Wednesday, September 08, 2010

On Women... and Renewal

For the second Wednesday running in his "Great Saints" series of catecheses, B16 turned at today's General Audience to the figure of Hildegard of Bingen, the visionary 12th century mystic, musician and theologian.

Here, via AsiaNews, a sum-up of today's talk:
An authentic renewal of the Church "is not achieved by change in structures rather from a sincere spirit of penance and active path of conversion". This lesson of St. Hildegard of Bingen "is a message that we should never forget," said Benedict XVI, as he dedicated a second week of general audience reflections to the twelfth-century mystic nun. Again during his Wednesday meeting with pilgrims he expressed the hope that "the Holy Spirit will inspire in the Church holy and courageous women like Hildegard, who give their valuable contribution to the spiritual growth of the Church of our time."

Hildegard, whom the Pope described as a “founder of monasteries, preacher, and counsellor to the personalities of her time, a naturalist, musician and painter", is also an example of how" even theology can receive content peculiar to women, because they are able to speak of God and faith with their special sensitivity".

Hildegard, a Benedictine nun who "distinguished herself for her spiritual wisdom and holy life" in her writings that describe her mystical visions "interpreted the Holy Scriptures in the light of God, applying them to the various circumstances of life." "Rich in theological content, her writings refer to the main events of salvation history" and "those who heard her felt bound to live a Christian life."

In her work, "with the characteristic traits of feminine sensibility, she develops the theme of mystical marriage between God and humanity, consummated on the cross". Furthermore, in her "vision of God who animates the cosmos, she highlights the deep relationship between man and God and reminds us that the whole creation of which man is the summit, receives life from the Trinity."

Hildegard illustrates the "cultural vitality of the female monasteries of the Middle Ages, contrary to the prejudices that are still present regarding that era". Her popularity pushed many people to write, there are numerous letters addressed to the monastic community from men and women, bishops and abbots. They contain considerations that are still valid today, such as for example " spiritual life must be nurtured and cared for with great dedication: at the beginning it is a bitter fatigue" because it forces us to sacrifice, but one must be open to the search for holiness, to find true happiness in God.
Over recent weeks, the Pope's "Great Saints" thread of Wednesday talks has focused on Pius X, Duns Scotus, and St Joseph Cafasso, a relatively obscure 19th century Turinese whose depth of faith was expressed both in contagious devotion and concrete action... and whose ministry birthed the mission of the famous "friend of youth," St John Bosco.