I have in my kitchen a cupboard dedicated to cookbooks. They include many that were products of various parishes and given to me by friends. One that is especially important was compiled by members of my home parish and includes recipes from people I knew as a child. Some, of course, are my mother’s recipes. They are stained as I am a rather messy cook. One that is relatively new bears the title, From Saint Hildegard’s Kitchen, Foods of Health, Foods of Joy by Jany Fournier-Rosset.
Why have I chosen to refer to this cookbook? In the Catholic Tradition, we have a rich heritage of honoring the saints. St. Paul calls them “clouds of witnesses,” in his letter to the Hebrews. They are those who have gone before us showing us the way to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. St. Hildegard’s feast day, celebrated on September 17, was one of those witnesses. She was declared a doctor of the Church indicating that she was a great teacher. Hildegard of Bingen was born in Germany along the Rhine. She is known as a mystic, a person with a deep desire to understand God and in so doing experience the divine essence of God. Hildegard lived from 1098-1179. She was a Benedictine nun who excelled in many capacities. She was a writer, a composer, a poet, a visionary and an expert on medicine and nature. Her music is still listened to today with all of its originality.
Perhaps I choose to remember her because of her connection to nature and the fact that we are experiencing a climate crisis. Pope Francis said that “Hildegard united scientific knowledge and spirituality.” Pope Francis has cautioned the world in his encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home” about the destruction of nature. Hildegard in her vision of nature indicated that we must combine our spiritual life with that of nature. More and more people are beginning to understand that without our careful consideration of how we interact with nature, we might very well destroy the very world that the Creator has given us for careful keeping.
Many witnesses in faith have gone before us. Hildegard is one of those, leading us to become mystic ourselves, more deeply connected to the divine essence of God.