The abbot traced a cross on my brow along with his thumb. “Julia Hildegard, be sealed with the reward of the Holy Spirit.” Hildegard of Bingen had come to my thoughts as a pure selection for a patron saint nicely earlier than I made the choice to be acquired and confirmed within the Catholic Church. But after I first heard of this multitalented Twelfth-century German abbess, I couldn’t have imagined the various ways in which she would turn out to be a companion on my meandering journey.
I first met Hildegard, the primary non-anonymous composer within the Western musical custom, in a school course in music historical past. (The professor gleefully advised his feminine college students, “You have been first!”)
Hildegard continued to hang-out my research on random events, as I steadily grew to become acquainted with this revered chief whose accomplishments included founding two abbeys and endeavor 4 preaching excursions. She was a prolific author, whose experience lined a variety of topics huge sufficient to incorporate cosmic visions, music, morality, ecology, diagnostics, and natural drugs. She was additionally a thinker whose pursuits defied straightforward categorization.
Having first recognized her as an artist, I additionally got here to understand how acquainted she was with the science of her day, participating with up to date understandings a century earlier than Thomas Aquinas did. Hildegard’s view of an ordered universe deeply rooted in its creator and humanity’s deeply built-in place inside it incorporates a lot knowledge for our time. Her theology is on the similar time orthodox and modern, transcendent and earthy, rational and mystical, providing each/ands for a painfully polarized world.
One of many issues I like in regards to the Catholic custom is that there has lengthy been a lot room inside it for each cause and thriller. Having a terrific private affinity for each, I discover one thing of a kindred spirit in Hildegard, who embodied the identical duality. Each the boldness in talking her thoughts and the self-deprecating tendencies that come out in Hildegard’s correspondence reveal an inside paradox that resonates strongly with me.
Already as a baby, I noticed nice issues of surprise which my tongue may by no means have given expression to, if God’s spirit hadn’t taught me to imagine.
Hildegard of Bingen
Here’s a girl of deep religion and deep doubts. The braveness that she confirmed in voicing her insecurities in addition to her robust convictions provides me hope that I, too, can contribute beneficial insights in and thru my self-doubts in addition to the occasions after I really feel most eloquent and warranted of my rightness. Perhaps I’m even studying proper together with Hildegard of the necessity, in both case, to show from self-obsession towards a wholesome humility.
Due to these connections it was straightforward to call Hildegard as a religious companion, however there was one factor I used to be by no means fairly certain of: Is she a saint, or isn’t she? Hildegard’s standing stays ambiguous. Although not formally canonized, she has been revered as a saint for hundreds of years and has a feast day on the church calendar.
That is true not solely of her ecclesiastical standing; her life and character lend themselves to a variety of interpretations. Some level to her refusal to dig up the physique of an excommunicated man who she believed had died reconciled to God—a call that resulted in her personal excommunication for a time—as a mannequin of prophetic dissent. Others level to the various letters she wrote in search of validation from different church leaders for example of humble obedience. I see all of this as proof of her complexity as an individual who is just not simply boxed into any ideology.
Hildegard’s ambiguity makes her an acceptable information alone journey, which has been characterised by in-betweenness and pilgrimage in varied methods, most just lately as I introduced my Mennonite heritage into communion with the Catholic Church. Hildegard’s sincere self-awareness and genius for integrating concepts helped present me the potential for residing such a duality and the contribution it could but make on this church I now name dwelling. Her instance helps me to articulate what I hope I’m additionally turning into: a fancy girl of conviction and questions, reconciling variations and pointing to the connectedness of all issues.
This text additionally seems within the February 2012 problem of U.S. Catholic (pages 63-64). Click here to subscribe to the journal.
Picture: Miniature from the Rupertsberger Codex des Liber Scivias.