Sister Joan is one of my favorite nuns — read more about her in Nonne Sense...me3

A woman for the ages —edited from the Foreword: “Hildegard of Bingen: icon and arche­type of woman­hood” by Joan Chittister, in the book Experiencing Hildegard: Jungian Perspectives by  Avis Clendenen

Feast of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church, is September 17.

There are people who stretch us beyond ourselves in life. They show us the edges of the human universe, the possible in the midst of the impos­sible. The memory of them lingers within us long after we first come across them in liter­a­ture or history or art. A few of them, of course, are personal to us. We meet them some­where or at least see them at a distance and are instantly magne­tized by them. We know them, at least uncon­sciously, to be larger than life.

But most of those who engage our souls at such a high level are not our peers. Many of them, in fact, are figures out of history that history never forgets. These are the ones who plague our souls long after we have heard their stories. These are the ones who speak to the soul about the great ques­tions of life.

One of those figures, a woman who simply stays in conscious­ness not simply across all the years of our lives but across the centuries of the Western World, as well, is Hildegard of Bingen. Without a publi­cist. Without a great monu­ment to mark her having been here. Without even a list of new tech­nolo­gies to her name, she remains a pres­ence to be reck­oned with, a model for our own times.

This medieval nun who lived in the eleventh century, a time obscure to most people except profes­sional histo­rians, perhaps, tran­scends the partic­u­lar­i­ties of the ages. She keeps alive not only a history but a possi­bility for our own times, as well. Few, if any, women of the period were her equal. Multiple women in our own time still see her life as a confir­ma­tion of their own. At the same time, she stands in history as a woman too strong for the church either to deny or to affirm for a thou­sand years. Only the memory of the people who saw the great­ness in her kept her work and her life alive for the next ten centuries.

This is a woman who became for men a guide, for the church a faithful critic, and for women a strong, strong model of what it means to be a full human being, a func­tioning adult, a person with a purpose in life. She was a mystic, an ency­clo­pe­dist, an artist, a leader, a public figure, a spir­i­tual teacher, a fear­less carrier of the best ideals of her time. And, most of all, a prophetic model of a future church.

Indeed, so long and impelling is the shadow she throws across history that Carl Jung, a moun­tain of a figure in the history of psychology, draws insight for his own devel­op­ment of depth psychology from her and her work. This is not a woman for all seasons; this is a woman for all centuries.

Biographically, Hildegard is an icon of female lead­er­ship and vision in any time and place. Spiritually, she is a model of what creation must mean for the full devel­op­ment of women now when the forces of the past, masking under spir­i­tual values, do their best to stunt them. Morally, she is a tower of integrity in a world where sins against women belie the claims of civi­liza­tion every­where. All of which factors may be exactly the reason she was neither canon­ized nor recog­nized as a Doctor of the Church before this period.

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