Hildegard of Bingen
Two weeks ago I wrote about St Brigid claiming her as one of my favourite saints. This week I thought I would mention another favourite saint as in some ways she puts me very much in mind of St Brigid.
Hildegard of Bingen was yet another feisty powerful woman in a patriarchal context speaking truth to power. She was a polymath; passionate about the earth, stood up to injustice and was a sustainer of the needy and vulnerable. Like St Brigid she seems especially present at this time of the year as spring approaches and we await the 'greening' of nature. For Hildegard this greening power was the creative life force that is inherent in all of nature, including us humans, and it is this force which calls us all to be fruitful co creators with the divine. Hildegard named this greening power 'Viriditas' Hildegard was a 12th century Benedictine nun at a monastery, which had enclosures for both men and women, in Disibodenberg in the Rhineland. After not an insignificant battle with the patriarchal powers she eventually built an Abbey in Bingen for her nuns so that they could become entirely independent of the monastery. Hildegarde was a healer and a herbalist and wrote two books on medicine at a time when women in the church were not allowed to write. She was a preacher at a time when women were definitely not allowed to preach, she was a poet, a composer, an artist and a mystic who received incredible visions from God. Hildegarde quite simply refused to comply with the patriarchal values of the male dominated context in which she lived. She could easily have been put to death as an heretic but the creative power that stemmed from her relationship with God made her quite fearless and so she forged ahead regardless. She lived to the age of 81 and left an incredible legacy of music, art, visionary writing and continues to be a role model for eco activism. In 2012 she was both canonised and became a Doctor of the church. Today she is a much loved figure and continues to inspire men and women both in the church and beyond.
Last August I was all set to visit Bingen as part of my sabbatical to do a deeper study of of the Rhineland mystics, the pandemic sadly put paid to that! I plan to do this study at some point though as I believe that Hildegard still has much to teach the world and the church today.