As an abbess in the 12th century, St. Hildegard was truly ahead of her time. Throughout her life’s journey, she became a renowned mystic and healer as well as a scientist, writer, preacher, composer, and even an artist.Sometimes, I wonder what it was like for her trying to bring her gifts into the world at that time – her music, writings, visions and ideas. Did she ever feel all alone? Like she was different from those around her? That she wanted to give up?
I’m sure she did. Some of her words that we can read today give us a peek into her challenges and resistance. However, we also know that she had a good confidant and friend in her life, the monk Volmar, who supported her in following her divine calling, even when she felt incapable of doing so. She became acquainted with him while living at the St. Disibod Abbey.
At that time, she had kept silent about the unique visions she was experiencing. It was Volmar who was the first person to validate her visions as divine experiences. He soon recognized her rare spiritual gifts and became a good friend and mentor for many years in her life.
“… a voice from heaven was saying to me: ‘O weak person, you who are both ashes of ashes and decaying of decaying, speak and write what you see and hear. But you are shy about speaking and simple in explaining and unskilled about writing those things. So speak and write those things not according to human speech or human inventiveness but according to the extent that you see and hear those things in the heavens above in the marvelousness of God.
Bring to light those things by way of explanation. Be like a listener who understands the words of his or her own teacher but explains them in one’s own way of speaking, willingly, plainly and instructively.
So, you too a woman, speak those things which you see and hear. Write those things not according to yourself or by the standards of another person, but according to the will of the one knowing, the one who sees and arranges all things in the secrets of His own mysteries.” (Scivias)
Hildegard turned to her teacher and friend, Volmar. She shared her experience and her self-doubt, and he strongly encouraged her to write. And she did, sharing her experiences in the texts that would become her visionary work, Scivias and The Book of Divine Works. Volmar became her secretary, writing down the words she dictated.
We can see the meaningful role Volmar played in her life as she portrays him in her painting, A Self Portrait.
Recognition and validation of her work by the Church was vital to St. Hildegard’s ability to share her work with the world. Her friend and mentor, Volmar actively advised her to have her visions recognized by the Church as a divine message of God.
It’s clear that St. Hildegard greatly valued and appreciated her dear friend Volmar, who supported and encouraged her. She was not alone in navigating the unprecedented path for a woman to share her visions with the public.
Their relationship is an inspiration to us today! We can see how the steps on our journey are a lot easier to follow when we have someone in our community that supports and encourages us. We don’t have to do it alone!
Over the last year and a half, I’ve come to appreciate how important community and friends are in these unsettling times of the pandemic. It’s been incredibly supportive to connect with many online at a time we have had to shelter at home. And then what a joy it has been to be able to go out this summer and greet friends and neighbors, sometimes without masks, in-person!
Recently, one of my students who was in my Master Your Creativity online course, shared her appreciation of the course with me and said, “Thank you for making the worst year of my life the best year of my life”. She felt this way because she was connected to the community in the course and gained inspiration to engage her creative side.
I’m so grateful that I am able to help others in this way!
And so I invite you to explore my next offering of my online course, Master Your Creativity! We will be beginning again this November. If you’re looking for a supportive and creative community to join on a journey with St. Hildegard and me, find out more here. I hope to see you in the course.