Song du Jour

Song du Jour

Benedictine Thoughts, Teachings, and Prayers

Celebrating Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church, Herald of the Divine Feminine: Part 1

About twenty-two years ago, I was listening to a cassette tape while driving in my car, on the life of Hildegard of Bingen. I was thoroughly enjoying the beginning of the tape until the narrator began to say that Hildegard was born in 1098, the 10th child, into a very wealthy aristocratic family. Her family considered her to be superlative and tithed her to the church. Although she was the daughter of a Knight, a custom of the time was that the tenth child was dedicated to the church at birth. I was so angry when I heard this on the tape because I could not understand why a family, who had so much, would not raise this child with her siblings. As I listened to my heart further in years to come, I realized that God had chosen her to mature into this multi-talented Renaissance woman, woman with wide-ranging intellect: a woman who has a wide range of accomplishments and intellectual interests, taken from: ( – Bing Dictionary). In 1996, I took a trip to Quebec, Canada to the Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de- Beauprés and as I was flying there, I couldn’t stop thinking about Hildegard…on a first name basis, of course. After a few days, I wanted to buy a charm that reminded me of her; something that I could wear that would remind me of all that she was and is to me. I saw a small pin, silver, in the shape of a feather. This was the symbol for me. All the way back then in time, I had read that her aspiration was to be “a feather on the breath of God.” I knew what that meant to Hildegard but I didn’t know how to be “feather” in 1996 as I was just a little sparrow trying to find my way into God’s world. I was a seeker on a road looking for clues. I didn’t know where I was headed but I didn’t stop. Hildegard has always intrigued and inspired me because I just didn’t know how she did it all in so many categorical aspects of her life and yet her gifts kept unfolding to overflow before her eyes and mine as to what God was capable of doing in one person’s life.


            On May 10th of this year, Hildegard of Bingen was canonized a saint. She had been overlooked for years but her time is now. There was always a special day set aside for her on the calendar: September 17th but it was not an official Feast Day per se for her. Even though there was no official record of her canonization in the 12th and 13th centuries, she was listed among the saints in the 16th century Roman Martyrology. Hildegard’s name is now inscribed in the catalogue of saints. Now, not only keeping her very own Feast Day, she has also been elevated to be a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI(one of only four women in 2000 years), joining Saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Thérèse de Lisieux in the elite group of 35. All four women have been added since 1970. Pope Benedict made Hildegard a saint on May 10, 2012 by invoking something called “equivalent canonization,” which essentially states that this person is already a saint and it’s only for technical reasons that it isn’t already official. The Pope had to do this in order to make possible the next step - declaring her a Doctor of the Church on October 7, 2012. The term “doctor” means “teacher” in Latin, and the Doctors of the Church are considered its key teachers; whether they are theologians, mystics, historians, or apologists. The above facts are taken from:


I will now return to 1098 when her life began on Earth.


            Once upon a time, on ca. August 17, 1098, a baby girl named Hildegard, was born as the tenth child to a noble German family in Böckelheim, West Franconia, Germany. She began growing up as a normal child except that she sick so much that she was confined to bed. When she would become weak and ill, she began to see unusual images beginning at the age of 3, but she kept them secret from everyone. When she was 5 yrs old, she was taking a walk with her nanny and they passed by a cow pasture. Hildegard and her nanny saw one cow in the pasture but Hildegard saw something that the nanny couldn’t see. The cow that was grazing was pregnant and Hildegard could see the calf inside the mother cow. She described every detail of the calf: it was white with different colored spots on its back, forehead, and feet. Hildegard relayed all of this to her nanny. The nanny, in turn, relayed this to Hildegard’s mother. When the calf was born, it had all of the identifying marks that Hildegard saw. As a reward from her mother, Hildegard was given the calf. When she told people of her visions, she was told to be quiet. “When she reached the age of 7, her parents decided that she should become a religious and turned her over to Jutta, an anchoress, where she lived in a stone cell that was adjacent to a Benedictine monastery. Hildegard lived, worked and prayed here for 30 yrs. When Jutta passed away in 1136, when Hildegard was 38 yrs. old, the religious community of religious women unanimously chose her to lead them. Volmar, a monk, supervised the nuns and administered the sacraments to them. Her bouts of illness and visions continued. When Hildegard reached the age of 42, she had her most powerful vision yet…not just lights and images, but of inspiration, of understanding, a correlation of knowledge about the meaning of Scripture and what faith was all about. In her vision, she was given the command to write everything down of all that was revealed to her, what she seen, and what she had learned” taken from: (


“That in all things God may be glorified”


Sr. Jo-El McLaughlin, O.S.B.


(…Hildegard’s REVELATIONS revealed; to be continued next week in PART II)


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