St Hildegard von Bingen (Feast: 17 September)

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St Hildegard von Bingen (Feast: 17 September)

"… Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I 'A feather on the breath of God.'" (St Hildegard)

What’s not to like about a saint who believed that beer was most wholesome and pleasing to God. St Hildegard, whose writings include the earliest known reference to using hops in beer was among the first saints subjected to the formal canonisation process as we understand it today. While after four lengthy attempts she remained at the level of her beatification, she was nevertheless included in the 16th century Roman Martyrology.

As a prelude to her being named a Doctor of the Church, in May 2012 Pope Benedict XVI extended the liturgical cult of St Hildegard to the Universal Church in a process known as "equivalent canonisation." In October that year, on the feast of the Holy Rosary, St Hildegard became the fourth woman of just thirty five saints honoured with the title Doctor of the Church.

The most celebrated woman of her age she was a visionary, naturalist, playwright, poetess and composer. In recent years, Hildegard has become of particular interest to feminist scholars and the contemporary ‘New Age’ movement. Recordings and performances of Hildegard's music have gained critical praise and popularity. In science, the minor planet 898 Hildegard is named for her as is the plant genus Hildegardia owing to her contributions to herbal medicine.

St Hildegard is indeed as Pope Benedict described her: "perennially relevant" and "an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music" and still she is “a feather on the breath of God.”

By Michael McKenna, Director, Office of Liturgy