O God, who through Saint Romuald renewed the manner of life of hermits in your Church, grant that, denying ourselves and following Christ, we may merit to reach the heavenly realms of high.
“Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it…. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more. Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor…”
Saint Romuald (+1027)
The figures of the medieval period in church history
is not high on many today. Issues of ecclesial reform and religious liberty
during the 11th century are resonant today. Liturgically the Church recalls one
of the popes who worked for reform and religious freedom: Pope Saint Gregory
VII. The Tuscan pope was born between 1020 and 1025 and bore the name of
Hildebrand. Reliable facts of his Hildebrand’s life are obscure but we know his
uncle Laurentius was abbot of a Roman monastery, where he engaged his
education. Monasteries were great centers of education and culture.
Saint Hildegard of Bingen is getting some press these days. Many are very curious to know how and why the Pope did such an unusual thing in making her cult as concrete as possible. Being inscribed as a saint in the album of the saints is pretty concrete, I’d say.
The Church’s official teaching is seen by the use of concepts like “extension of Hildegard of Bingen’s cult to the entire Church,” meaning that she is proposed as a model of holiness with moral certainty to the faithful. Remember, only the Blessed Trinity is worshiped at the Liturgy. Saints and Blesseds are venerated, honored. Not the same. Hence, the definition of “cult” in Catholic theology is that the veneration saints particularly at the sacred Liturgy (i.e., the worship of God at Holy Mass, Lauds and Vespers) is made possible by the Church recognizing that this person is with God in heaven and is a reliable witness for Christian living.
For a long time Hildegard’s been called “saint.” And, so, some may say, “It’s about time” the Church made this fact official. Perhaps it wouldn’t make a difference if she was officially added to the canon of saints, but there is a certain relief that the Church has settled the cause. It has to be acknowledged that in the 800+ years since Hildegard’s death, her cause for canonization must be one of the higher profile ones around. And for whatever reason Hildegard’s cause wasn’t completed until recently. What we’ve been given by the Tradition is that Hildegard has been known as a saint, her writings, and her many ecclesial contributions are well-regarded. It is also well-known that the Pope has spoken eloquently of Hildegard a few times in the past years; hence he decided to end the ambiguity of her ecclesial status, writing her name “in the album of the saints.” Some would say that Benedict’s gesture rehabilitates Hildegard’s place in Church and state. While that may be an overstatement, he did “do good by her.”
Our newest saint is revered by the Anglo-Catholics, so this is another point of connection with those who hold the Anglican patrimony in high esteem.
You may want to read Nathaniel M. Campbell essay on his blog Fides Quaerens Intellectum.
Some things to read:
Augustine Thompson, OP, “Hildegard of Bingen on Gender and the Priesthood”
Dr. Leroy Huizenga’s First Things essay published, Hildegard of Bingen: “Saint of the Universal Church“.
On the image above: Hildegard von Bingen with Richardis von Stade (right) and Volmar (left). Miniature painting, c. 1230; Lucca, Biblioteca Statale
This morning the Holy Father had received in a private audience Angelo Cardinal Amato, SDB, Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, who presented the cases for sainthood that his office has been working on.
Among the many important things decided, the Pope has given us the liturgical memorial of and inscribed in the catalog of Saints of the Universal Church, the model of holiness in the person of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a German Benedictine nun born in Bermershein in 1089 and who died in Rupertsberg on 17 Septemeber 1179.
What is interesting here is that Hildegard never really went through the same process of canonization that’s done nowadays so you can say the Church is recognizing her sanctity and place with God without the rigorous investigation that is being done for the Venerable Servant of God Michael J. McGivney. In part, this is because through the centuries the Church has changed several times, the process by which it is judged a person is a blessed or saint. Previously, people used the title “saint” with Hildegard as “popular theology and cult of the saints.”
So, with this ecclesial recognition Saint Hildegard of Bingen may be honored officially as a saint of the Church. She may be considered the Church’s newest Benedictine saint.