Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Hildegardis, Virgin and Abbess
SHE was born of most noble parentage in 1098, in the county of Spanheim, in the Lower Palatinate of the Rhine, and educated, from the eighth year of her age, in the monastery of the Mount of St. Disibode, under the care of a very pious nun called Jutta, her relation, and sister to the Count of Spanheim. Hildegardis excited herself to a contempt of the world, by representing to herself the phrenzy which possesses a great part of mankind in the world, by what springs they are moved, how in pursuit of empty imaginary honour or profit, they are driven into the most laborious and hazardous attempts, how easily they swallow the most bitter and poisonous pills when they are gilt over by ambition or avarice, how eagerly they hunt after the troubles of worldly greatness, and basely adore the gawdy nothings of this life. Full of gratitude to God, who had rescued her out of that region of darkness, she gave herself to serve him with her whole heart. She was favoured with heavenly visions, and St. Bernard, who preached the crusade in that country, examined and approved her prophetic spirit.1 It belongs only to God to vouchsafe to certain souls such favours; which are to us more a subject of admiration than of edification. For any one to fall into foolish desires of walking in such wonderful ways, is a certain mark of pride and presumption, and a dangerous illusion. Simplicity with humility is the character of true piety, which aims not at extraordinary gifts above itself. Hence the patience, the mortification, the profound humility and devotion of which this saint sets us the most wonderful examples, are what it concerns us chiefly to study in her life.
Being chosen abbess she seemed still to live always in the presence of God, always united to God, always conversing interiorly with God; and with Mary at the feet of Jesus, listening to his divine instructions; yet applying herself with Martha to the active life, serving him in his spiritual daughters with so much sweetness, and attention, as if this care took up all her thought. Her community becoming much too numerous for the hermitage of Mount St. Disibode, she removed with it to Mount St. Rupert, near Binghem, so called because St. Rupert or Robert, duke of Binghem, there ended his mortal pilgrimage. St. Hildegardis wrote the life of that saint, that of St. Disibode, and several letters to the Popes Eugenius III., Anastasius IV., Adrian IV., and Alexander III., the Emperors Conrad III. and Frederic I., and other great personages. She changed the habit of St. Bennet for that of the Cistercians, and died on the 17th of September, in the year 1179, of her age eighty-two. See her life compiled by Theodoric, a monk, thirty years after her death: Cave, Hist. Littér. t. 2, p. 242, and her epistles Bibl. Patr. t. 23. See also Fabricius Bibl. med. et Infirmæ Latinit. vol. 3, p. 773. Stilting, the Bollandist, t. 5, Sept. p. 630, &c.
Note 1. Trithemius, (Chron. Hirsang. ad an. 1147,) and after him Baillet, relate that St. Bernard visited St. Hildergardis at Mount St. Rupert. But they are solidly refuted by Stilting, p. 636, and Mabillon, or rather Martenne, t. 6. Annal. Ben. p. 410. It was at Treves that the holy doctor approved her prophetic spirit, and some of her writings which he had read there. Pope Eugenius III. did the same in the council of Treves, where he presided. (Trithem. loc. cit. ad an. 1150, et Bibl. Patr. Ed. Lugd. t. 23, p. 537. This council was held in 1147, or the beginning of 1148. (See Stilting, p. 634.) In the third book of her revelations there are some uncertain and apocryphal prophecies added by a strange hand; such as that quoted by Bzovius, ad an. 1415. See Henschen. t. 1, Mart. 7, p. 667, also Amort De Revelat. and Benedict XIV. de Canonizat. Matthew of Westminster, ad an. 1292 attributes to St. Hildegardis the Speculum futuorum temporum; but this work was only compiled from her writings by Gebenus, prior of Ebernach, in the thirteenth century. See Bern. Pez. Thes. Anecd. t. 3, part. 3, p. 629, n. 14. George Echard, t. 2. Corp. Hist. med. ævi, in Chron. Herm. Cornieri, ad an. 1140; and Stilting, § 13. n. 195, 196. p. 675. [back]