The Pilgrimage and Creative Retreat with 30 other people to Hildegard’s Homeland was an amazing experience. It isn’t too much to say that is was life changing. Of course, when it comes to matters of how we grow in our personal and spiritual development, we have to be careful when we say, “life changing.” To know whether something is life changing, it must stick. Learning is characterized by changed behavior that becomes part of oneself. As the days and months go by, I (or others) will be able to determine with more than just my echoes of excitement whether the experience in Germany was indeed life changing for me. As for now, all I can say as proof is, I feel a change in me.
When have you felt a profound change within you? Was it a permanent shift and when did you know for sure that it was?
Still, I know a tremendous opportunity for growth was presented to us, and we went for it.
On the Rhine River
We soaked in the story of Hildegard of Bingen, a nun who lived in the 12th century, who was made a Saint in 2012, and also named a Doctor of the Church, only the 4th woman to receive that title out of 35 people.
View from Castle Rheinfels
When a group of four of us stood before the relics, one person said her heart began to race from feeling the high vibrations coming from the relics shrine. I felt nothing. I wondered if I was too hardheaded, not spiritually advanced enough, or just wasn’t raised Catholic to have an affinity for relics and saints.
Interior of the Relics Church
The next day we went to visit the church in Sponheim where Hildegard’s teacher was raised as a young girl in the 11th century. While we were milling around I felt guided to go and stand behind the pulpit. That in itself was amusing to me. It wasn’t an ornate pulpit. It was more like a lectern. However, I did go up to this area, and as I stood there looking out my heart started racing. I felt myself vibrating and I was all-abuzz with energy pouring in and through and around my being. And then, as I stood in this field, fascinated by what I was feeling, I looked out at the empty pews save for our tour group, and I felt a message come to me, from inside of me. I can only describe it as a feeling that God was smiling inside of me. Then I heard with my whole body, not just in my intellectual brain, these words: “You’re not done yet.”
It was not a feeling that I would necessarily pastor a church again, but a definite sense that I was not done presenting and giving spiritual messages in front of people. I have been in a period of learning and deepening and writing and journaling; but this message was an affirmation that my period of inner personal growth and acquired knowledge was to be shared through spoken word.
Have you ever felt God smile inside your being? If so, I would love for you to share it with me.
I understood then that it was not for me to “feel” what someone else felt at the Hildegard shrine. That was for them. However, I experienced my own sacred connection standing in that area that represented speaking for the Divine.
Days later however, when I re-visited the Relics Church with my wife Jeannine, I had something happen that I will never forget as well. To stand in a church before the relics of a saint with Jeannine was very interesting. Again, I felt no deep connection as others seemed to have had in the days before when we had visited, and as Jeannine was obviously feeling. Then Jeannine and I began singing and dancing Psalm 91 in front of the relics shrine. As we did this I was still aware of a lack of a visceral connection, and wondering why I wasn’t feeling some mystical connection as my wife seemed to be feeling, evidenced by the deep, passionate expressions on her face and in her movements. So, I decided to let it go and just honor Hildegard, and focus on appreciating her life’s work and expressing gratitude. That I could do since her writings and music and theology had already touched me deeply.
After we finished, Jeannine went to sit in the pew, and for some reason I could not yet leave. I stood there. Then I slowly began walking around the shrine, which contained the skull, heart and tongue of Hildegard. I did this three times, and each time I did I saw things on the shrine I had not seen before. It was more than a golden case. It was designed to symbolize her life. There were jewels that reminded me she was God’s jewel. It was open at the top, so that what was in the box was opened up before the heavens, reminding me of Hildegard’s cosmology. There were peacocks symbolizing eternity and beauty, a hallmark of Hildegard’s work. There were men sculpted onto the shrine, other saints who seemed to be standing guard. I felt like I was being guided to walk around, to see, and to contemplate. After the third time, I felt a strong energetic field flowing from the shrine to my heart!
Now, I know Hildegard was not in that box, but I also knew something of her was. Perhaps the relics can be thought of as a bridge, because what I felt was a presence… her presence. And I felt like she was all of a sudden my friend. Not Saint, not woman who did something amazing in her lifetime… not someone I had read about and studied intellectually… but a friend. I am not sure this would have happened had Jeannine stayed up there with me. I needed to be alone for this mystical connection. And perhaps I had prepared myself to “meet” her by giving myself this space with the presence of Hildegard.
I think this is what many people go through who are meeting Christ for the first time. There are no relics of Jesus. It is an energetic connection from our heart to the presence of Christ. And it takes time to make acquaintance. And for some it happens not in a crowd, but when one is alone.
Have you ever had a connection with someone who is no longer in the body? I would love for you to share it with me.
As I left the relics shrine, I felt light-headed and dizzy, the same feelings as another attendee had felt from taking in the high vibrations emanating in the field near the shrine. It was a new experience I had only heard about; that being in the presence of a highly evolved being can make you feel this way, because we are not used to it.
Standing alone in front of a Saint made me think about what the essential message was to us who are living. In the church and denomination I grew up in there is a belief that we should all be striving to become saints.
But what is a Saint?
Well, in Hildegard’s case she exemplified a self-less commitment to living for God and in service to humanity. She fulfilled her calling in such a way that the actions taken through faith, service and commitment present a model for us all. She gave her life to the Divine, including her gifts and talents, and it is truly amazing what the Creator accomplished through her.
I like to say that what we are is God’s gift to us… and what we become is our gift to God.
If the Christ’s life proved that we could live every moment for God, even to the last breath, then a Saint proves the same thing for us all over again… that we can all live in such a way that we are holders and givers of the Divine Light.
Complete rainbow on the Rhine River.
With One Heart,