Book ReviewsHildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader

Book written by: Carmen Acevedo Butcher.  Paraclete Press.  244 pages.  March 2007.

 

If the Pope was to look for another woman saint to be named as a Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) would be a great candidate for this title.  St. Hildegard was a Benedictine abbess of two monasteries of nuns in Germany near the Rhine River as well as a great mystic and preacher.  She publicly preached to clergy and lay people and encouraged them to live as good Christians.

 

The saint also had many visions which she wrote down after discussing them with her confessor – a Benedictine monk.  People visited her due to her holiness – some were laymen and women, others were nobles such as Pope Eugene III.

 

St. Hildegard lived to be 81 years old and was not canonized by the Church, but instead acclaimed a saint by the people of God.

 

Carmen Acevedo Butcher has created this reader of St. Hildegard’s works and has translated Hildegard’s words into modern English.  

 

The book starts off with a short biography of the saint and continues listing some of St. Hildegard’s songs which are in Latin and are very moving and mesmerizing to hear.  She created her own musical notation. 

 

Butcher then provides examples from Hildegard’s work Scivias which “is a very orthodox handbook for good Christian living”  followed by her The Play of Virtues which is a morality play that was written and acted out by Hildegard’s nuns in the 11th-12th century which was before the popularity of morality plays in the 14th century occurred.  She was ahead of her times.  This play is about the devil trying to seduce a soul and how the virtues try to help the soul against the devil.

 

The book also provides some of Hildegard’s letters to various people, her medical advice, her writings on temptations, vice and virtues.

 

Carmen Butcher has written with a down-to-earth style that speaks to modern or post-modern people the works of St. Hildegard.  She has also provided great introductions into the various works of the saint.  It is too bad St. Hildegard’s commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict was not included although some quotes are present in this book. 

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This work is highly recommended to those interested in the works of St. Hildegard of Bingen or those interested in Benedictine spirituality.  This spiritual reader will speak to the soul.  The reader just has to listen.

 

Dr. Carmen Acevedo Butcher is the author of Man of God:  A Life of St. Benedict (2006), God of Mercy:  Aelfric’s Sermons and Theology (2006), and Incandenscence:  365 Readings with Women Mystics (2005).

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