Born in Germany during medieval times to a knight, Hildegard of Bingen was the 10th child. As was customary, the 10th child was dedicated at birth to the church. Accordingly, she lived, and was educated in monasteries, in particular the Benedictine monastery at Mount St. Disibode, in the Celtic tradition. At age 18 she became a nun.
Hildegard of Bingen wrote and spoke extensively about social justice, sexual relations, and about the natural world as God’s creation, entrusted to our care. She also concerned herself with the curative and medicinal powers of plants, animals, trees and stones. She was a revolutionary composer and a visionary; a brilliant spiritualist, ecologist, naturopath, artist, and intellectual. When few women were accorded respect, she was consulted by and advised bishops, popes and kings.
St. Hildegard began having visions by the age of three. She concealed these visions, only sharing them with her instructors. Often her visions were accompanied by illness, specifically migraines.
In 1141, at the age of 42, she had a life-altering vision, which imbued her with the capacity to understand the meaning of religious texts. She was instructed to write everything down, but she hesitated to act due to feelings of inadequacy. Her fears around her worthiness of the task and the reaction of her male contemporaries, threw her into illness. In spite of her fears she was encouraged by her instructor and the Abbot at the monastery to record her visions. It took ten years for her to comprise all her recordings into a book known as” Scivias” or “Know the way of God.” This book was afforded papal approval, thus disarming potential critics and affording Hildegard the latitude to express all within her that was Divinely inspired.
Hildegard’s story is an inspirational account of a uniquely brilliant woman, born of humble beginnings. She transcended life’s obstacles and asperities so as to be a Divine instrument of God. The hardship she endured as a female theologian and scholar in medieval times, speaks of her resiliency and her devotion to actualizing her life’s works for the good of all. She incarnates the meaning of realizing, irrespective of social status, one’s God given potential.
On a personal level, St. Hildegard represents the ability to transcend emotional and physical illness and suffering by attaching to the abstract through Spirit, music, nature, philosophy, and poetry. In spite of her genius, she struggled with doubts, fears, and self-esteem issues. Her humanity in accordance with her Divinity makes her an astonishingly real Saint whom I would feel honored to follow.