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Pope speaks on medieval mystic, Hildegard of Bingen

September 01, 2010

At his regular weekly public audience on September 1, Pope Benedict spoke about “the precious role that women have played, and continue to play, in the life of the Church.” As a historical example of that role he spoke about St. Hildegard of Bingen.

During the Middle Ages, the Holy Father observed, “certain female figures also stood out for the sanctity of their lives and the richness of their teachings.” St. Hildegard of Bingen, an enormously influential figure in the 12th century.

As the superior of a Benedictine convent, St. Hildegard was already known as an important cultural and spiritual leader when she began to experience mystical visions. “As is always the case in the lives of true mystics,” Pope Benedict noted, “Hildegard wished to place herself under the authority of the wise, in order to discern the origin of her visions, which she was afraid could be the fruit of illusions and not from God.” She received encouragement from St. Bernard of Clairvaux and later from Pope Eugene III, who urged her to speak and write about her visions. From that point forward her fame grew, and she became popularly known as “the Teutonic prophetess.”

Pope Benedict reminded his audience that St. Hildegard had used her extraordinary gifts only to serve the Church. “All gifts given by the Holy Spirit are, in fact, intended for the edification of the Church,” he said, “and it is the Church, through her pastors, who recognizes their authenticity.”


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