Proud to affirm a new Hildegard book, Forbidden Grace by Shanon Sterringer

 

Throughout history women are redacted from the story.  The narrative of our grief is still unripe. The green acorn still waits to fruit.  The new song still hammers in the dark in search of the music for our time.  It takes prophets living on the edge to listen for the song, to call us forth, to proclaim the will of God and hold us to account.   Forbidden Grace is a compelling story of just such a prophet. Rev. Shanon Sterringer writes honestly of her story with its struggles, its messiness, its crests and troughs, with the mystic and prophet Hildegard of Bingen as the wind that carries her.  The juxtaposition of the two words in the title is a paradox of our time and it takes a brave woman to carry that.  I was captivated by her journey.

Learning to consciously live in the light which is sometimes bewilderingly dark (how else can one see the stars?) Shanon reminds us of the lone falcon ‘turning and turning in the widening gyre.’  As the poet, WB Yeats continues, ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’

What Shanon knows – it is in the ‘fall apart’ comes the song of a new way, as it is the invisible sap running in the veins that ripens the fruit . . . what Hildegard called veriditas, that brings humanity to its fullness.  Even as the hammer pounds, the prophet in Shanon sings us forth. For what is this song if not hope?

Reincarnation? We cannot know these things. However, for those who are open we do know Spirit abides us. And for us Hildegardians we know Hildegard is speaking today.

COLLEEN KEATING, Poet and author of Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey

Forbidden Grace is an extraordinary account of the lives of two women separated by 900 years, yet touched by the same divine grace. Sterringer offers readers a front row seat as she examines the synchronicities that connect her faith story to that of Hildegard of Bingen. The thematic treatment of their journeys allows a forward and backward movement like the waves of an incoming tide that allows ideas and events to seep into one’s consciousness. The reader comes away with a deep recognition of the spiritual bond between two women who have both wrestled with God.

This memoir is a stunning tapestry woven of two parallel lives. Throughout, the author assures us that God’s grace is forbidden to no one despite over 2,000 years of history that has often maintained otherwise. As an ordained woman priest, Rev. Sterringer has joined the ranks of women who refuse to participate in erecting barriers against divine energy.     — JOYCE RAY, award-winning author of Feathers & Trumpets, A Story of Hildegard of Bingen

This beautifully written book recounts the compelling spiritual journey of a young woman whose love for God moves her to seek ordination to the priesthood. Autobiography and biography meet as the Rev. Shanon structures the account of her life’s itinerary with parallel episodes from the Life of Hildegard of Bingen. With humility and good humor, Shanon draws us into her candid memoir of call, courage, and commitment, with its blessings, disappointments, and upheavals. Retreat from her goal never surfaces as an option for this strong, courageous woman. Her energy, like her faith, radiates from the pages of this book. Readers will wonder how she keeps going, and they will not want to put the book down until reaching the end. Buoyed by the ever-renewing vitality of the Holy Spirit, Rev. Shanon learns, in Hildegard’s words, “to be carried like a feather on the Breath of God.”

-BEVERLY KIENZLE, professor emeritus, Harvard Divinity School, author of The Gospel Homilies of Hildegard of Bingen.

This is a fascinating and innovative book weaving a number of different themes into a many-layered tapestry.  The story of the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen is interwoven with the author’s own journey into the priesthood. The significance of role models who are like you is clearly charted, along with the search for a theology to challenge the dominant culture. Both women’s stories are told in a lively way that will draw readers in and enable them to find their own story in both contemporary culture and in history – or should it be her story?   The author likens both stories to chipping away at a tunnel into a seemingly forbidden cave. This book is a significant addition to the clearing of the rubble that has blocked women’s entry into positions of authority within the Christian church.

THE REV. DR JUNE BOYCE-TILLMAN MBE PhD, MA, LRAM, FRSA, FHEA, FISM, Professor Emerita of Applied Music University of Winchester, UK; Extraordinary Professor at North-West University, South Africa

Two photos of Rev. Shanon Sterringer a presence of Hildegard in our world today. Doing what Hildegard would struggle to do in the 21st century.

Two Hildegardians today

BEVERLY KIENZLE, professor emeritus, Harvard Divinity School, author of The Gospel Homilies of Hildegard of Bingen. and

 Shanon Sterringer, Rev. and Dr. Pastor and Professor, Pastor of Hildegard Haus,  Owner of The Green Shepherdess

Hildegard of Bingen by Colleen Keating just keeps giving.

One of my favorite books is Hildegard of Bingen, A Poetic Journey by Colleen Keating.

It is a brilliant approach to sharing St. Hildegard’s story.
(I have a few copies of it in The Green Shepherdess!)
Today, I was reading the poem, “A New Earth” from this book and I just love the following: 

“Hildegard looks across the gardens 

pleased to see Guda with her workers, 

breathes in the scented blooms of jasmine. 

Raspberry leaves catch her attention, 

crunches them between her fingers, 

murmurs approval, 

‘almost ready for the teas.’ “

Thank you Professor Shanon  Sterringer, Pastor of Hildegard Haus and owner of The Green Sheperdess LLC in Fairport Harbour, Ohio.USA
for your affirmation and for the amazing story you are creating for our future. I love Hildegards of the 21st century.

Cultivating Curiousity by Colleen Keating.

“Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings. Now, think. What delight God gives to humankind with all these things . All nature is at the disposal of humankind.  We are to work with it.For without we cannot survive.” – Hildegard of Bingen

I love this quotation by Eleanor Roosevelt: 

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” 

Curiosity is the precursor to scientific breakthroughs, to all great literature and art. Albert Einstein said, 

“I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” 

He also said, “Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

That’s exactly what Hildegard possessed–a holy curiosity. She must have jumped out of bed every morning, eager to discover something new. She walked the earth with the fervent belief that God placed everything here for our discovery and enjoyment. In her science book Causae et Curae, Hildegard writes about topics as varied as medicine, human sexuality, astronomy, and theology. Her science wasn’t always spot on. “There are also the five planets….And as a human’s five senses hold the body together, so too these five planets hold the sun together and are its ornament” (Causae et Curae page 29, as translated by Margaret Berger). 

But the breadth and depth of her investigations into the world around her were truly staggering for a 12th century nun.

I’m sure if she were here today, Hildegard would tell you that curiosity, just like her 35 virtues, could be cultivated and enhanced with a little effort on our part. 

Sarah’s suggestions in her daily Living Hildegard blog are

Explore an old path and look at it with fresh eyes. Read a magazine you wouldn’t normally pick up. Learn something new. Make a new friend. Travel to a different place. Take a class. Pick up a new language or a musical instrument–proven ways to keep your brain sharp into old age. 

Hildegard may be the first and best example of a commitment to lifelong learning coupled with the courage to branch out into the unknown. 

It’s good for your heart, health and brain to step outside your comfort zone and explore something new.

 

Thank you to  the brilliant blogs Healthy Hildegard  and   the daily blog Living Hildegard with Sarah Rhiem

Explore an old path and look at it with fresh eyes.

Curiosity on our local walk today

The play of light on the Red Gum with the peeling of bark stoped me in my tracks.

Michael  enjoying the calm greeness of the stand of Red woods

The ferns in the forest today were very active. I love the way this koru has unfolded and now all the secondary korus are unfolding.  I have caught it in a moment of time.

Curiosity:  Here we were amazed at the uncurling stage of the new fronds. I don’t think this photo does it justice but up close for Michael and I we were full of wonder at the unfurling of creation.

 

Wet and dry reflections.Beneath my feet. The ferns reflected.  It takes a moment for your eyes to see the play of light and silhouette.

 

What an amazing fungus. And the blood red colours of the trunk and play of light caught our attention for ages.
So lovely to be in our Cathedral of light and peace with the music of the tinkling creek backgrounded by bird song.

Reflections along the creek. We enjoyed the tinkling and bubbling sound of running water too.

Our monarch butterfly  danced for us a graceful beauitful performance.

Back home we were  still full of wonder and gratitude for a refreshing and healing walk. Our curiosity sated for today.

Countdown to COP 26 Glasgow from Hildegards point of view by Colleen Keating

Hildegard speaks out today reminding us to care for our planet,
with her words,
her music,
her knowledge of healing plants,
her writings on the cosmos,
her understanding of the interdependence of all of creation,
her instruction of not demanding over yields from the earth
and how the earth is our mother.

Hildegard writes,
“The earth is at the same time mother, She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human. She is mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.”
~ Hildegard of Bingen

Her words are even more important in the 21st century, 842 years after her last breaths, Hildegard’s voice is crying out for humanity now .

This year is our watch . We are the witness.

Our silence is our complicity

The 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian , Søren Kierkegaard, offers an allegory for our dilemma now at this time of red code for our planet.

 

“A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.”

 

However today it is more traumatic for on that stage we have a chorus of pearl- dressed women and dark-suited men serious, educated, sometimes religious who sing from the side that is all a hoax lulling the audience even sabotaging anyone who gets up for action while behind the curtain their self serving pork barrelling hurriedly goes on. Also leaders who reassure anyone in lullabies of reassurance we the masses of humanity will be kept safe and they speak for us, make decisions for us. and we will be safe.

How we treat mother earth is a reliable measure of how we treat ourselves.

The way we treat our people mirrors the way we treat the earth

How we treat the vulnerable, women, the aged, indigenous peoples children, handicapped mirrors how we treat the earth.

Ask, how many women have died as a result of Domestic Violence this year?

Ask, how many Australian Indigenous people have died in custody this year?

Ask, how many children have been abused this year?        

This year is our watch . We are the witness.

Our silence is our complicity .

counting dead women

i rose towards dawn
to sit by the big picture window

the sky black as raven wings
lay still and silent
like a dark night of the soul

i was desperately seeking
some colour some hope
upon the dark edge of the world
where sea and sky meet

my mind kept scribbling
names of women dead women
words of violence can’t be erased

as the darkness of the first news
counting dead women
crowds my mind
blankets my heart
even as the breath of dawn
spreads its radiance

Colleen Keating 2014

Published in A Call to Listen by Colleen Keating

Hildegard of Bingen on the pedestal all week on the ABC Classic with Martin Buzacott

What a tribute to Hildegard of Bingen  being chosen  by Martin Buzacott for the pedestal all this week dedicated to mental health.  Listen to ABC  Classic at 10 am  each day this week to lift your spirits.
Her story,  Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey by Colleen Keating is available from Ginninderra Press 
and has been acclaimed ‘ a masterpiece’

As the host Martin Buzacott says :

A week of Hildegard’s music for

Health and healing

Comfort and consolation

Mystic marvel

Musical adventurer

Hildegard of Bingen

delivering eternal hope.

for us in this week 11th to 15th October 2021  . . .also the week we come out of lockdown with all its possibilities and uncertainties.

 

The story of Hildegard of Bingen as told by Colleen Keating .

Become immersed in her environment, feel her joys and suffering, loves, passions, betrayals and loss. Live with Hildegard, a medieval mystic and prophet  through her more them 80 years and be renewed with hope. It has taken a thousand years for her to be acclaimed. 

What a treat and how wonderful in Mental Health Week Hildegard is being acknowledged for her music, her poetry,  thoughts of health  and healing and caring for her Abbeys conscious of well being and all this in the 11th-12th century.

 

Countdown to Hildegard’s Anniversary 17th September by Colleen Keating

Countdown : Hildegard’s Anniversary 17th September. She still speaks to us today . Her encouraging words to us to care for our planet, her sacred music, her knowledge of healing plants, love of the cosmos,

is all there for us in the 21st century . . . 842 years after she passed.

We celebrate you Hildegard.

Hildegard writes,
“The earth is at the same time mother, She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human. She is mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all. The earth of human kind contains all moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power. It is in so many ways fruitful. All creation comes from it. “
~ Hildegard of Bingen
My photo “Veriditas” was taken of the moist undergrowth in the Wyrrabalong National Park on Darkinjung country Central Coast.
Veriditas – ‘the greening power of the divine’ – or ‘the healing power of green.’ Hildegard believed in the unifying power of the divine as reflected through growth. The “greening” in nature serves as a symbol of spiritual and physical health and reflection the divine in nature

The Song Company: Circle of Virtue by Hildegard of Bingen

 

November 2020 During Covid this wonderful young company have rehearsed and are ready to present The Circle of  Virtues: A Morality Play by Hildegard of Bingen.
I have added two of my poems telling some of the background story of Ordo Virtutum said to be the first morality play by a woman in Western musical repertoire. Ordo Virtutum is really an allegorical morality play or sometimes called a liturgical drama composed by Hildegard in 1151 AD

Special Announcement

The Song Company

The Song Company presents
Circle of Virtue by Hildegard of Bingen

The Song Company invites vocal music lovers back into concert halls in Newcastle, Wollongong and Sydney as they present Ordo Virtutum (Circle of Virtue), the oldest surviving music drama, by 12th-century visionary, Hildegard of Bingen.

Abbess, visionary and natural philosopher

One of the earliest-named composers in Western musical history and outspoken in her dealings with princes and popes in mediaeval Europe, Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) created the earliest-known opera or music drama, Ordo Virtutum (c.1151), for the female inmates of her Abbey at Rupertsberg.

The fight for the salvation of the Soul (Roberta Diamond) by the Virtues (led by their Queen, Jessica O’Donoghue) from the Devil (Koen van Stade) is set to the most sumptuous chant for women’s voices for which Hildegard is known, and accompanied by drones, medieval organ and other atmospheric effects.

The Song Company presents a semi-staged performance of Hildegard’s story of the internal struggle of a Soul battling for her mental well-being with seventeen Virtues on one side and the Devil on the other…

Be excited for an evening of wonderful music combined with a transcending and atmospheric stage presentation.

Circle of Virtue is the perfect way to support your national vocal ensemble’s return to the stage and to experience Australia’s finest vocalists in live performance.

Cast

Roberta Diamond – Anima
Pip Dracakis – Chastity
Josie Ryan – Victory
Jessica O’Donoghue – Queen of the Virtues
Janine Harris – Hope
Ethan Taylor – Prophet
Hayden Barrington – Patriarch
Koen van Stade – The Devil
Ruby Bron, Iris Farrer, Annie Farrer – Chorus of Souls

Antony Pitts – Artistic Director
Neil Simpson – Lighting Consultant
Pip Dracakis – Costume Co-Designer
Sue Carveth – Costume Maker
Wendy Walker – Props Designer/Maker
Leonie Cambage – Design & Original Concept

Thanks to Timothy Chung and Santa Sabina College for loan of Portative Organ (made by Ron Sharp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A few poems from my recently published book

Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey by Colleen Keating

 

First Opera

In a vision
Hildegard has her sisters
sing as personified Virtues
in song and action.

She sees struggle
against the devil,
visualises it played out as drama.

Volmar can take the part of the devil.
He will not sing, she ponders aloud.

All abuzz, she hastens to tell Richardis.
With Volmar as scribe
they create their first opera.

Hildegard writes the words and notes,
Richardis plucks the psaltery
sings softly,
her radiance caught in a stream of light

Their eyes catch
mirror harmony of purpose.
Hildegard’s thoughts drift back
to the eight year old Richardis,
who looked to her as mother,
and the one
whose tender hands held her,
cared for her, in her sickness.
Now at twenty two a grown woman.

Showcasing the Abbey

An early spring afternoon
illumines vividness of robes and gowns.

Hospitality of the new Abbey
welcomes lively entourages,
Bishops, Priests, monks, dignitaries, clerics.
The Marchioness Von Stade,
a rare visit to her daughter at Rupertsberg,
and the largest audience
ever seen in Bingen arrive.

After the Bishop’s blessing of the Church
Hildegard and her sisters,
walk, poised and noble
in splendid procession
down the aisle in long flowing gowns of silk
singing glorious, heavenly music.

They circle the altar
dazzling brides of Christ,
singing their opera,
a morality play,
virtues triumphant, vices subdued,
the struggle of the human soul
with the wiles of the devil.

Hildegard catches
the Marchioness’ shocked gaze
focused on her confident beautiful daughter.

When the sisters harmonise in a chorus
and Richardis sings the solo
to end the opera
tears fill her eyes,
she bows her head.

After Vespers that evening
the last meal before Lenten fast
their excitement and pride is palpable.

Admonishment rains down like the Rhine
after a snow melt.

This domineering woman holds my daughter back,
Marchioness Von Stade stabs at Volmar.
Her sisters too free, says another angrily.
Her sisters too visible, says another .

Outside her window the oak resists the wildest storms.
Hildegard stands defiant,
against all criticism. 

 

 

Viriditas and Hildegard

 

Thanks to Healthy Hildegard for the photo and the idea to feature Viriditas.

 

Viriditas

After the rains
Hildegard tends the garden
knee deep
in wet grass,
up to her elbows in soil,
worms, snails 
and ruff of leaf compost.

Marvels at the ramble 
of a young squash vine,
a stray seed gone free.

Lingers in the fragrance
of chives and basil,
coriander, lavender and mint,
and the smell of parsley.

Savours their bouquet.
Being jubilant
with the flirt of white moths,
and the canticle of bird song
from an oak branch above.

Dwells on her knees
as if in prayer.

Hildegard stands
her hands on her lower back
stretches and arches
skywards.Wisping clouds
ruffle. Light whispers,

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits
I am the rain coming from the dew
that causes the grasses to laugh
with the joy of life. 

Fearful of her own mystery
she clams shut this Light
into the tight knot of her gut.

*Viriditas means “greenness” – vitality, lushness, verdure, fecundity, growth.   It has its earliest connection to Hildegard von Bingen. 

It seems a perfect expression of the living green captured by the soul as the light dances over grass and leaf life.  

With the term Viriditas, Hildegard of Bingen meant to describe a fundamental force in nature and the cosmos that binds people with animals, minerals, and plants.

Viriditas, the power of nature

A greening power, as Hildegard described it, exists in all things and is the basis for all healing in people and of the earth.

This greening powere exists as a symbol of prosperity and vitality, with plants blooming, growing, germinating and bearing fruit.

We lose our greening power through apathy, monotony and stress in everyday life.

We lose our greening power when 

However, we quickly restore and preserve it through prolonged time and movement in nature.

Spring explodes
like a paint box come to life
spilling across
the browned winter-wearylandscape.

In Australia we wait for regeneration after the unprecedented fires we have experienced . We observe the tiny moments of  viriditas return.

I give thanks to all the wonderful people who are being proactive to save species that are threatened. eg the rare life of the green Corroboree Frog from the Snowy Mountains. My daughters who send hopeful photos of new life and promise me the trees will recover.

New life  bursting into our lives.

Book Review by Dr. Christine Cameron. Hildegard of Bingen:A Poetic Journey

AFFIRMING REVIEW        by     Dr Christine Cameron

Hildegard’s life sings and dances across the pages of this engaging harmony of her works, set out in this poetic journey that commences at the twilight of her life and then rewinds back through the lens of time. There is the separation from family to “entombment” in an anchorage with Jutta and another; words that then envelop the reader in frigid emotions of isolation and confinement – words that explore the lack of warmth amidst sanctity and penance! Nevertheless, an inner glow returns with the descriptive analysis of freedom becoming a reality, when there is a re-emergence into the light and life of the monastery – its interior and exterior – its undulating fields and its healing life-giving plants.

While engaged on the journey the foremost characters are given personalities that leap lifelike from the pages – Jutta is a living saint who projects perfection; the personality clash with the Head Abbot Kuno simmers and grows; the bond between Hildegard and her sisters is as a mother with her daughters; Hildegard’s incredible friendship with the ever faithful Volmar and her undying but questionable love for the young Richardis when there was a need to treat all equally – demonstrate a logical progression of words and ideas leading to a climax. As magistra – teacher Hildegard’s awareness of the confinement of the monastery leads her to respond to the “divine call” for change and meeting the challenges she creates new foundations with her group of nuns. 

A mystical writer, a visionary, a healer, a scientist, a writer of plays, a musician – what a woman! In this Poetic Journey Hildegard’s genius is explored with cadences and rhythms that flow from verse to verse and page to page. There is the illness that plagues her through her long life which ends in pain and sanctified silence but is expertly shown by the writer that Hildegard’s life has really only just begun for as a saint and Doctor of the Universal Church her life is immortalised in the annals of the Church. The many gifts of Hildegard – including her charisma – are expertly embedded in this “Poetic Journey” that gives voice to the “Living Voice”. A very enjoyable and fascinating read!

Dr Christine Cameron – 15 March 2019.

Christine is a seasonal lecturer with the Australian Catholic University. She has served as Principal and in administrative positions in Catholic primary schools in NSW Australia. Christine’s books are based on her successful PhD research into Women Doctors of the Catholic Church: A Study in servant Leadership.

Her first book Leadership as a Call to Service (2012)  explores the then three female Doctors.  Her second book, on the The Life and Works of Hildegard of Bingen  (2013) shows her a regarded scholar of Hildegard and 12th century  mystical writings, as she 

“seamlessly weaves the golden thread of SERVANT LEADERSHIP through the life and works of St. Hildegard