I choose Saint Hildegard of Bingen to accompany me on a Lenten journey this year. She’s been a curious and persistent presence in my prayers these past few weeks. She is a role model and inspiration to me a thousand years later.
It’s hard to fathom how smart, kind, and politically savvy you’d have to be to generate her creativity as a 12th-century abbess. She was famous as a Christian Mystic, formally acknowledged as a visionary by the Church, and a musical composer and writer. Her natural medicinal research is still used today.
As Mother Hildegard joins me on my path, she brings many gifts. She calls me to still myself and listen. Listen to messages from myself and from God, even when they are unruly, jumbled, and difficult.
Hildegard began to experience visions she couldn’t quite explain to others as a child. Her visions included dazzling brightness and sounds. She kept her visions to herself for many years, as she was a sick and weak child.
I’ve experienced vision auras and feeling ill from sound, muscling through many migraines in my teens and 20s. A holistic approach to stress and care for my body has brought me tremendous relief in the past few years along with my doctor’s treatment. Hildegard agrees, once saying, “First the soul must heal; then the body will follow.”
Hildegard knew how to navigate the church’s hierarchy and find supporters of her visions, creative writings, and music, and her theological message. She transcended limits put on her as a woman and abbess. She demonstrated a new way of thinking and leadership at a time when little was expected of women.
Hildegard of Bingen embraced a new life and spiritual path midlife that inspired her to be open to risk and confront her fears. I find comfort in Hildegard boldly making meaning and interpreting her visions. Her midlife awakening is an example to me that I have the power to find new meaning and understanding.
I will keep walking with Mother Hildegard. I have a community and family of support to find my way. I will have the right resources when I need them.
Her blessing to me: “You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.”
Amanda Barker is a parishioner at St. John’s Cathedral and mentor of an Education for Ministry group. Contact her at amandabarker(at)gmail.com.