Is Mysticism Genetic?

A German monastic church (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

A reader of this blog named Chris writes: I have been studying the German medieval mystics and I am strangely drawn to them. My ancestry is strongly German and my historical spiritual roots are there. Does God encode us with a certain kind of spiritual mystical DNA? I can't help but wonder if Christian mysticism runs in my family and ancenstry? Chris, thank you for your question. For me it immediately brings to mind the Star Wars myth, where Luke Skywalker learns that his strength in The Force … [Read more...]

Happy St. Hildegard’s Day!

A Feather on the Breath of God

One of the most colorful and remarkable of mystics, of any age, is the irrepressible twelfth century Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Today (September 17) is her feast day.Hildegard was a Renaissance woman who lived several centuries before the Renaissance: not only was she a mystic and visionary, but she was also an accomplished musician, an artist (or, at least, an art director), a preacher, an herbalist, a prophet, and a respected leader in the church of her day. She lived at a … [Read more...]

Hildegard of Bingen Retreat in Atlanta This Weekend

This past weekend I led a retreat on Hildegard of Bingen at the Oratory in Rock Hill, SC. We explored Hildegard's life, visions, writings, music, and illuminations, with an emphasis on how to apply her wisdom to our lives today.If you're in the Atlanta area — I'm offering a similar program this coming weekend at the Amerson House of Hospitality and Contemplative Life located on the grounds of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, 1790 LaVista Road, Atlanta. You can sign up for just the Friday e … [Read more...]

In Celebration of the Two New Doctors of the Church

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 Au … [Read more...]

The Feast of Saint Hildegard

Today, September 17, 2012, is the first feast day for Saint Hildegard of Bingen, as a saint recognized universally within the Catholic Church.Hildegard passed away on this day in 1179. It took 833 years for it to become an "official" saint's day in the Catholic Calendar. Pope Benedict XVI recognized Hildegard as a saint just this past May.In another 20 days — on October 7 — Hildegard will be declared a Doctor of the Church, joining with Juan of Avila and only thirty-three other saints, my … [Read more...]

Hildegard’s Mystical Trinity

My latest column has been published at Patheos. Follow this link to read it: A Mystical Vision of the Trinity.It's about Hildegard of Bingen and her vision of the Holy Trinity —  which was depicted in one of the many illuminations found in the original manuscript of Hildegard's book Scivias.With Hildegard slated to be declared a Doctor of the Church on October 7, I'll be teaching several classes and leading two retreats on Hildegard, both here in Georgia and in South Carolina, this fall. … [Read more...]

Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen

On Monday Fran and I went to see Vision, a recent German-language film directed by Margarethe Von Trotta and starring Barbara Sukowa, on the life of the twefth-century visionary abbess, Hildegard of Bingen. Many people in our time know of Hildegard exclusively through her music, thanks to beautiful contemporary recordings like Gothic Voices and Emma Kirkby's luminous A Feather on the Breath of God. But Hildegard was more than just a composer — she was truly a renaissance woman, centuries before t … [Read more...]