Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Hildegard of Bingen.
The canonization of Saint Hildegard of Bingen (May 10, 2012) and Pope Benedict XVI’s declaration of Saint Hildegard as a Doctor of the Church (October 7, 2012) are historical highlights during this ‘Year of Faith’ for all Benedictines, as we rejoice in the gifts and legacy of St Hildegard.
Saint Hildegard was born to a noble family in Germany in 1098. As a tenth child, she was given as a tithe to the Benedictine Monastery in Disibodenberg, Germany. Her birth came during the great schism between the Eastern and the Roman Churches and she lived through both the first and second crusades.
Hildegard, a cloistered Benedictine nun, had visions and was encouraged by Pope Eugenius III to record the visions along with the divine commentary that accompanied them. In these visions, Hildegard addressed many of the issues of her time. By declaring Hildegard a Doctor of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI has declared that Hildegard made outstanding contributions in the understanding and interpretation of Sacred Scripture and the doctrine of the Church.
In his address to the Synod of Bishops, Pope Benedict said, “Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority.”
Among Hildegard’s accomplishments are three volumes of her visions with illuminations, a commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict and commentaries on Scripture. St. Hildegard was a musician, herbalist and founder of three Benedictine monasteries. She also embarked on four preaching tours for the reformation of the Church and preached in Latin at the Cathedrals of Mainz, Trier and Cologne.
Hildegard believed deeply that the love of God is shown in creation. She called it veriditias, a combination of two Latin words, green and truth. This word, coined by Hildegard, suggests the power of God’s life-force in all of creation, not separate from it.
St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the common good. Nine hundred years after her death, Saint Hildegard of Bingen continues to share her many outstanding gifts for the common good of her time and ours.
Ana Cloughly, OSB