Lanternarius Press

Saint Hildegard

SEPTEMBER 17 is the traditional memorial of ST. HILDEGARD (+1179).

The youngest of at least seven children born to a lower noble family, Hildegard was born about 1098, in Bockelheim, West Franconia, Germany. A fragile, sickly child, she was said to have visions even then. Hildegard was fostered out to a woman named Jutta where she learned the basic education that girls were taught then, including household activities as well as basic reading and numbers. When she was somewhere between 8 and 14, both Jutta and Hildegard entered the Benedictine cloister at Disbodenberg, where Jutta was a religious recluse, and, eventually, prioress. Hildegard read much in the library and gained a broad knowledge.

In 1136, Jutta died and Hildegard was appointed the prioress of the monastery. Here, in addition to all her spiritual and management responsibilities, she wrote lyrical poetry, composed music and tended the herb garden.

At the age of 43, the prioress finally told her confessor about the visions she had had since childhood. He quickly reported this to the archbishop of Mainz. A committee was formed to study this and her declaration was determined to be true. A monk was brought in to help her record them.

The result was a document entitled “Scivias”, containing details of 26 different visions.

Despite some setbacks, Hildegard got the archbishop of Mainz to give her permission to found two other monasteries. After they were settled, she began four evangelical tours of Germany, bringing people to Christianity by telling of her visions.

During her lifetime, Hildegard showed a wide scope of understanding of many studies. She wrote a collection of 77 poems set to music, which she composed. She wrote a book on the lives of the saints, a treatise on medicine and treatment of ills, and another on natural history. Her correspondence with illustrious people, like Pope Eugenius, Frederick Barbarossa and Elisabeth of Schonau (a visionary), is considered a great literary work.

Hildegard died September 17, 1179 but was not canonized until 2012. At that time, she was also declared a Doctor of the Church.

“[Sacred music is a] symbol of the harmony which Satan has broken, which helps man to build a bridge of holiness between this world and the World of all Beauty and Music. Those therefore who, without a good reason, impose silence in churches in which singing in God’s honor is wont to be heard, will not deserve to hear the glorious choir of angels that praises the Lord in Heaven.”

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