Hildegard on Justice, Compassion and Climate Change

Today, September 17, is Saint Hildegard’s Feast Day.  Doctor of the church, she speaks to us currently as we struggle through a pandemic brought about by climate change and other perils taking place around the planet. 

“In the voices of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit, the Planet cries out for defenders” – Order of the Sacred Earth. Artists, clockwise from top left: _Marion from Pixabay; NASA Johnson on Flickr; skeeze from Pixabay; JayMantri from Pixabay.

More hurricanes and fiercer ones are occurring in the Gulf of Mexico and here in the northern area of California (as many places in the US and beyond), wildfires are raging through the states of Washington, Oregon and California like never before.  Thousands have lost their homes and businesses and many have died.

Today marks the 25th day in a row that we have not seen the sun but only smoky skies where I am living.  For several days we have been warned not to leave our homes if at all possible.  Not being able to walk outdoors is hard on one’s mental as well as physical health—to say nothing of that of my dog.  Experts have said that breathing the current air is like smoking 25 packs of cigarettes!

TIME contrasts claims of U.S. environmental leadership in the last four years against documented facts. Uploaded to YouTube by TIME.

This is the future we face.  Things will get worse before (or if) they get better.  Climate change is not an abstraction.  Lying about climate change and building an entire political platform on such lies (“it’s all a hoax!” and other tropes) is not an abstraction either.  Just as lying about coronavirus is not an abstraction. 

People die due to political lies.  Denial—”choosing to be ignorant of something important that one should know about” is a “mortal sin” according to Aquinas.  A mortal sin one that kills one’s own soul and others.  It is astounding to consider that an entire political party in the US has been in denial about climate change for decades.

Uncomfortably numb, zoned out in front of the screen. Photo by niklas_hamann on Unsplash

What does Hildegard have to say about all this?  Yesterday we saw her teachings about saving Mother Earth and not injuring her.  But hear what she has to say about being asleep (or pretending one is asleep) vs. waking up.

The mysterious gifts of the Holy Spirit touch us human beings who have begun to become dull as a result of our boredom. As a result, we shall awaken from our dullness and arise vigorously toward justice.  

Notice what she is telling us: To wake up is to move “vigorously toward justice.”  Also, that our species is becoming “dull” and indifferent and stupid. And much of our sleepiness, our denial, our hiding our heads in the sand (or our pillows), our dullness, is due to boredom.  Not caring.  Cold-heartedness. 

A lacking of the “verdancy of justice” as we saw in yesterday’s DM.  She urges us not to live “lukewarmly” but “with passion and with blood.”  She says this is the worst sin of all—not caring, living without passion, without caring about truth and justice.  This is one reason she loved science so much—that it corresponds to our search for truth.  “All science comes from God,” she declared.

May we, on her feast day, rise vigorously toward justice and compassion and truth.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, a Saint For Our Times, pp. 43, 33, 9. 

And from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, 424.

Banner Image: Hildegard von Bingen. Line engraving by W. Marshall. Iconographic Collections on Wikimedia Commons.

Do you see people waking up and moving “vigorously toward justice” both about eco-justice matters but also about racial justice matters today?  How can we facilitate that work of the Holy Spirit?

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

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1 thought on “Hildegard on Justice, Compassion and Climate Change”

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    People die due to political lies. Denial—”choosing to be ignorant of something important that one should know about” is a “mortal sin” according to Aquinas. A mortal sin one that kills one’s own soul and others. It is astounding to consider that an entire political party in the US has been in denial about climate change for decades

    As the koan from Zen goes “words are traps.” It certainly is a sin when forms of persuasion are employed in a sophisticated fashion to maintain illusions and win arguments.

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