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I’m a little ashamed to admit that before last summer I had no idea who Hildegard of Bingen even was. I was organizing a saint peg doll swap focused on the Doctors of the Church, and in my research came across the fact that there are only four female doctors of the Church. Three I was familiar with: Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux. The fourth was Hildegard, a ground breaking writer, leader, naturalist, musician, artist and more. She was born in 1098 in Germany and she lived for 81 years. She founded monasteries, advised kings and Popes and is an incredible example of a woman with power for any feminist, Catholic or not.
Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader* by Carmen Acevedo Butcher is a great introduction to this spiritual giant. The book gives a brief biography of Hildegard, followed by selections from her songs, Scivias, Play of the Virtues, letters, Physica, The Book of Life’s Merits, and The Book of Divine Works. At times when reading the plays and naturalist papers she wrote I felt a bit like a college student again- and I will admit, my Medieval literature class was not my favorite part of being an English majoy. But I loved the songs so very much. Butcher’s translations are beautiful and the poetry is amazing.
I enjoyed that no section of this book was terribly long. Even the parts that were denser in terms of prose style moved quickly into the next set of writings. And Hildegard was so good at writing so many different things that there is something for everyone in this book. Her writing is inspiring to pray with, interesting to read and breaks many of the “rules” of literature at her time.
This book would be great for anyone who likes poetry or drama. The plays are fun to read in terms of the history and style. They show a lot about what plays were like in Medieval times. It’s also a great book for people who want to read about strong women. Hildegard’s spirituality and feminism seem way ahead of her time. I love her vision of women in the Church.
Popcorn Rating: 3. Depending on what you like to read, different parts of this book will be easier or harder to get through. I flew through the songs because I loved the poetry and found it uplifting and inspiring. The naturalist papers and the letters were a little slower for me, but a history buff would probably really enjoy those parts.
Stars: 5. I loved that this book helped me grow spiritually and also helped me learn more about history and literature. I really enjoyed reading literature in the midst of all the YA fiction I read for school.
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