September 17th is a special day on the Catholic Church calendar as it is the feast day of a Doctor of the Church: St. Hildegard of Bingen. While some would like to think of her as the patron saint of creativity, the Catholic Church hasn’t made that an official acknowledgement yet, but we can hope. On September 17, 2013, American filmmaker, Michael Conti, traveled to Germany to complete filming for his documentary and took part in the procession of Hildegard’s relic during her feast day. It was a remarkable experience that I included in my film, The Unruly Mystic: Saint Hildegard.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is the newest Doctor of the Church, being named a Doctor in October 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. She was a remarkable woman, a “first” in many fields. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as “Sybil of the Rhine”, produced major works of theology and visionary writings. When few women were accorded respect, she was consulted by and advised bishops, popes, and kings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known. She founded a vibrant convent, where her musical plays were performed. However, she was best known for her mystical visions and writings.
A saint’s feast day can be the day of their actual death or a day assigned by the Church. Typically, the Church only assigns a day when the day of death is unknown or if several other saints are already assigned to that day. The number of canonized saints, however, is greater than the number of days in a calendar year. So two or more saints often share the same feast day. Because overlap often occurs, and the Church isn’t sure of the date of death of some saints, other calendar dates are sometimes chosen — such as the day that the saint was canonized.