinal plants and healing techniques, environmentalists who share her conviction that the earth is sacred and that caring for it is a sacred trust, and musicians who have happily discovered her musical compositions. One author commented that “while it would be anachronistic to regard Hildegard as an ecologist or feminist, her firm grasp of the interconnectedness of all things and of the loving mercy of God, who fashioned the whole of creation out of love, continues to speak to us today.”

Although she spent her early years living the secluded life of an anchoress, by her late 30s she lived a much more public life. She served as abbess of her monastery and later founded two new monasteries near her home in Bingen, she went on numerous preaching tours throughout the Rhineland area of Germany and attracted large and passionate crowds, she became a counselor to popes, emperors, and people in all walks of life. She showed in her discussions with civil and religious rulers a keen awareness of the political and scholarly developments of her time.

But whatever else Hildegard was, she was a contemplative. I’ve spoken about some of her visions before. (See here and here.) Her visions gave her confidence and made her feel alive and deeply connected to God.

On this feast day of hers, let me share her prayer of Praise to the Trinity:

Praise to the Trinity
Who is sound and life,
Creator and sustainer
Of all beings;
The angels praise You,
Who in the splendour
Of your hidden mysteries
Pour out life abundant.

[For a post on Robert Bellarmine, who is also celebrated today, see Fr. Robert Araujo’s Mirror of Justice post here.]

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