Sts. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church; Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
The Many Gifts of St. Hildegard of Bingen
Abbess. Botanist. Physician. Theologian. Playwright. Composer. Doctor of the Church. In another example of God exulting the lowly, all these titles and more have been given to St. Hildegard of Bingen, who was born the sickly youngest child of minor nobility, and eventually presented as a political offering to the Benedictines.
St. Hildegard was born around 1098, in what is today Germany. She entered the monastery at Disibodenberg 1112, and by the age of 38 became Prioress. Due to the rapidly growing increase of vocations under Hildegard, one of her first moves was to request that she and her nuns be allowed to move to a rural, primitive monastery, possibly to separate the sincere applicants from those jumping on the bandwagon. After refusal from the Abbot at Disibodenberg, St. Hildegard sought permission from the Archbishop of Mainz, which she received. The Abbot still refused to let Hildegard establish a new monastery however, but he eventually changed his mind when the saint was struck with a mysterious illness she attributed to God’s displeasure with the Abbot’s reluctance.
Such close, physical connection with God wasn’t an unknown occurrence to St. Hildegard. From a very young age, she had experienced mystical visions. These visions closely involved all five of the human senses in a manner consistent with the saint’s spirituality. In all her works, a strong grounding in the physical world is apparent, and the concept of “viriditas”, or the lush greenness of nature, was frequently used by the saint to describe the heavenly abundance that overcomes earthly failures. Despite the intensity and clarity of these visions though, Hildegard was tremendously reluctant to commit them to writing.
However, after being instructed by God (and a number of contemporaries) to do so, suffering another mysterious illness and ultimately receiving papal approval to document them, St. Hildegard began writing down her visions. The first of these manuscripts is titled Scivias, and is a massive 600 pages long. In it, details about creation, salvation, and the nature of the Trinity are interspersed with 35 beautiful illustrations. Hildegard went on to write another two volumes documenting her visions, supervising the creation of the manuscripts- some of which still survive today- well into her seventies.
Despite her unwillingness to set her visions to paper, St. Hildegard was a voracious and enthusiastic author on other topics. Her letters alone make up one of the largest collections of personal correspondence to survive from the Middle Ages, and her audiences range from popes to emperors to abbesses of other monasteries.
Adding the title of composer to this remarkable saint’s list, Hildegard wrote vast amounts of music, enough of which survive to make one of the largest surviving collections from a medieval composer. Chief among them is a musical morality play titled Ordo Virtutum, which is not only the earliest example of this genre on record, but is also the only medieval drama in which both text and music have survived together. An example of plainchant, modern recordings of it can be heard online.
St. Hildegard’s numerous medical texts, though archaic to modern standards, are innovative in their linking of human health to both the patient’s inner world as well as the environmental factors of the outer one.
Unable to contain her written expression to the known languages of the time, Hildegard invented her own- dubbed Lingua Ignota or the “Unknown Language”. The saint constructed a 23-letter alphabet for this language, which contained over a thousand words and appeared to rely on Latin grammatical constructs. The exact purpose of this language isn’t clear, with speculations ranging from it being a tool to encourage camaraderie among Hildegard’s nuns to it being presented by God in a vision for use as a universal language.
This remarkable woman left behind a legacy and body of work that has vast appeal, from New Agers to feminists to botanists (a genus of plant has been named after her) and astronomers (minor planet 898 Hildegard is in her honor). In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named her a Doctor of the Church, one of only thirty-three people to be called thus.
In Hildegard, we are given an example of a saint whose love of God manifested so strongly that it spilled over into nearly every aspect of earthly experience. From inspiring holiness in those around her, to glorifying God in music and language and studied observation of the natural world, St. Hildegard is an example on how to fully and robustly enter into a relationship with the Divine.
Pope Benedict creates two new Doctors of the Church
The apocalyptic prophecies of Hildegard of Bingen, the next Doctor of the Church [Catholic Caucus]
Pope to Canonize and Name Hildegard of Bingen as Doctor of the Church
A Continuing Reflection on St. Hildegard
On St. Hildegard: Cloistered Nun and Mystic
On St. Robert Bellarmine
Robert Bellarmine, A Valid Authority For Ecclesiology
The 15 Marks of The Church [St. Robert Bellarmine]
Mary: Mediatrix in the Theology of Bellarmine
Saint Robert Bellarmine [Patron of Catechists]
Information: St. Robert Bellarmine
Feast Day: September 17
Born: October 4, 1542, Montepulciano, Italy
Died: September 17, 1621, Rome, Italy
Canonized: June 29, 1930, Rome by Pope Pius XI
Major Shrine: Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio, Rome, Italy
Patron of: Preparatory; canonists; canon lawyers; catechists; catechumens
Monday, September 17
Liturgical Color: Green
Today is the optional memorial of St.
Robert Bellarmine, bishop and
doctor of the Church. A member of
the Society of Jesus, he was a
passionate defender of the Church
during the Reformation. St. Robert
died in 1621.
Ordinary Time: September 17th
Optional Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, bishop and doctor
September 17, 2018 (Readings on USCCB website)
O God, who adorned the Bishop Saint Robert Bellarmine with wonderful learning and virtue to vindicate the faith of your Church, grant, through his intercession, that in the integrity of that same faith your people may always find joy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Look upon us, O God, Creator and ruler of all things, and, that we may feel the working of your mercy, grant that we may serve you With all our heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
- Francis Embodies the Christological Truth at the Root of Human Existence | Pope Benedict XVI
- Francis: Enamoured of Christ and an Architect of Peace | Pope Benedict XVI
- Franciscan Symbolism | Sister M. Michaeline O.S.F.
- Homily on St. Francis of Assisi (09-17-1993) | Pope John Paul II
- Saint Francis of Assisi | Pope Benedict XVI
Old Calendar: Impression of the Stigmata of St. Francis; St. Hildegarde. abbess (Hist)
St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) was born in Montepulciano, Italy, and died in Rome. The son of noble parents, he entered the Society of Jesus, finishing his theological studies at Louvain, Belgium. His services to the Church were outstanding and many. He occupied the chair of controversial theology in Rome. He defended the Holy See against anti-clericals. He wrote books against the prevailing heresies of the day. His catechism, translated into many languages, spread the knowledge of Christian doctrine to all parts of the world. He was the Counsellor of Popes and spiritual director of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. He helped St. Francis de Sales obtain approval of the Visitation Order. As a religious he was a model of purity, humility and obedience; as a bishop and Cardinal, an example of great love for his flock.
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of the Commemoratioin of the Imprinting of the Holy Stigmata on the Body of St. Francis and St. Robert Bellarmine’s feast is celebrated on May 13. Two years before his death St. Francis retired to Mt. Alverno where he began a forty days’ fast in honor of St. Michael the Archangel. There, while in a state of continual prayer and unceasing watching, he saw in a vision a seraph with burning, dazzling wings whose feet and hands were nailed to a cross; at the same time five wounds, like those of our Lord, appeared on Francis’ feet, hands and side; from the wound in his side blood flowed. These stigmata were so fully verified subsequently that the Franciscans since the fourteenth century have celebrated a feast in honor of the event.
St. Robert Bellarmine
He was born at Montepulciano in Tuscany on October 4, 1542, the feast of the Poverello of Assisi toward whom he always cherished a special devotion. The day on which he died, September 17, is now the feast in honor of the stigmata of St. Francis.
In 1560 Robert Bellarmine entered the Society of Jesus. He easily ranks among its greatest men, illustrious for learning as well as for piety, humility, and simplicity of heart. If it were possible to summarize his life in a single sentence, one that would resolve all the varied activities and accomplishments of his long career, a verse from the psalm might serve: “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten.” His most important work was controversial in nature but the impact of his presentation “resembled the final chord in a mighty cantata, a chord that resounded through all the vice and scandal resulting from the internal corruption of the Church of that day, and that chord heralded Mother Church as one, holy, and Catholic” (E. Birminghaus).
Bellarmine also acted as confessor to the youthful Aloysius and John Berchmans. It might be asked why three hundred years passed before the beatification and canonization of Bellarmine. Long ago Bishop Hefele pointed to the reason when he wrote: “Bellarmine deserves the highest degree of respect from Catholics, even though he has not been canonized. Those who labored to besmirch him have only erected a monument of shame for themselves!” Finally in 1923, he was beatified; canonization followed in 1930, and on September 17, 1931, Pope Pius XI declared him a doctor of the Church.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: canon lawyers; canonists; catechists; catechumens; archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Symbols: red hat of cardinal; book denoting doctor of the Church; pictured in the red garments of a Cardinal.
Things to Do:
Study the connections between Robert Bellarmine, Aloysius Gonzaga, and Francis de Sales.
Learn more about the different translations of the Bible and what the Church approves.
Learn more about the Code of Canon Law and what canon lawyers do, compared to regular lawyers.
Read the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life.
Read The Seven Words on the Cross and The Art of Dying Well by St. Robert Bellarmine online.
Stigmata of St. Francis
Saint Bonaventure, biographer of Saint Francis of Assisi, wrote that two years before his holy death he had been praying on Mount Alverno in a solitary retreat, where he had gone to fast for forty days in honor of the Archangel Michael. No one ever meditated more than Francis on the Passion of his Lord. During his retreat he beheld in vision a six-winged Seraph attached to a cross, and received at the same time a painful wound of the heart, which seemed to transpierce it. When the vision ended his own hands and feet bore the marks of the angelic crucifixion which he had seen in the vision. He understood by his vision that the soul must come to resemble Christ by the ardors of its interior fire, rather than by any physical, exterior means. We reproduce here a meditation of the saintly 19th century Abbot, Dom Guéranger of Solemnes in France
The Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis, whom we will soon honor again on his feast of October 4th, is not only to glorify a Saint; it commemorates and signifies something which goes beyond the life of any single man, even one of the greatest of the Church. The God-Man never ceases to live on in His Church, and the reproduction of His own mysteries in this Spouse whom He wants to be similar to Himself, is the explanation of history.
In the thirteenth century it seemed that charity, whose divine precept many no longer heeded, concentrated in a few souls the fires which had once sufficed to inflame multitudes. Sanctity shone as brilliantly as ever, but the hour for the cooling of the brazier had struck for the peoples. The Church itself says so today in its liturgy, at the Collect: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, when the world was growing cold, You reproduced the sacred marks of Your passion in the body of the most blessed Francis, in order that Your love might also set our hearts afire.’ The Spouse of Christ had already begun to experience the long series of social defections among the nations, with their denials, treasons, derision, slaps, spittings in the very praetorium, all of which conclude in the legalized separation of society from its Author. The era of the Passion is advanced; the exaltation of the Holy Cross, which for centuries was triumphant in the eyes of the nations, acquires in the sight of heaven, as the Angels look down upon it, the aspect of an ever closer resemblance with the Spouse to the sufferings of her crucified Beloved.
Saint Francis, loved today by all who know of him — and few there are who do not — was like precious marble placed before an expert sculptor. The Holy Spirit chose the flesh of the seraph of Assisi to express His divine thought, thus manifesting to the world the very specific direction He intends to give to souls thereafter. This stigmatization offers a first example, a complete image, of the new labor the divine Spirit is meditating — total union, on the very Cross of Christ itself, of the mystical Body with the divine Head. Francis is the one honored by this primacy of choice; but after him the sacred sign will be received by others, who also personify the Church. From this time on, the Stigmata of the Lord Jesus will be at all times visible, here and there on this earth.
—Excerpted from L’Année liturgique, by Dom Prosper Guéranger (Mame et Fils: Tours, 1919), “The Time after Pentecost V”, Vol. 14, translation O.D.M.
Things to Do:
Read this story about St. Francis and the Stigmata.
Called the “Sibyl of the Rhine,” Hildegard of Bingen became the most famous mystic and prophet of her time. Her writings and music are still found in all major bookstores, and no woman saint is more popular in her native Germany. When she was eight, she was placed in a convent, where she later became abbess. She was a biblical exegete, visionary, preacher, composer, and herbalist, who corresponded with the major royalty and church leaders of her day, including four popes. Her greatest vision came when she was forty-two, which is recorded in her famous Scrivias, or Know the Ways of the Lord, a treatise whose magnificence rivals William Blake’s visionary work. Hildegard’s spiritual writings found approval during her lifetime, and her lectures on the spiritual life drew crowds from all over Europe. She wrote prolifically, on topics as varied as history and drama, polictics and and liturgical poetry. Her monastery joyfully sang the praises she wrote. During the last year of her life, when she was eighty-one, she entered into a conflict with ecclesiastical authorities because she allowed a young man who had been excommunicated to be buried in her abbey cemetery, and her convent was placed under interdict. It is probably that, for this reason, Hildegard was never formally canonized, although she is found in all major saints’ books and her cult was approved locally because of so many miracles reported at her tomb.
— Excerpted from Women Saints, Madonna Sophia Compton
Things to Do:
Learn more about St. Hildegarde.
St. Hildegard was a composer, visit this page to read more.
Meditation: Luke 7:1-10
Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come. (Luke 7:4)
Today’s Gospel recounts one of Scripture’s best-known stories about the power of intercessory prayer: Jesus heals an unseen servant with only the power of his word. It’s an inspiring story, but take a look at how it all began. People came to Jesus and urged him, begged him, to come. They weren’t asking on behalf of a family member or a friend or even another Jew. They were asking him to come heal a pagan soldier’s slave. An unlikely believer, the Roman centurion recognized that Jesus, like Caesar, possessed supreme authority. So he sent envoys to convey his request, and Jesus responded!
Many miracles in Scripture occurred because someone went to Jesus on another person’s behalf. Often it was a parent pleading for a child or a friend begging Jesus to intervene. And over and over, Jesus answered their request.
Intercession like this isn’t limited to biblical times. We can all be intercessors. We don’t need a special title or training. In fact, you probably already intercede for your family and friends. But maybe now is an opportunity to learn to pray a little more effectively. How? Like the centurion, try making a plan and pushing yourself to stick with it.
First, find a piece of paper and write down the people, places, and situations that you want to pray for. Maybe it’s people in your own home or parish. Maybe it’s a bitter conflict in a distant country. Don’t let the size of the request deter you.
Next, find a visible place in your home where you can post your list. You might put it on the refrigerator, on your mirror, or beside your Bible. Every time you see the list, picture yourself bringing these petitions to Jesus, just as the centurion did. Ask him to intervene in these situations to bring healing or reconciliation or whatever else is needed.
As time goes by, you may discover that God has answered some of your prayers. Put a check mark next to these. This will remind you that God is listening, even though other prayers seem to go unanswered. In moments of doubt, you can look back on these answered prayers and remember that God knows and hears the requests of his people.
“Lord, I am not worthy, but please come and heal.”
1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33
Psalm 40:7-10, 17