Sister Dorothy Stang in her dorm room at Holy Names College.

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”).

Sister Dorothy’s sketches in her copy of Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen

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.

“Five Virtues Building a Heavenly City in the House of Wisdom.”
Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias. From Researchgate, CC Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International

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.

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10 thoughts on “Hildegard of Bingen: Teacher of Warriorhood”

  1. Avatar

    That’s a good question, Matthew! I’ve never thought of myself as a “warrior,” but I feel that I’ve had many interior battles throughout my growing up years and beyond. My struggles have mostly been brought on by the restricted teachings of the church, and by a family and a town whose occupants unfortunately lived by every word that came out of a priest’s mouth, and made sure that rules and laws were followed by everyone.
    I rebelled early on, but could not share ANYTHING with anyone.
    After having an experience of a Father-figure lifting me up and embracing me at age five, which I could not accept, WHO could I talk to about this? I did not trust my mother, or anybody else. (This experience repeated itself at age six, but was quickly brushed off for the same reason.)
    As a nun, at age 23, Jesus came to me, and brought me out of the edge of an abyss caused by scruples, confusion, and worry, and changed my life in many ways. After confiding in a priest in the confessional who blasted me and made me feel like a worm, I was never able to trust a priest again.
    I wrote about it all in a book (published in 2014) entitled FOREVER BECOMING: The Ever-Deepening Experience of Presence in My Life. I’m still working on becoming WHO I TRULY AM, and determinedly letting awareness, consciousness, and presence take over as completely as I can. Hallelujah!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Well Vivian, I can tell from your description of yourself and your spiritual journey that you are no worm! And I’m sure that your story as written in your book will be of help and inspiration to others as they learn to become “spiritual warriors”–who speak up for themselves and have the courage to do what you have done. May God bless you as you continue becoming…

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for your daily meditations, Mathew Fox. You bring the richness of creation and fresh air into a world that is in great need. I am a better and bigger person for your gifts. In talking about spiritual warriors, your words remind me that I have a responsibility to speak up for justice. I accept this with my heart and spirit. My activism is mostly prayer. I find our world overwhelmingly unloving to one another. I believe that kindness and compassion are effective weapons. I trust prayer is also a powerful way to co-create the space in which change can take place. One River Many Wells I know to be true. Thank you for your unceasing warrior ship and love.
    Susan F

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      And thank you Susan for your kind words! You say, “your words remind me that I have a responsibility to speak up for justice.” Creation Spirituality teaches us to be “justice-makers” as we walk the Via Transformativa. The words you choose are words of prayer. God bless you for your ministry in prayer, for as Matthew tells us, “Prayer is a radical response to life” (See: his book, PRAYER: A RADICAL RESPONSE TO LIFE).

  3. Avatar

    Thank you, Susan for sharing. I also feel that my activism is through prayer and loving compassion and kindness toward one another and our very weary world.
    With love and blessings,

  4. Avatar

    Thank you for your Daily Meditations. They are precious to me. I am enjoying this discussion on Spiritual Warriorship. I find myself learning and re-learning to include contemplation and activism.

    I notice yesterday and today you mentioned Stacy Adams. Do you mean Stacy Abrams who has led the way to expanding the vote in Georgia or is there a Stacy Adams that I need to learn about?


    1. Phila Hoopes

      Hello Linda,

      Thank you for the catch – our apologies for missing it. There’s nothing we can do about the email, however the website posts have been corrected, and a correction note will be added to tomorrow’s email. 

      Phila Hoopes
      Blog Coordinator

  5. Avatar

    As much as I love the beauty and insight you offer, and find it refreshing, I admit, the “warrior” image
    Is not one I can enter. …perhaps the over abundance of “war”/”warriors” throughout the world ?, is painful enough, and healing is so much needed. I don’t feel naive…. just sensitive to language these days. We all bring our thoughts and grace …none of it is naive…just bits of truth in
    each person.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      At first I was a bit put off by the warrior imagery as well. For me it was from growing up in church and hearing songs like, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Now however, Matthew has made it clear to me the difference from a soldier and a warrior, such as among Native Americans. Beyond this, this is just a metaphor (spiritual warrior) which just might not work for you. In all things, take what works for you and leave the rest behind… at least for now.

  6. Avatar

    Richard, thank you for your encouraging words. All my focus right now is to continue to accept that I am loved beyond compare, and strive to live in that divine love for the rest of my days. God bless, and HUGS!

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