We here at DDF had already planned to use the wisdom of women saints during October. I didn’t realize during the planning that Hildegard of Bingen was about to be declared a Doctor of the Church! But she will be, on October 7—so I believe the timing is just right.
Hildegard’s parents dedicated her to the church at an early age. Some sources say she was sent to Jutta, the anchoress, at age eight; other records indicate that she was 14 when she first lived with Jutta in a cell or possibly a small cottage attached to the St. Disibod Abbey at Disibodenberg, Germany. A community of women developed there, and Jutta formed them by the Rule of St. Benedict. By age 15, Hildegard had taken the habit of a Benedictine nun. When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard, age 38, became the abbess.
From age three, Hildegard had experienced spiritual visions; these continued into adulthood. She also suffered from migraines and other health issues throughout her life. This makes it even more incredible that she achieved so much—and lived to be 81, not a small feat during the Middle Ages.
This Benedictine nun founded two convents; organized the first-ever public preaching tours conducted by a woman; authored nearly four hundred bold letters to popes, emperors, abbesses, abbots, monks, nuns, and laypeople; worked as healer, naturalist, botanist, dietary specialist, and exorcist; composed daring music; crafted poetry with staying power; wrote the first surviving sung morality play; and spent decades writing three compelling theological works. (Carmen Acevedo Butcher, Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader, Paraclete Press, 2007, p. 1)
We have so many written works from Hildegard that I could use all of October exploring her wisdom. Alas, we’ll limit our time to one week. Today we offer two of Hildegard’s songs.
You soar, sustain, and animate,
climb, dive, and sing
your way through this world,
giving life to every beating heart.
You never end.
You keep circling, crossing over us
on three wings—
one speeds through heaven,
one holds the earth together with a kiss as light as dew,
and one whooshes over, under, and through our lives.
We praise you, Wisdom!
The Most Sanguine Moment
When the Creator actually spilled
His blood on the elements,
earth, air, water, and fire screamed,
collapsed with grief,
shook from sadness.
Now, Father, with this gift
anoint our weaknesses.
*Translation of both songs is by Carmen Acevedo Butcher.