Friday, 17 September 2010

St Hildegard of Bingen


St Hildegard was born at Böckelheim on the Nahe, 1098, and died on the Rupertsberg near Bingen, 1179. Her feast is September 17th, which is also the day my father died ten years ago. This feast day, therefore, holds a particular poignancy for me. My father was a unique and remarkable man in many ways. By no means always easy, he was nevertheless gifted with musical and academic talents far beyond the norm. Eccentric throughout his life, he was the stuff of what made England the most wonderful place to live. That England of yestercentury has sadly all but disappeared, and with it many wonderful characters like my father.

To return the feast on which father died a decade ago, St Hildegard was the superior of a Benedictine convent, and already known as an important cultural and spiritual leader when she began to experience mystical visions. “As is always the case in the lives of true mystics,” Pope Benedict XVI has noted, “Hildegard wished to place herself under the authority of the wise, in order to discern the origin of her visions, which she was afraid could be the fruit of illusions and not from God.” She received encouragement from St Bernard of Clairvaux and later from Pope Eugene III, who urged her to speak and write about her visions. From that point forward her fame grew, and she became popularly known as “the Teutonic prophetess.”

Hildegard was greatly venerated in life and after death. Her biographer, Theodoric, calls her saint, and many miracles are said to have been wrought through her intercession. Gregory IX (1227-41) and Innocent IV (1243-54) ordered a process of information which was repeated by Clement V (1305-14) and John XXII (1316-34). No formal canonisation has ever taken place, however, but her name is in the Roman Martyrology and her feast is celebrated.

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