Saturday, 6 October 2012

Hildegard of Bingen

Saint Hildegard of Bingen
On the 10th of May this year, Hildegard of Bingen was officially named a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI. For years people had called her a Saint, but she had never been through the full process of being named and given a feast day. Tomorrow (October 7th 2012) Hildegard of Bingen will become the 35th (4th woman) Doctor of the Catholic Church. What on earth does that mean? Well, to be recognized as a Doctor you must fulfill three criteria; holiness that is truly outstanding, even among saints, depth of doctrinal insight and an extensive body of writings that the Catholic Church can recommend as authentic and life giving.

More than anything, for me, it is a good excuse to reflect on her life and her works. Hildegard of Bingen was born in Germany in 1098. She was the tenth child in her family and was offered to the church as an oblate. She started experiencing visions at the age of three, but only understood this when she was five (only five!!!). She was an abbess, a philosopher, a scientist, a poet, a composer, an artist, a botanist and a visionary. Hildegard was well known for her holistic approach to life and her use of herbal medicine. Her music, mandalas and poetry expressed the visions she received from God in vivid imagery. 

She was a truly unique person, who I believe, has a lot to teach us today about the integration of our spiritual life with our whole being. The outpouring of her encounters with God were not in orthodox, traditional ways. However, we tend to fear anything that might not fit into our neat Christian circle. Hildegard's deep intimacy with God is something that I can only yearn for and hope to understand. 
Hildegard's mandala depicting her vision of heaven

"The soul is kissed by God in it's innermost regions.
With interior yearning, grace and blessing are bestowed.
It is a yearning to take on God's gentle yoke,
It is a yearning to give one's self to God's Way."

Hildegard of Bingen, attributed, 'Soul Weavings'

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