Meet Hildegard of Bingen

A brief introduction to the person and personality of one of the greatest ladies of the Catholic Church.


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We can know God.

Born in 1098, Hildegard of Bingen, a sickly child born of nobility was given at the age of eight to Jutta of Sponheim for care in a hermitage as an oblate of St. Benedict. At Jutta’s death, Hildegard was elected abbess. Attracted to her greatness and sanctity, the convent overflowed with vocations and she went to establish two new monasteries.

Her early education was poor, but she was instructed in Latin enough to chant the Psalms. Here and in the Church she met the Lord. He granted her visions from an early age. After revealing them to her spiritual director, she was instructed to write them all down. These visions were approved as being from God by Church authorities. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux encouraged her. Pope Eugene III authorized her to write and speak in public.

She wrote books on theology and mysticism, medicine and natural sciences. We have 400 of her letters, addressed to simple people, to religious communities, popes, bishops and the civil authorities of her time. She composed sacred music.

In his letter proclaiming her Doctor of the Church, Pope Benedict wrote, “The corpus of her writings, for their quantity, quality and variety of interests, is unmatched by any other female author of the Middle Ages.”

Hildegard died at the age of 81. It took 800 years for her to be formally elevated by the Church.


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In the great canon of her work, she spoke of the reciprocal relationship between men and women, the complementarity, and contrasted with other traditions, did not blame women for the fall. Her writings acknowledged the hylomorphic reality: that we are created body and soul, and body and soul will be involved in our search for God.

Summarizing her teaching, Pope Benedict continued: Hildegard asks herself and us the fundamental question, whether it is possible to know God: This is theology’s principal task. Her answer is completely positive: through faith, as through a door, the human person is able to approach this knowledge. God, however, always retains his veil of mystery and incomprehensibility. He makes himself understandable in creation but, creation itself is not fully understood when detached from God. Indeed, nature considered in itself provides only pieces of information which often become an occasion for error and abuse. Faith, therefore, is also necessary in the natural cognitive process, for otherwise knowledge would remain limited, unsatisfactory and misleading.

Creation is an act of love by which the world can emerge from nothingness. Hence, through the whole range of creatures, divine love flows as a river. Of all creatures God loves man in a special way and confers upon him an extraordinary dignity, giving him that glory which the rebellious angels lost.

… man, of course, is the creature who can answer the voice of the Creator with his own voice. And this can happen in two ways: in voce oris, that is, in the celebration of the liturgy, and in voce cordis, that is, through a virtuous and holy life.

…In this regard, the most precise description of the human creature is that of someone on a journey, homo viator. On this pilgrimage towards the homeland, the human person is called to a struggle in order constantly to choose what is good and avoid evil.

Weekend Links 9.22.17

News briefs with a heavy dose of Christian feminism.

Hildegard of Bingen


When the hurricane hits. Yes, that is how life feels. I have asked the same questions. This writer’s journey gave me help and consolation in my own.

God be with them in Mexico following this earthquake! The numbers of lives lost is devastating.

Managing Life

Sound advice on managing time when the to-do list is overwhelming.

Take note of this increase in drinking among women.

An antidote? Mindful drinking. Make more with less.

For the love of God and neighbor

The question of how the liturgy develops is a strand of news I will follow closely. I experience endless frustration with the question, “why can’t we just make it more beautiful?” “Send down your spirit like the dewfall” makes me a little breathless at God’s beauty each time. The hymns sung at parishes in my area are bland and have terrible, terrible poetry. I ache for more and have witnessed actual resistance to it? Why? The best understanding I can gather is that bland and plain is of the people while lofty and beautiful is most elite. As a friend points out, it is the financial elite often calling the shots for the bland, feeling they can speak for the lowly masses. Well, friend, the lowly masses can learn to sing an old Irish hymn just fine. They do not need your “Mass of Christ the Savior” (aka, Missa de My Little Pony) or your “Gift of Finest Wheat.”

Whatever conversation we want to have about faith and morals. Keep it clean, people.

The Apple store wants to be your town square. It’s like Target to me, trying to capitalize on movements within society by being what they’re not! It actually became a primary third place of our society, then our culture will become even more defined by consumerism, rather than God and country. It’s filling in the cultural vacuum. Unfortunately, it is for profit and will lead people to even more loneliness because their time together will be about spending and consumerism. At the same time, corner “Bodegas” are being set up by the same Silicon Valley experts replaced read third places for New Yorkers.

Yes! There but by the grace of God, go I. We need to see the poor as Christ among us, even those we don’t think deserve our compassion.

The Arts

I love haiku poetry. I hope you will too.


September 17 is the Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen. Do you know about this remarkable and wild woman?

There are such riches in our Church history. Modern hymnaries barely scratch the surface. Dr. John Boyle instilled a love of St. Hildegard of Bingen in me. Read here about her music and to listen to some recent renderings.

I liked St. Hildegard so much in part because of how uncomfortable she made some of my more conservative male classmates. This was a woman not afraid to write about women’s sexuality and address sexual temptation in women. It happens. Here is more about her life (not so much about her admonitions regarding sex). For that, you will have to read about her visions.

Looking for a feminist model? When so many women could neither read nor write, in these so-called dark ages, this woman was “a Benedictine nun, a mystic, theologian, foundress, writer, expert in pharmacology, cosmologist, composer, botanist, doctor … and she maintained correspondence with popes, bishops, kings, and emperors….She was, without a doubt, the most powerful woman of the late Middle Ages.”

Feels like the Emmys are the new Oscars. Television is giving us the things we’ve wanted from movies for a long time: a voice.

It should be said though that we are not living in The Handmaid’s Tale, not even close. I love the point this commentator makes, the liberal side fails to acknowledge they have won the culture war. They can relax.

I am catching a feminist theme this week. I am a feminist who believes in equal footing for women and men. The domination of men over women and the willingness of women to be dominated by men is a fallout of original sin. It is not a prescription of what ought to be. Too many times, femininity is mistaken as a subordination that makes the woman passive and at the mercy of the man’s decisiveness. Here is an article highlighting how stereotypical feminine traits are not healthy dating decisions.