When I began my journey trying to connect faith and food, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to be able to incorporate the saints. I mean, they ate, of course, but beyond that physical need, did they really have anything to say about the connection between faith and food?
Then I discovered St. Hildegard. I knew a little bit about her – her music, her mystical visions, her Benedictine connection and leadership – but I knew very little about her connection to holistic health.
This is a woman, a saint and a mystic, who wrote about holistic health around 1100 AD. That is nearly 1000 years ago and yet so many of her insights are reflected in our medical understanding today. As a Benedictine Abbess, she was well respected and admired by healers and religious of her time and was sought after by the local communities for both physical and spiritual balance. Dr. Gottfried Hertzka, a medical doctor in Germany, has been working clinically with her works and theories for over 30 years in southern Germany. Today he works with research chemist Dr. Wighard Strehlow at their practice in Konstanz, West Germany. Many of the
Her natural, physical and medicinal works are in parts and pieces and were fairly ignored by the Church until recently. I believe there was even an instance in the 1970’s where a reputable Catholic media outlet called her a fruitcake! However, in 2012, Pope Benedict appointed her as a doctor of the church. According to Catholic Online, a doctor of the church is, “This is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints. This title indicates that the writings and preaching of such a person are useful to Christians “in any age of the Church.” Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings. While the writings of the Doctors are often considered inspired by the Holy Spirit; this does not mean they are infallible, but it does mean that they contributed significantly to the formulation of Christian teaching in at least one area.”
A list of doctors of the church is available here.
Her works have inspired me to jump in with both feet. Her understanding of the maladies of her order and her community intrigue me. She is one of the first people to speak of cancer, though not by that name, in it’s current understanding. She accepts the place of depression and anxiety, but places it firmly in the perspective of imbalance. She acknowledges, through her visions, that the balances of the world and the balance of humans comes through God and are intimately connected.
She coined a Latin term “viriditas” which she defined as the greenness or liveliness of a plant or creature. She called Mary the epitome of viriditas – the fullest of life.
Father William Hart is designing an polyptych icon (multi-frame) for a new environmental building at Loyola University in Chicago and recently unveiled an image of St. Ignatius and St. Hildegard in honor of St. Ignatius’ feast day. As I do not have copyrights to the image, you can see an image of it here.
As time passes, we will dig more into St. Hildegard’s thoughts and insights, but for now, I wish to leave you with an adaptation of one of her recipes, also available in my cookbook, Nerve Cookies! Only a very holy woman could understand the deep-seated emotional healing that could come to a person by way of a cookie!
- 3/4 c. butter
- 1.5 c. brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 3 c. spelt flour (or all-purpose)
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. cloves
- Sliced almonds for topping if desired.
Cream butter and sugar together. Add the egg. Combine and add the dry ingredients and then add to the wet ingredients. It’s a stiff dough, so kneed in the last of the flour. Shape the dough into rolls and wrap in wax paper. Chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Slice cookies thinly, top with sliced almonds (optional) and bake 8-10 minutes depending on thickness.
St. Hildegard recommended eating 3-5 cookies per day and believed they could even help distracted school children!