How Might We Heal Our Nation? by Anthony Esolen

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By Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine, June 16, 2020

Anthony Esolen, a contributing editor at Crisis, is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. ….


Anthony Esolen

I have been reading the works of Saint Hildegard (1098–1179), the visionary mystic, naturalist, scriptural exegete, artist, and musical composer. In one of his weekly audiences, Pope Benedict XVI recommended her to us for her remarkable meditations upon the Word made flesh, which made manifest what she called the “greenness” of the Father’s power, and the goodness of the created order. Hildegard was, Benedict said, a beautiful exemplar of what his predecessor, John Paul II, had called “the feminine genius.” This prompted the editors at The Huffington Post to note that it was a rare instance in which the purportedly conservative pope was in accord with feminism.

“He that is giddy thinks the world turns round,” says Shakespeare. People who see things only in terms of politics will suppose that everyone else is color blind, too. It wasn’t just the Post. I found otherwise sensible commentators on Hildegard’s work saying, without stopping to question their premises, that it was surprising to see the influence she exerted on matters of both Church and state in a time when “patriarchal” hierarchies were the order of the day. That she was a woman to reckon with, there is no doubt. Hildegard was called “the Sibyl on the Rhine,” after the ancient Roman prophetess. Popes and bishops and princes sought her counsel; a great number of her letters were gathered and published after her death.  …

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