We meditated yesterday on two spiritual warriors or prophets, Julia Butterfly and Sister Dorothy Stang.
Sister Dorothy studied Hildegard of Bingen in depth at our ICCS program at Holy Names College (which the Vatican tried to shut down for twelve years and eventually succeeded in doing a few years after Sister Dorothy attended. Another student was Father Sean McDonnogh, a Claretian priest working in the Philippines, who subsequently wrote a large part of Pope Francis’s excellent environmental encyclical Laudato Si, “Caring for Our Common Home”).
Among Sister Dorothy’s effects, her brother David Stang found a marked-up copy of the book Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen, which a graduate of our ICCS program had written as her master’s project at Mundelein College in Chicago. David was sensitive and generous in giving me that marked-up copy, complete with drawings, that Sister Dot held dear to her.
It disturbs me to hear people tell me they are for some reason “beyond” terms like spiritual warriorhood. Sister Dorothy was not; nor Julia Butterfly. I don’t think Stacey Abrams, John Lewis, Martin Luther King, jr. or St. Oscar Romero are beyond warriorhood either.
People need to know that there is a strong person inside of them and that other strong people, living and dead, support them. There are battles that need fighting. The gay community, after having been once again abused by religious authorities in the Vatican calling their relationships “sinful,” need to be spiritual warriors standing up for truth and decency against lies, ignorance and hypocrisy. And they deserve strong allies who also dare to speak out.
Hafiz, the great Sufi mystic, warns us that “it is a naïve person who thinks we are not engaged in a fierce battle.” And he also tells us how the soldier and the warrior are very different—the warrior “carries his heart in his hand” but “only if he/she becomes a sweet lover” to the Divine. In other words, both warrior and prophet are lovers first and always.
Let us turn to the amazing twelfth century renaissance woman and abbess, Hildegard of Bingen, and what she has to teach us about spiritual warriorhood.
Hildegard recognizes our warriorhood in our practice of virtue. In her opera Ordo Virtutum (Order of the Virtues), she calls virtues “soldiers” and “sweet warriors” who do battle against the “deceiver.” Virtues are powers for Hildegard, whether we are speaking of constancy or humility, justice or joy:
We virtues are in God and we remain in God, we are soldiers for the king of kings and we overcome evil by good… O king of kings, we are fighting in your battle.”
We imitate the Word or Christ when we stand strong in virtue, since God says to Hildegard that “my Word is a very strong warrior.” We saw in a previous DM that the Christmas night liturgy refers to the messiah as a warrior. We too are called to be warriors or prophets by the Word dwelling in us.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times, p. 23.
See also: Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 77-104.
Also Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, plate 21, and pages 136-141.
Banner Image: Gay Officers’ Action League marches in the New York Pride parade, 2019. Photo by Brian Kyed on Unsplash
Have you, whether man or woman, been encouraged to develop the “very strong warrior” in you that Hildegard speaks of? Where do you get your inner strength and how do you develop it?
Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.
The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God
Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen
An introduction to the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, Illuminations reveals the life and teachings of one of the greatest female artists and intellectuals of the Western Mystical Tradition. At the age of 42, she began to have visions; these were captured as 36 illuminations–24 of which are recorded in this book along with her commentaries on them.
“If one person deserves credit for the great Hildegard renaissance in our time, it is Matthew Fox.” – Dr Mary Ford-Grabowsky, author of Sacred Voices.