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St. Hildegard Calls Me to Create

St. Hildegard challenges all of us to be creators. Yes, there will be pain; yes there will be enormous obstacles as “the devil rears its ugliness.” But, she tells us, we must infuse ourselves with the fire and the light, and we must create.

-Jeannine Goode-Allen

St. Hildegard challenges me to be the artist in any form that calls to me and thus to become the creator I am meant to be. My connection with her and her work has brought profound strength and joy into my life. I have undergone a tremendous transformation. Today I am no longer shy about the fact that I am a singer. Today I also call myself a tap dancer, a writer, a painter, a techie, and a priestess. Here is my story...

I remember vividly the day St. Hildegard of Bingen first came into my life. I had just returned to New York City in 1987 after a year of living with the Otomi Indians in Mexico, where I had been part of a religious community of Catholic nuns. I was their “lay missioner” and was horrified by the nuns’ attitude toward the Otomi belief system.

After my experience in Mexico, I was so angry at the Catholic Church, I wanted to scream at the Pope. And there I was shortly afterward in a workshop at the Marble Collegiate Church on 5th Avenue, with Matthew Fox, the author of the best seller: Original Blessing.

At the time Matthew was a Catholic priest, and when the workshop ended I went up to him and started sharing my agony. “What is the deal with the Catholic Church? Why do they teach us to shut down our bodies? To shut down indigenous people? To shut down women, and men for that matter? To shut down our creativity?” Matthew smiled compassionately and asked me how I connected to God. “Well,” I said very timidly, “I sing.” He then said very slowly, “Jeannine, you should check out St. Hildegard of Bingen.”

And I did.... I read everything I could find about her and discovered her word--Viriditas. All my life I had looked for Viriditas, that greening power in all of God’s creation, and everywhere I found it, I found myself singing. Singing...singing...and all the while Hildegard and her music had been waiting for me. I was in my thirties when I joined the Ars Nova Choir in Boulder, Colorado and began singing St. Hildegard’s music. Now, I was singing her music. Now, I was connected to the Divine like never before.

It was this connection to the Divine through singing that sustained me during the pregnancy and birth of my second child, Joshua. When pregnant with Joshua I was overcome with extreme nausea, constant salivating, spotting, fatigue, and tidal waves of terror. My doula asked what gave me strength and immediately I said, “Singing.” I discovered that when I was singing, Joshua and I were connected and I felt peaceful. My symptoms were suddenly all manageable, so we kept on singing--even through the birth. Only after his birth didSt.  Hildegard confirm that it was she who kept sending me the music that Joshua and I sang throughout those long nine months.

After ten years of learning about St. Hildegard and connecting to God through singing, I was called to visit the sites in Germany where St. Hildegard had lived. I visited the ruins of Rupertsberg, the first abbey St. Hildegard created, and sang in front of her relics shrine in the Church in Eibingen. I visited the current Benedictine Abbey in Ruedesheim.

When I returned to the United States after my time in St. Hildegard’s Homeland, I could feel my heart thundering. My heart was growing. I had found courage. This word comes from two French words which mean “a big heart.” After being with St. Hildegard in Germany my heart became big enough to leave a life that was too small for me and to dive fulltime into my own art work--my divine work.

Little did I know that after finding the courage to move into my new life, St. Hildegard would heal me through her medicine. St. Hildegard’s Physica is arranged in nine books, cataloging the medicinal qualities and uses of plants, elements, trees, stones, fish, birds, quadrupeds, reptiles, and metals. I have personally experienced the benefits of many of the “created things” St. Hildegard writes about in Physica. I made St. Hildegard’s heart wine. One of the key ingredients in this recipe is parsley. This is some of what St. Hildegard (Physica, 2005, pp. 85-86) tells us about Parsley:

Parsley is of a strong nature and has more warmth than cold. It grows from the wind and from moisture. It is better and more useful for humans when eaten raw. It creates seriousness in the Spirit of man. If one has pain in one’s heart, spleen or side, one should cook parsley in wine and add vinegar and enough honey. Then one should strain the mixture through a cloth, and drink it often and be healed.

I remember making this “heart wine” and smelling the parsley as it was cooking in the wine, the warmth and strength of its “greening power” filling my Spirit with “seriousness.” After weeks of drinking this wine I “sailed” through heart surgery and made a speedy and easy recovery. My heart was healed, and I know it was not only the skill of the surgeon that I had to thank for my healing!

With my heart condition healed and a full-time commitment to my own art work, I created Feathers On The Breath Of God, a one-woman performance piece showing my healing journey as it had been inspired by St. Hildegard. Feathers On The Breath Of God is an extension of all of my divine gifts. It is also a powerful extension of my love for God, my love for st. Hildegard, my love for my family, my love for all the artists that collaborated with me on the project, and finally an extension of my love for the audiences that experienced the piece with me and St. Hildegard.

Now the creative journey continues.

Click here to find out more about St. Hildegard and my current productions. 

The Music of Viriditas
O Jerusalem
Feathers On The
     Breath Of God
is a theatrical, musical and visual performance that illuminates the journey to wholeness of an artist living in the 21st century, inspired by Hildegard of Bingen.
Tap into Transformation:
    (with David Sharp)
Discover Joy! Ignite the spark in you that has been waiting to catch fire. Join us for an evening of song, poetry and dance.

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