Sunday, September 30, 2012

SAINT HILDEGARD by any other name is still SAINT HILDEGARD


                                 SINT HILDEGART van BINGEN

                            SVATE HILDEGARDA Z BINGENU
                                               SANT' ILDEGARDA di BINGEN

                                                              SWIETA HIDEGARDA Z BINGEN

"There is the Music of Heaven in all things and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing".


Virginia Marie Romero- USA

"The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured, it must not be destroyed".

               PUHAK HILDEGARDI

                           SVETAC HILDEGARDIS

Abbey of St. H. Eibingen



"Sharpen the Senses
live purposefully and cheerfully;
love life, encouraging optimism and personal responsibility."


               SANTA HILDEGARDA de BINGEN           СВЕТИ Хилдегард  

                                       SVETI HILDEGARDI                ΑΓΙΟΣ HILDEGARD  

"The soul is a breath of living spirit, that with excellent sensitivity, permeates the entire body to give it life. Just so, the breath of the air makes the earth fruitful. Thus the air is the soul of the earth, moistening it, greening it".

                             SENT HILDEGARDA               HELGEN HILDEGAARDE
                Санкт Хильдегард         SANKTT HILDEGAARD         הייליקער כילדאַגאַרד   


"Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God..."



Saturday, September 29, 2012


 Ad for touring area of St. H.
Ever since the works of St. Hildegard of Bingen have been translated from the difficult medieval Latin into German, English, and just about every other language spoken by humankind, there has been a plethora of products on the market, some related to her writings, music, herbal recipes, etc. There have been videos and movies, coins and money, stamps, foods, medicine and beauty products. She has been named after streets, gardens, hospitals, clinics, schools of every level and of course churches (which one would expect).  She has become the patron saint of the woman's movement (not always in the spirit of her life). The once quiet Abbey on the Rhine now has as many visitors in a year as Disneyland! It is a though everyone wants a part of the life of this amazing Saint, yet few really take the time to understand her, and, her gifts to us in this day and age. Hopefully the past blogs have given you some insight into her life.

Dagmar Dieterich- Germany

She has been called visionary, musician, poet, philosopher, theologian, Church reformer, author, herbalist, healer, scientist, ecologist, biologist, geologist, correspondent, linguist, inventor, feminist, and on and on.  So many titles for one lifetime!  No matter what we call her she was a woman ahead of her times, a woman for all ages!  Now this polymath Abbess is called SAINT.


A very well done DVD  (in English) A Feather on the Breath of God, is a dramatization of St. Hildegard's life, featuring excerpts from her writings as well as her exquisite songs of prayer. The English actress, Patricia Routledge, plays the saint.

P. Routledge as St. H.

In the Symphony of the World: A Portrait of Hildegard of Bingen
A film in the WOMEN OF POWER © Series

There are several German series(  which I know nothing about but which had a good audience in that country), a German TV cooking series, a series on Polish TV, and another in Italy. Her ORDO VIRTUTUM has been played in every country in the western world, an opera was written about her in Venezuela. Famous actresses, such as Linn Maxwell & Alison Neil, have enacted her life or parts of it

The most well known movie today is VISION. Margarethe von Trotta brings the story of this extraordinary woman to life. In a staggering performance, acclaimed actress Barbara Sukowa portrays  the saints fierce determination to expand the responsibilities of women within the order, even as she fends off outrage from some in the Church over the visions she claims to receive from God. 

Lushly shot in medieval cloisters in the German countryside, this is a profoundly inspirational portrait of a woman who has emerged from the shadows of history as a forward-thinking and iconoclastic pioneer of faith, change and enlightenment. German with English subtitles.

MONEY, which one would hope the German Government would issue in her behalf, since they make so much money off of her annually! 

10 Deutsche Mark

STAMPS as well.

My Favorite- issued in 1979
 CHURCHES, especially in Germany, though I am sure more will spring up now that she is "official". A favorite is a small church in the Czech Republic which I was fortunate to visit in 1989.

Mural of St. H. inside Church

Church in Eibingen where St. H.  buried, below the Abbey

PRODUCTS of every kind imaginable, sometimes claiming to go back to her directly. It does not take much imagination to see that people, not from the 12 century, have good marketing skills! In Germany, France, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and most European countries one can find health foods of all kinds and beauty products.
Beer named for her in Argentina

Czech Republic

Chapel in St. H. hospital, Cologne (where I once lived)

Old St. H. Hospital -Mainz

St. H. mural (a favorite) in Home for the aged, Emmelshausen


Friday, September 28, 2012


Reverend Mother Placid (Patricia Ann) Dempsey, 85, consecrated nun of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, died September 27, 2012 at the Abbey after a long illness. Described as a tiny giant, Mother Placid—artist, poet, and guest mistress for over 50 years—touched the lives of thousands of people.

Patricia Ann Dempsey was the youngest of four children of William Ambrose Dempsey, New York City trial lawyer, and Kathleen Costello Dempsey, teacher and housewife. The Dempseys migrated to America at the time of the great famine in Ireland and settled in Pennsylvania where Mother Placid’s grandmother ran a saloon in the mountain mining town of White Haven. The Costellos were metal craftsmen for centuries in Ireland. Her maternal grandfather was instrumental in bringing the Knights of Columbus to Brooklyn.

Patricia grew up in Brooklyn, and described the atmosphere of her home as "...warm and intellectually stimulating with discussions of cultural matters, philosophical questions, and legal matters". After graduating from St. Angela Hall Academy High School, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art from Marymount College (Tarrytown NY) in 1949. In both high school and college she was awarded honors for her art. She was active in all aspects of drama, especially scenery design and construction. She also participated in many cultural and charitable activities, including social activities for the blind, infirm and pre-school children.

Seat of Wisdom

While at Marymount, Patricia attended a talk given by Mother Mary Aline, co-foundress of the newly-established Benedictine Monastery Regina Laudis. Her curiosity aroused, she came to Bethlehem with a friend in 1947, arriving in the midst of a blizzard. She described what she found: “It was so cultured, so simple…There was a freshness here, a mystery—like going into some huge stillness, going into God.”

Patricia Dempsey entered the monastery as a Postulant on August 18th, 1949, one of the first American postulants and the only one of that group to persevere in the monastery. As a novice she received the name Sister Placid, after the faithful disciple of St. Benedict. She was perpetually professed and consecrated on the Feast of the Ascension, June 3rd, 1954. Besides her work as artist, teacher and guest mistress, Mother Placid was a Council member and Postulant Mistress for a number of years, as well as Mistress of Ceremonies. She helped write and present in Rome the Abbey’s first Constitutions.
Our Lady of Constancy

Her extensive work as monastic artist included painting, graphics, vestment design, enamel, wood, stone and concrete sculpture, and book illustrations, notably the covers of several of the “Classics of Western Spirituality” series. Her work has been exhibited in galleries in this country and Europe, especially in New York City and Paris. Her well-known “Stations of the Cross”, hand-carved out of a neighbor’s cherry tree, grace the walls of the lower monastery chapel at the Abbey and continue to be a source of prayer and inspiration for visitors.
Station of the Cross

 Mother Placid designed scenery for several Abbey plays as well as buildings used for the Abbey fair. She was instrumental in the development of monastic crafts and supervised the renovation of the Monastic Art Shop to include an art gallery and display space.

In the Abbey, Mother Placid taught classes in monastic history and spirituality, philosophy and the Rule of St. Benedict. She was much influenced in her early life by the writings of Jacques and Raissa Maritain whom she later met when they visited Regina Laudis in 1949. She maintained scholarly and spiritual friendships with psychiatrist and author Dr. Karl A. Menninger, and with Caryll Houselander, the English Catholic author. Among her most cherished relationships was the one with renowned children’s book illustrator Tomie dePaola, who first came to Regina Laudis as an art student. They became colleagues and fast friends, each enriching the other’s work and life.

Ruth with Boaz

Always faithful to the vision of Lady Abbess Benedict, foundress of the Abbey, Mother Placid’s unique and transformative contribution to Regina Laudis was her ability to translate monastic values into contemporary language. She was instrumental in receiving the many young people who were drawn to the monastery in the 60’s and 70’s, and helping them to see their own lives and process of seeking as valuable and “of God.”

 Her deep sense of culture and breadth of education, and her frank love of people were supreme assets in this work. Moreover, she brought a depth of wisdom and understanding, in her inimitably playful way, to the work of forming communities of lay persons desiring to give themselves to Christ, through their professions.

Religious life is generally misunderstood, mostly by people who never get to know what it’s about. Entering is like the first day of creation for you. You come to find out what God has put you here for. You walk in, and this place will set off all the light and dark places in you. It’s a pressure cooker. You will walk into all the trials you need to clean up your act and learn to love.
--Mother Placid Dempsey

St. Benedict

(Article from the Abbey of Regina Laudis Website)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The Trinity  (2nd vision in Scivias) depicts Christ as a sapphire blue figure, standing in the midst of two circles: one golden-colored, its diameter just about the same length as Christ's height; the other, larger one a lighter color, surrounding and enfolding the smaller figure. These circles, in turn, are surrounded by a blue background and a framework of floral designs. This striking image, according to St. Hildegard, is not just of Christ, but indeed is a vision of the Holy Trinity. "This is the perception of God's mysteries . . . that bright light bathes the whole of the glowing fire, and the glowing fire bathes the bright light; and the bright light and the glowing fire pour over the whole human figure, so that the three are one light in one power of potential." So writes Hildegard of her vision. The largest circle represents the light of God. The inner circle signifies the fire of the Holy Spirit. And  the figure is Christ embedded in the fire of the Spirit and the light of the Creator.

The Trinity


St. Hildegard wrote: But the light I see is not local, but is everywhere, and brighter far than the cloud which supports the sun. I can in no way know the form of this light, just as I cannot see the sun's disc entire. But in this light I see at times, though not often, another light which is called by me the living light, but when and in what manner I see this I do not know how to say. And when I see it all weariness and need is lifted from me, and all at once I feel like a simple girl and not like an old woman.
The Human Soul

Matthew Fox (ex-priest) defrocked by the very German Pope who canonized
St. Hildegard in May and will make her a Doctor of the Church in October, is said to have "put her on the map" with his book of her Illuminations. And while the drawings are fine they cannot compare with the version done in Germany about 35 years ago. They are done in gold leaf  and the two volume set was then about $200. I was fortunate to be given the set by a very dear German friend and while I cannot understand much of the explanations I relish the beauty of the pictures.     


Around 1135 St. Hildegard undertook a series of  visionary symbolic paintings in unmistakable mandala-forms.  It is unclear what her role was in these illuminations. Scholars have assigned her every role from being uninvolved, to directing others to create them, to being their direct creator. In an illustration included as a frontispiece, St. Hildegard is shown sketching on a wax tablet while dictating a vision to her secretary, the monk, Volmar. If she made the illuminations herself, no one mentioned it when writing of her life. According to Madeline Caviness, she may have sketched the outlines of her visions at their time, perhaps dictating their content simultaneously, and they were subsequently detailed.

In any case we do not know that she drew the pictures in Scivias. The manuscript containing them was lost during the destruction of Dresden and its occupation by the Soviets. What we see now are copies from the 1920s. Other manuscript illuminators had their own ideas of what her visions would look like.

Anointed by the Holy Spirit

In a time when women were not allowed self-expression, St. Hildegard used art for very specific communicative purposes. The pictures were thought to be as strong or stronger than the words themselves.
Most people are struck by the bright, strange illuminations in the original manuscript.

6 Days of Creation

Their jagged lights and castellated lines have encouraged hypotheses that St. Hildegard had migraines or temporal lobe epilepsy.  Perhaps she did, but that explains nothing. She wrote of her visions, which on their own are far from transparent. It was in her long-meditated explanations that St. Hildegard’s genius lay.

Central to her paintings is the understanding of a ‘cosmic equilibrium’ and a reverence for all life. In her  use of ‘quartering of the circle’ we recognize the four elements (fire, air, water and earth), an archetypal depiction also used by Native American sand painters for the four sacred directions.
Universal Man

Her concept of Viriditas, the Greening, was a precursor to our ecology movement. She described this power as the agent of the God, a divine vitality, that was the animating life-force within all creation. This ‘Greenness’ was the very expression of Divine Power on Earth.

The Universe

Choirs of Angels


 My love of geology- minerology stems from my childhood, where I collected everything I could find, from seashells to polished river stones, to refuse from the gold mine on my grandfather's cattle ranch in the mountains of Colorado.
In my monastic life I have been able to put that "passion" to use in work with Island children in geology for a 4-H club. We have studied jasper of the world, minerals of our area, of our state, and rock formations. This year? who knows, maybe the minerals St. Hildegard knew. It is as much fun for me as for the children!

St. Hildegard  is regarded as a serious mineral collector who is credited with raising awareness of minerals and their properties. “Early ideas about the genesis of rocks and the functioning of geological phenomena stemmed from a mythical approach to natural phenomena.This approach was the usual one throughout the European Middle-Ages, and is wonderfully illustrated by the writings of  St. Hildegard  dealing with the origin and purpose of rocks and minerals.”
(German geologist M. Kölbl-Ebert).

Where St. Hildegard found her minerals is the subject of much speculation, but several sources would be in the area around what is now the town of Idar-Oberstein in the Rhineland-Palatinate, where mineral collecting
goes back probably to Roman times and gem cutting has been flourishing for more than 500 years.

Minerals commonly found in that area are jasper, quartz, amethyst, and highly prized agate. The agate was said to have magical properties because it often contained a core resembling an eye and the mining and exporting of it brought considerable prosperity to the area in the late middle ages.
Minerals from Idar-Oberstein area

Various examples of beryl (particularly aquamarine) chrysprase, topaz and garnet would also have been available within the area. More precious stones, such as diamonds, and pearls, were not available locally but may well have been presented to St. Hildegard as gifts from well-traveled friends and admirers.

According to St. Hildegard, gemstones are formed through the powerful combination of water and fire; therefore, they hold powers corresponding to these phenomena. She also believed that each stone had a certain, divine blessing from God. During the medieval era, healers employed gems for treating diseases, assigning specific stones for particular symptoms. Age-old uses of gemstones as healing agents survive today in the realm of holistic and alternative medicine.

Unfortunately, this is one of the attractions to New Agers!  But just as acupuncture and other non-traditional holistic practices, that were shunned years ago, are now finding favor in traditional medicine, who knows where others forms of ancient medicine, such as the use of stones, will one day be found by scientists to be effective in treatment of disease.

There are several lists of minerals attributed to St. Hildegard’s collection, some giving the specific ailments for which they could be used. The following one seems to have some authority. (From “Hildegard von Bingen: Das buch von den Steinen”, published the Kristallmuseum, Riedenburg, Germany, 1995.)

-Emerald: for headaches
-Onyx: the saint recommened this for stomach ailments & speen diseases
-Agate or chalcedony:  a remedy against fever & to calm irrational tempers
-Sapphire: for gout and eye pain

-Jasper: against deafness 
-Amethyst: combats insect bites and beautifies the skin.
-Agate quartz: restores emotional balance and harmony, increases practicality.
-Quartz crystal: heart, stomach upset and abdominal pain

-Hyacinth: a group name for garnet, almandine, zircon, hessonite, vesuvianite, and spinel.
-Quartz, Topaz,  Peridot, Ruby, Diamond, Amber, Pearl, Calcite, Magnetite
-Beryl a group name for emerald (green), aquamarine (blue), and heliodor (yellow)-