Today, October 7, is the day Hildegard of Bingen is declared a Doctor of the Catholic Church. She is only the fourth woman to receive this honor (all four are mystics; the other three are Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena and Thérèse of Lisieux).
Joining Hildegard in being declared a Doctor today is John of Avila, a contemporary of Teresa and also a mystic. Hildegard and John bring the total number of Doctors of the Church to 35, joining such theological and mystical luminaries as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis de Sales, Ephrem the Syrian, and John of the Cross.
To celebrate the occasion, here are several books that I have used on my journey to getting to know the wisdom and visionary insight of the “Sybil of the Rhine,” as Hildegard was known even in her lifetime.
- Scivias (Classics of Western Spirituality) — Hildegard’s first major work, a collection of her visions, including vivid descriptions of what she saw, and her own interpretive commentary.
- Selected Writings — From Penguin books comes what is probably the best single-volume anthology of Hildegard’s writings, also including letters from others written to her, excerpts from the first biography of Hildegard, and documents related to her cause for canonization.
- Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader — more devotional than academic in its format, this anthology by Carmen Acevedo Butcher offers an excellent introduction to the spirituality of Hildegard.
- Symphonia — Noted Hildegard scholar Barbara Newman translated the text of the lyrics to Hildegard’s music. Her lyrics provide some of Hildegard’s most sensual writings as well as lovely, poetic glimpses of mystical insight. If you love Hildegard primarily for her music, this is the single most important book for you.
- Explanation of the Rule of Benedict — Hildegard’s commentary on the Benedictine rule, edited by Hugh Feiss.
- Homilies on the Gospels — Yes, Hildegard was a preacher, in addition to being an abbess, a visionary, a musician, and a physician. These translations by Beverly Mayne Kienzle makes over fifty of Hildegard’s sermons available in English
- Experiencing Hildegard: Jungian Perspectives — Carl Jung mentioned Hildegard several times in his writings, which inspired Avis Clendenen to explore the relationship between Hildegard’s medieval thought and Jungian spirituality. Covering the key themes of Hildegard’s work, this is a fresh and non-dogmatic primer to her spiritual wisdom.
Also, here is an interesting article: A Beginner’s Guide to the Music of St. Hildegard of Bingen.
Finally, I don’t want to leave John of Avila out, so here are two books of his works. I confess I haven’t read any of John’s writings yet, but these titles would be where I’d start: