Dr. St. Hildegard...
Last Wednesday, September 17, was the feast of Hildegard of Bingen, named a saint in May 2012 and a Doctor of the Church in October of that same year. Known as the Sibyl of the Rhine, she was a Benedictine abbess, theologian, mystic, artist, musician, poet, and doctor (and who knows what else; this is what we know from her extant works).
Back in the 1980s, I attended a talk by Matthew Fox (still a Dominican in good standing with the Church at the time), on Hildegard, which focused particularly on the Scivias, her book of visions. I was not aware of Hildegard to this point, and was at the talk because of a project I was doing for a community of IBVM sisters sponsoring Fox’s presentation.
Suffice it to say it was a game-changing afternoon for me. From the moment I first saw the slides of Hildegard’s artwork that Fox projected onto a screen, I was hooked. After the talk, I ordered several of Hildegard’s books, then published by a small company in New Mexico called Bear & Co., and read whatever I could about her in subsequent years. She became for me a patron saint.
As of this month, I am happy to say that Franciscan Media has its own book in which Hildegard is featured as a woman Doctor of the Church, along with Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Therese of Lisieux: Accidental Theologians, by Elizabeth Dreyer. Rather than focus strictly on the spirituality of these four women, Dreyer highlights their particular theologies — the work that merited their consideration in being named Doctors — in a way that is accessible, engaging, and thoughtful. They are referred to here as “accidental” theologians because none set out to be one, yet the Church, in its wisdom, has deemed their work to be worthy of consideration as such.
Savor this quote from Hildegard’s Scivias:
For the Holy Spirit is a burning and shining serenity that will never be depleted and which kindles fiery virtues so that, by the Holy Spirit, all darkness is banished.
Do yourself a favor and get to know Hildegard and the other three esteemed women Doctors of the Church. Each of them is a visionary for our times, with theologies that engender a deep and lasting experience of God.
Photo credit: Cancelled stamp with an image of Hildegard, by Boris 15 (www.shutterstock.com)