Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Hildegardis, Virgin and Abbess

portrait of Saint Hildegard of Bingen; date unknown, artist unknown; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Hildegardis, celebrated through the whole Christian world, on account of heavenly visions, prophecies, and other divine gifts, was bom in 1098, of noble, wealthy and pious parents, in the county of Spanheim, at a place called Beckelheim. Her father’s name was Hildebert, her mother’s, Mechtildis. They had but little trouble in the education of their daughter, as she was early instructed and led in a most remark- able manner in the path of righteousness by the divine Teacher of all good. As all her actions, her whole being, denoted the unusual disposition of her mind, they gave her, when she was only eight years old, into the charge of a pious nun, named Jutta, who was a sister of Count Spanheim, and who lived in the convent of Mount Saint Disibode, under the rule of Saint Benedict Hildegardis manifested great joy when she perceived that, far from the innumerable dangers of the world, she would have an opportunity to serve God with her whole heart. Young as she was in years, her reasoning faculties were developed, and she had a lively conception of God and of all that was pleasing to H is Majesty. Jutta, her instructress, was astonished at the zeal with which Hildegardis, so young and tender, gave herself to the practice of good works. Prayers, singing psalms, serving others, and performing the lowest work in the house, were her only pleasures. All were edified by her conduct, and looked upon her as a model; hence, Jutta did not hesitate to invest her with the habit, and allowed her to make her vows earlier than was customary. No one can comprehend the consolation that filled her heart when, by these vows, she could unite herself to the Lord. Indescribable was the care she took to fulfill punctually all that she had promised to the Almighty. According to her own words, she endeavored to please God alone, her words, thoughts and actions were influenced by this single aim. After Jutta’s death, Hildegardis was chosen Abbess, and though un- willing at first to become the successor of her pious instructress, yet when compelled to accept the office, she faithfully discharged all its duties. She was solicitous for the spiritual and temporal welfare of those under her charge, treated them with kindness and modesty, and encouraged them to perfection not less by her exhortations than by her virtuous example. The number of those who desired to live under her direction considerably increased, and as the convent became too small, the holy Abbess resolved to build another. God Himself appointed the place to erect it, which was a mountain near Bingen, below Mayence, called Mount Saint Robert, in honor of a saintly Duke of that name, who was there buried. Hildegardis bought the place, built a convent upon it, and after receiving permission from the authorities, as well secular as ecclesiastic, she resided in it with twenty nuns. Some years later she erected another convent at Eibingen, on the other side of the Rhine in the Rheingau. Many and great were the obstacles she encountered in building these two convents, but she fearlessly persevered, as it was a work to which God Himself had encouraged her. With equal courage she also bore persecutions: trusting in the Almighty, she allowed nothing to interfere with what she had commenced in His honor. Her patience in sickness was not less invincible. “The more suffering my Jesus sends me,” she said, “the more I am convinced that He loves me.” Once, during thirty days, she suffered so terribly, that every one thought she would expire from the violence of the pain. Some angels, however, appeared to her, who said: “It is not yet time to depart; arise!” At the same moment her pain ceased, and her sickness disappeared. The same happened more than once to her: when her sickness had reached its height, God ordered her to perform some particular work, and she was not only immediately well, but had also sufficient strength to do the Almighty’s bidding.

It was not strange that such events were greatly admired; but still more admiration was excited by the heavenly gifts which God had imparted to this holy Abbess, and the great number of revelations and visions with which she was graced. These began when she was five years old, and ended only with her life. At first she related everything she saw, not knowing herself what she spoke, while those who listened to her did not understand her words. When she perceived that she was specially favored by these visions, she became silent, and did not even inform the pious Jutta of what she had seen. At last, God commanded her to write down all that had been revealed to her; but fear of men detained her. She thought that most persons would draw wrong conclusions from it, and ridicule it. This disobedience God punished by a fearful sickness, which lasted until she had acquainted her confessor with the divine command, and admonished by him, she began to write down her visions. As soon as a part of them had been recorded, they were first sent to the archbishop of Mayence and other learned men, and then to Pope Eugenius III, who at that time presided over a Council at Treves, at which Saint Bernard was present. All who read them were astonished at the more than human wisdom they contained, and no one found anything to reprove in them. The Holy Father himself wrote to the Saint, and exhorted her to write down everything which God revealed to her. Hildegardis obeyed, and the fame of the divine graces bestowed upon her spread over the whole Christian world. Ecclesiastics and people of the world, high and low’, came to her or wrote to her, asking her advice in different matters, or beseeching her to pray for them to the Almighty. Several letters are still extant which were written to her by popes, archbishops, bishops, emperors and kings. Her answers are also preserved, and they contain the most wholesome advice, which she unhesitatingly gave to the highest personages. These lead us to the conclusion that God had bestowed upon her the gift of seeing into the deepest secrets and of reading future events. She foretold to the Emperor Frederic I, a long but disturbed reign; to the Archbishop of Mayence, his approaching death; and to many cities and states the disturbances that heresy would, after many years, cause them. She had never studied, yet, when consulted on the most difficult parts of Holy Writ, or on the mysteries of the faith, she was able to expound all so clearly that the most learned were astonished. Commanded by God, she made several journeys to Cologne, Treves, Metz, Wurzburg and Bamberg, and announced as well to the clergy as to the people what God wished her to impart to them. She did the same in many convents which she visited, admonishing all to do penance, and to observe their duties more strictly. The high consideration she enjoyed was considerably increased by the gift which God had bestowed upon her of working miracles. It is related in her biography that the blind, the paralytic, the possessed, and other sufferers, obtained all they desired, either by her prayers, or by her laying hands upon them. Notwithstanding these great gifts and graces, the holy Abbess was deeply humble: the more God overwhelmed her with favors, the more she humbled herself before Him; and to this end the many maladies with which she was afflicted were very useful to her. God also permitted her to be tormented, like Job, with terrible bodily and mental pains by evil spirits, for the space of thirty days. She heard them encourage each other, saying: “Let us deceive her, that she may lose her trust in God and blaspheme Him for allowing her to suffer so much.” But in this severe struggle she was sustained by the Most High. “I know,” said she to God, “that all Thou send me is for the best. I have merited it all. I hope that Thou wilt not thus torment my soul in the other world.” After this saintly and wonderful virgin had reached her eighty-second year, she desired to be united in heaven with Him whom she had loved and honored so faithfully on earth. Her desire was granted, and the day of her departure revealed to her. She made those under her acquainted with it, admonished them to constancy in the path of perfection, devoutly received the Last Sacraments, and calmly expired after a short sickness. At the time of her death, two bows of many colors appeared in the heavens, and above them was seen a shining globe of light, which illuminated the whole convent. The holy body was buried before the altar in the choir, where it remained until the year 1632, when it was transported with the relics of Saint Rupert of Bingen, to Eibingen, as the church and convent of Mount Rupert had been destroyed by the Swedes. The miracles which were wrought as well before as after the funeral of Saint Hildegardis, by her intercession, were so numerous that the nuns were disturbed in their devotions by the crowd of people who came streaming to her tomb to pray. They therefore requested the archbishop of Mayence to come and command the deceased to work no more miracles at her tomb. The archbishop did as he was requested, and the holy Abbess showed herself as obedient after death as she had been in life.

Practical Considerations

• “The more suffering my Jesus sends me, the more I am convinced that He loves me,” said the holy abbess Hildegardis. Some people, when visited by crosses and trials, believe that the Almighty has forsaken them, that their prayers are not pleasing to Him, or that He is angry with them. So long as everything is as they like it, when they enjoy a continual temporal well-being, when their health leaves them nothing to desire, when they are honored and esteemed, they believe that they are agreeable to the Most High. In both cases they err; for, firstly, if a man endeavors to live piously, and is yet visited by God with adversity, he may surely conclude from it, that the Almighty loves him. “Such as I love I rebuke and chastise,” says God Himself. (Apocalypse 3) And his holy Apostle says: “For, whom the Lord loves, he chastises.” (Hebrews 12) Secondly, so far as temporal well-being is concerned, we have many opportunities to see with our own eyes, that this world’s goods are given also to heathens, Jews, heretics, and other wicked people, whom we cannot, for that reason, judge to be agreeable to God. Why this is so, I have elsewhere explained to you. Learn today of Saint Hildegardis, that God loves you when He sends you suffering, whilst you endeavor to do His will. He wishes to give you an opportunity to expiate your sins entirely on this earth, that, after death, you may so much sooner obtain salvation; or, should they be already atoned for, He wishes you to increase your merits and gain greater glory in heaven.

• Saint Hildegardis was, by the permission of God, tormented by the Evil Spirit, who endeavored to destroy her trust in God and lead her to blaspheme Him because He allowed her to suffer so much. But she conquered Satan, by renewing her faith and hope in God, and at the same time, by acknowledging that God did all things well, and that she deserved the cross that He laid upon her. Some people are troubled with blasphemous thoughts as well in crosses and trials as in other circumstances. They ought not therefore to be too much concerned, but believe that to suffer these temptations is quite a different thing from being guilty of the sin. So long as you are not pleased with them, and do not consent to them, you are committing no sin. Hence, take courage and animate yourself with the principles of your faith. Say or think: “I believe that there is a God; that this God is just and merciful, and will not overburden me, or do me any wrong; that He wishes my salvation and has promised me His grace and assistance.” Awaken your trust in God, acknowledge that you deserve all you suffer and much more. Renounce solemnly in the morning all temptations of Satan, and pray to God to give you His assistance. If Satan assails you with violence, do not become faint-hearted, but speak to him as the Saviour did when He was tempted; “Away with thee, Satan! I know that I have an infinitely good and merciful God; in Him have I placed my trust.” “The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded.” (Isaiah 1)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Hildegardis, Virgin and Abbess”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 May 2018. Web. 20 January 2019. <>