I interview a young man this week who moved back to this rural area after living in New York for six years. He sought ‘home’ and ‘community’ and a safe place to raise his family.
Perhaps what impressed me the most was how he looked at his hometown. I saw closed and empty storefronts, high unemployment, and a struggling school district. He saw historic architecture, a town full of potential, and rich in history.
He has vision.
As I entered my car to come home, I looked up at the buildings admiring their style and saw with new eyes and appreciation this place he calls home.
Today is the commemoration of Hildegard of Bingen, a remarkable visionary, and a woman ahead of her time from the Middle Ages. I wrote about her in a post last March, but will repeat a little of her story today as we remember and honor her.
Hildegard of Bingen was born in 1098. The tenth child of a noble family, she was dedicated at birth to the church as was the custom of the day.
At age eight she was sent to live with Jutta, an anchoress so she could get her religious education. An anchoress is like a religious recluse who spent most of her days in prayer in her tiny private cell.
When Jutta died years later, Hildegard became prioress of the Benedictine convent.
In 1141 Hildegard began to have vivid visions of God that blessed her with an understanding of the meaning of religious texts.
Her most famous writing is Scivias or Know the Ways of the Lord. It is a visionary guide to Christian doctrine covering everything from creation to marriage and is written not in ordinary language but in extraordinary images.
Not only did she write down her visions and attend to the administration of the convent, she wrote plays, two biographies on saints, and composed music. She travelled to Paris to study medicine and completed a medical encyclopedia and handbook. She also delved into the use of plants and was an expert in pharmaceuticals. She even conducted four preaching tours throughout Europe.
Hildegard of Bingen, through her many letters, took to task the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, but also the archbishop of Main. She wrote to such luminaries as King Henry II of England and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. She also corresponded with many individuals of low and high estate who wanted her advice or prayers. Many abbots and abbesses asked her for prayers and opinions on various matters even though she would also scold them.
When Hildegard died in 1179, her sisters claimed that two streams of light appeared in the skies and crossed over the room in which she was dying. Her whole life was characterized by light.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Germany and several locations where Hildegard lived and served. Several moments I knew she walked with me as I explored the ruins of her first monastery. What a woman of achievement!
I walked with two visionaries this week: one younger from the 21st century and a fascinating woman from the Middle Ages. People with vision fill the world with hope, possibilities, and encouragement. I feel energized around people who are not afraid to dream dreams and step out into the unknown to see just what might happen. They are the architects of our future – they see tomorrow and make it work.
Hildegard said, “A human being is a vessel that God has built for himself and filled with his inspiration so that his works are perfected in it.” If this is so, we are all capable of being visionaries wherever God calls us.
We need more visionaries in our world today, don’t we?