Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I am often asked how I got the name Hildegard.  When I was first clothed (1970) no one in the USA had heard of St. Hildegard (unless they were German). After I was clothed I had occasion to visit the library at Yale University.  At that point there was only one book about her in English and it was a novel. None of her works had yet been translated from the medieval Latin, into English. It was in the days before women "libbers" go a hold of her and made her the patroness of every wacko idea known to womankind!

I had spent 2 years in the Black Forest of Germany before I entered our Abbey in the East. While there I visited many Benedictine monasteries- monks and nuns. My favorite of all was St. Hildegard's on the Rhine, which I was able to visit on several occasions, even staying one freezing week in February.

St. H. Abbey (Karl-Heinz Walter)

When Lady Abbess was considering a name for me she knew it had to be German (even though my family is 3/4 Celtic), and, knowing of my love for this Abbey on the Rhine she chose the name.

Our Lady Abbess (and foundress in this country) had been in an ancient Abbey in France during WW II and because she was an American, she had to often hide from the Gestapo. One of the names given to her was Hildegarde (French sp.). She hated the name, as it was a very painful period in her life. She gave me the name, hoping I could somehow "redeem" this time of suffering for the German people.

Our Foundress

At the time I was a novice, our Mother Columba, who had done translations in many languages, for the Classics of Western Spirituality series (Paulist Press), was asked to do one of St. Hildegard's Scivias.  It was a labor of many years, since the Latin of St. Hildegard's time was unlike what we know (publ. 1990). At the time Mother Columba was doing her work,  Adelgundis Führkötter,OSB of St. Hildegard's Abbey was completing her translation of the same work into German, so Mother Columba was able to confer with her.

Our Mother Placid did the cover for this book (and several other covers for the series). Mother Columba died soon after Scivias was published, but Mother Placid is still with us, though at this writing it is said her days are few.
Cover by Mother Placid, OSB

Not long after I was given the name Hildegard we discovered that it means "Battlemaiden" in German, which caused everyone who knows me to think Lady Abbess a visionary herself!

MH ringing bells- Seattle PI

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