Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) – Mystic, Poet, Musician, Healer and Teacher: A Woman for Others

by | May 17, 2022

On March 28th my husband and I flew to Amsterdam for a month-long adventure.  We had not been away from home for this long and upon returning home we have had an opportunity to review all we did and noticed in that month.  On a one-week bike and barge trip with friends we had the opportunity to explore and enjoy so much of God’s creation in people, nature, history, technology, global agriculture and innovation, food (amazing cheese and Stroopwafels) and being together.  The remainder of the trip we spent with our son and his family and taking all the time we had with our granddaughter who is 8 years old. We camped ( and remembered why we do not want to have to put on our shoes to take shower), we walked the North Sea beach with her and we “saved 23 jelly fish” with a small shovel who were stranded when the tide went out.  Every step, smell, sight, laugh and hug a gift we relished.

We also had a chance to visit the museum in Bingen, Germany that documents the life of St Hildegard of Bingen.  Her life is an amazing life and gift as she allowed herself to be guided by the Spirit and love of God which developed into a life of healing (medicinal herbs and plants), teaching, creativity (composer and artist), Theology, Science (biologist) and a community leader for her community of Benedictine sisters. She was a visionary and wanted to “stir up the conscience of the people of her time”.  She believed and taught that “everything is related to each other, linked mutually and inseparably united in God” (Schnell & Steiner).  “The idea of oneness and wholeness” were instrumental to Hildegard’s scriptures and medicine. She also believed that “the salvation and curing of an ill person is only possible by turning towards faith, the unique quality leading to good deeds and moderate order of life.”

This statement from Hildegard, nearly 900 years ago is clearly applicable today. What does it mean for each of us to take in this belief? How does it impact our spiritual life, our political perspective, the current divide related to life issues and even how we “see” each other?  Hildegard was a woman of inner wisdom, who learned over her life to trust the Spirit of God in her day-to-day living.  In her humility she grew herbs that cured the sick, composed music that reflected her gift as a mystic and a poet. Her music was “a testimony of fearless directness, radical truthfulness, personal commitment for the poor…”.  Remembering this was in the Middle Ages when women had little recognition or power. If you can, go to YouTube and search Hildegard of Bingen to explore her music and be open to hear what you are meant to hear.

We are all called today to have courage to be radically truthful, to be fearless in our directness in speech and purpose, and to accept a personal commitment for the poor. This perspective also invites us to not only “stir up the conscience of the people of “our time.  It invites us to trust and be open to our conscience being “stirred up” too and trusting where and how the Spirit is guiding each of us. Hildegard of Bingen died September 17th, 1179 in her monastery. 

Being aware enough to notice when the Spirit is nudging you is noticing how God is present in your life. It is a significant YES when we commit to helping and loving the poor and disinherited in our communities, the ones who are and have been “othered” in our communities, the friends and family with opposing political points of view whether related to church or government, the frustration at times when we have the desire to see God in all things and struggle to actually see where God is…it is in these moments Hildegard’s words, music and teaching help us notice God and remember that God is within us every day. It is we who come and go and when we pay attention will recognize God’s joy when we hear “welcome back, I am so glad you have returned to our time together”.  Everything is related to each other and that is where you will notice God in your every day, in your moments of crisis and in the quiet of the morning or evening. Imagine the inner freedom Ignatius talks about, when we take in those holy words, “everything is related to each other”.   I invite you to consider learning about the other women mystics whose faith and love of God and deep relationships with God have helped our understanding of God.  Here are some familiar names to get you started:  Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Sienna, St Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Gertrude the Great, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina Kowlaski to name a few.

Here is a link if you would like to listen.

Peace and Blessings on your journey, Linda Cherek