Harriet Tubman vs. Hildegard of Bingen

Welcome to the Faithful Four! From an initial field of 32 saints, we are down to a holy four: Harriet Tubman, Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth Fry, and Joseph. In just a few short days, one of these saintly souls will be awarded the coveted Golden Halo.

To get to this point, Harriet took down Julie Billiart, James Solomon Russell, and Herman of Alaska, while Hildegard got past Romanos the Melodist, Elizabeth the New Martyr ,and Brother Lawrence. (note: click on the name of the vanquished saint to read that round's write-up)

Throughout Lent Madness, our saintly heroes have battled via basic bios, quirks and quotes, and event kitsch. In this round, we let our remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question “Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?” In other words, they’ve been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. We have also invited them to share their two favorite images of their saints.

And as a side note, not that our wonderful Celebrity Bloggers are competing against each other per se, but this matchup does contain an interesting twist as our two newest Lent Madness contributors work to advance their respective saints. Both Sandra Montes and Miguel Escobar work at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Sandra as Interim Worship Director and Miguel as Executive Director of Anglican Studies. Talk about in-house bragging rights!

Well, it's time to vote. Go do your thing!

Harriet Tubman

When I was invited to write for Lent Madness I was so excited because I had been playing and watching along for years! When asked for my top ten saints, I immediately put Harriet Tubman as my first choice. I taught about Tubman when I was a teacher, I love reading about her and her tenacity, I also really enjoy hearing sermons about her. I remember one in particular preached at the Chapel of the Cross in NC and then presiding bishop-elect Curry, quoted Tubman, “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going… Don’t give up, don’t give in… if you want to taste freedom, keep going!” I was “Amen-ing!” and “Mmhmm-ing!” And I thought to myself, I can’t, I won’t give up no matter what.

Today, as I write this, I know Harriet is going against my wonderful friend Miguel Escobar’s saint, Hildegard, and I say to myself again, “No, I can’t give up!”

Harriet Tubman is an inspiration to any person who has felt in shackles. Any one of us who has ever looked to the heavens and begged, “Hear my cry!” feels hope and finds strength from Harriet’s story. Tubman saw visions and had dreams she interpreted as revelations from God that, I am certain, helped her continue to have strength, courage and intelligence to keep going, to keep helping and never give up.

She was born into slavery but decided that was not the path for her. She didn’t have to help others, but she chose to. She knew there was something more and went for it. What a testimony for any of us who are looked down upon or who are told we are not worthy to be of service or to have an amazing legacy. She couldn’t read or write but she was determined to be free. She was told no many times, but she kept at it.

She not only helped many enslaved people be free, as Jesus does, she also helped as a cook and a nurse and even led an armed assault during the Civil War! As Frederick Douglass wrote, she “labored in a private way… in the night” and what she is now known for may “seem improbable.” And, it very well may be improbable for us to imagine, but as the Bible says, all things are possible if we believe and, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

In this time of pandemic, of fear, of confusion, death and pain, let us remember God’s promises, as did Harriet. Let us keep going. Let us keep believing. Let us never give up.

--Sandra Montes

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bignen’s morality play Ordo Virtutum, composed around 1151, is about the struggle for a human soul, Anima, between the Virtues and the Devil. Importantly, the Virtues’ parts are sung by female voices, and were likely first sung by the nuns at Hildegard’s abbey, but the Devil is voiced by a male and never sings. Instead, he yells. He grunts. His appeal is wrapped up in lies and brash loudness. The play is about a soul wavering between the appeal of the Virtues and that of the Devil’s shouting, a singular fact that makes Hildegard’s work and vision especially relevant today.

For I believe that America’s soul is at risk today. Like Anima in Ordo Virtutum, we appear to be pushed and pulled between the quieter appeal of ancient Virtues and the Devil’s lies and bellowing. Further, I fear this is especially the case when it comes to global issues such as climate change as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Whose voices are we to believe?

The reason why I am making a case for Hildegard of Bignen today - against my good friend Sandra Montes’ appeal for Harriet Tubman, no less - is 1) that this is what I signed up to do when I agreed to write for this project but also 2) because I believe people -- indeed, perhaps even creation itself -- is longing for a visionary who will help point a way beyond this quagmire.  With the effects of climate change closing in, and a bellowing nationalism resulting in less international coordination rather than more, we desperately need examples of ancient wisdom who will radically transform our relationship to consumption, to creation, and to truth itself.

As I wrote in this post for Lent Madness, Hildegard of Bignen has special relevance for a humanity seeking pathways for reconnecting to God’s creation. Drawing on her experience of the German forest as well as the medicinal garden at her abbey, Hildegard famously observed that “the Earth sweats greeness” and laid out a visionary theology wherein she saw Christ as sent by God for the ‘greening’ of humanity. In this vision, God is the source of both our own and creation’s abundant flourishing. This was such a central part of her vision that in the morality play Ordo Virtutum, the struggle over Anima is about whether the human soul can become reconnected to the Creator. In Causae et Curae, Hildegard again draws from this well of thought by arguing that human health is analogous to a thriving garden in that both are the result of the knowledgeable tending by a gardener/healer.

As the global threats of climate change and COVID-19 make abundantly clear, we humans are interconnected and entirely dependent on being in a healthy relationship with God’s creation. Furthermore, there is no promised land to escape to; we’ve only one Earth and I believe we have a decreasing amount of time to radically reorient how we will exist in this world.

Will we continue to listen to the loud bellowing of climate-change deniers, white nationalists, and isolationists whose primary appeal is the fantasy that we can blindly continue in our individualistic, hyper-consumerist, and exploitative culture? Or will we, at list, begin to listen to the quieter melodies of ancient virtues, rediscovering a simpler way and reconnecting with God and our creation? Hildegard’s mystical vision, her musical compositions, and her scientific insights from the 12th century may be just the saint we need to face today’s challenges.

--Miguel Escobar

Harriet Tubman vs. Hildegard of Bingen

  • Harriet Tubman (59%, 4,380 Votes)
  • Hildegard of Bingen (41%, 3,107 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,487

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164 comments on “Harriet Tubman vs. Hildegard of Bingen”

      1. PLEASE - Bingen is the town of her abbey. The toughest choice - both great women, leaders, and believers and doers of good. Modern day saint and Ancient saint with great advice for today - GOLDEN HALOS FOR BOTH. Every time someone walks a labyrinth, every time you hear amazing music, get healed, read and understand the Gospel and its love and power - think of Hildegard. The line from Harriett's article today, "If you've ever been shackled" - that's Harriett. They both set us free in amazing ways. Thank you God for allowing them to be.

    1. So I don't even know you, but have enjoyed your Lent Madness memes - but your Holy Week writing was so lovely it brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps now more than ever in our lifetimes we can truly feel the impact of the Passion.

    2. I read your blog. Yesterday was very hard. Our rector has said that no matter what the calendar says when this time of isolation is over, we are going to have Easter!

    3. Your words are a wonderful way to enter into Holy Week. As a priest and prior to that an organist I have always found the busyness of Holy Week exhausting. But once Tenebrae was over and there was nothing to do until the Great Vigil I became almost at a loss for what to do. That is the sense I get this year, that aloneness, that sense of bereavement and loss, is almost overwhelming. And the thought that Easter will come anyway, empty tomb and all, is comforting. So thank you!

    4. Thank you, Michael, for your blog. You gave me some peace as I realized I was not alone in my grief. I watched and participated as best I could from my prayer chair as my parish provided the liturgy of Palm Sunday. It was one of the finest liturgies I have ever witnessed. And as I joined in the hymns and responses I found myself in tears over and over again, longing to be in the nave. Longing to be fully a part of a service that is so important. And I know as the week progresses I will be there again and again, in tears of grief that I can only watch and participate from a distance. But indeed Easter WILL come, as always. This is my comfort.

    5. Michael, your beautiful piece brought to the surface all the pain I am feeling about missing Holy Week & most especially the glorious music as I sing in both the contemporary & the traditional choir. We have virtual services from our small Parrish and I join in there & though I know my beautiful church friends are responding with me & maybe even singing, I really miss hugging them. Bless Facebook as we are able to greet & talk to each other as service progress. Stay safe everyone, here's to the day when we can once again greet each other with hugs.

    6. Michael, your description of--lament for--Holy Week is both moving and encouraging.
      Yes! In spite of quarantine, in spite of those who will succumb to the virus, in spite of those in power who are more selfish than compassionate, Easter _will_ come, the tomb _will_ be empty, Christ _will_ once again be victorious over death, and we _will_ shout "Alleluia!"

      1. Verdery, Fr. George Calvert often reminds us, “Easter is the only holiday that lasts FOREVER!” Alleluia!

    7. Your second writing is one of the most profound readings yet during this time of trials & tribulations. It spoke to my heart Michael! May we all take the good that comes from these unnatural, unsettling times and believe that “this too shall pass” and that God is with us in all times and in all things.

    1. Love the fact that the music in the video is a song called "Still Standing." Thanks for the link!

    2. South Bend is my home town. Some pretty wonderful things are coming out of there lately! And I had to choose Hildegarde, for health and healing.

    3. That is truly awesome. I want to know how you got the pegs to turn. Hope you're not putting your thumb on the scale for tomorrow's penultimate battle by way of that sun-filled shot of the pegs over the St. Joseph river. Well played.

    4. Great video -- kudos to you & the artists! Love those little people representing the Saints--Thanks for sharing ! :- )

    1. I always find the votes during the last week of Lent Madness challenging because a lot of the people who end up in the final four are also some of my favorites so I have to choose between which child I love more.

  1. Don't know why I even bothered to vote. I knew from day one that Harriet Tubman would win. Yawn...

    1. I began to read today's blogs fairly certain that I would vote for Harriet Tubman. However, (despite the spelling errors) I found the arguments in support of Hildegard of Bingen so compelling that I had to vote for her. We are, indeed, in desperate need of such a visionary!

      1. Exactly the same thing happened to me. However, I see we are in the minority!

        1. I'm right there with you both! I love Harriet, but truly, Hildegard speaks to so many of our ills in today's world!

      2. I went into the reading thinking I would vote for Harriet but was persuaded by the writers examples to vote for Hildegard. Was surprised in the comments that this not just my experience!

      3. Joan,

        I felt the same way. This is one time when I wish we could vote twice. Such tough choices, but Hildegard won out at the end. I can't believe we are almost done with Lent Madness, but look forward to whatever comes next.

        1. Me too, but both the write-ups were great. Michael, thank you for that lovely and moving reflection on Holy Week.

      4. I felt the same. Also heard on the news tonight that the air quality is improving in cities where it is much needed. Plus seismologists say that seismic activity is calming, perhaps because of less rumbling traffic. Apparently they usually only see a seismic quieting on Christmas Day. I see the hand of St. Melangell reaching out to Hildegard. St. Melangell is the Patron Saint of the Natural World (plus rabbits & hares). She’s Welsh, much needed right now, & my favorite — maybe next year.

    2. I agree that the writing is on the wall, so to speak, and it's Harriet Tubman for the Golden Halo! but it's fun to vote anyway. Today, I voted again for Hildegard and "the quieter melodies of ancient virtues, rediscovering a simpler way and reconnecting with God and our creation." We need the vision and passion of both of today's saints in our lives today.

  2. Wow, great work today, celebrity bloggers! This was the hardest one yet for me, due to both write-ups being fabulous. I had pre-decided in my mind to cast my vote for Hildegard, whose mystic approach resonates with me. In the end, I decided on Harriet - Hildegard is already a saint to me, so let's bring Harriet forward.

  3. Never thought I would be voting against Harriet Tubman, but Miguel's words today hit so close to home for this day and time.

  4. Harriet Tubman was a heroic activist and it is hard to not vote for such an amazing woman, but Miguel’s words about the need for a visionary in our sick and broken world hit home with me this morning. Hildegard it is.

  5. Holy Hannah! Having a Hard Haul, Here! All those Hs, and I have to choose between the two most important! In the end, I chose Hildegard, in gratitude for what I have learned from her over the years.

  6. Thank you, bloggers. Two beautifully written arguments for your respective saints. As the SEC has noted in past years, the Golden Halo is our inadequate way of honoring a particular saint, but all 32 of these saints have already received their heavenly rewards, and our votes for one over the other probably at best tickle their imaginations. I like to picture Hildegard and Harriet sitting down to a couple of sweet iced teas while listening to Angel's singing ildegard's music. Meanwhile, I'm casting my vote for Harriet for her generosity, bravery, faith, and intelligence.

    1. Your writing gives me solace, too. Thank you for the daily burst of comedy and creativity, and for a thoughtful sharing of faith that lights up more than my little screen.

      1. Tough choice but I’m swayed by the thought that Harriet went back again and again when she could have stayed in safety. To rescue those in need and bring them out is wonderful but instead of resting, she went back to danger to do it again. May we all wrestle with injustice again and again!

        1. I’m with you, Judy. I wouldn’t have had the courage to leave in the first place (and by herself!). But to go back repeatedly into danger just boggles my mind.

  7. All honor to Harriet Tubman for her compassion and courage. This was a tough choice. I voted for Hildegard because I agree that the soul and future of the country and the world are at stake. A visit to the WWII Memorial Museum in New Orleans last year showed me the immense power of values and ideas, the words in which they are expressed, and the deeds that result. I hope and pray for a visionary, one who can see through today's rhetoric, to the agenda beneath it.

  8. Can we have TWO winners of the Golden Halo? This was the hardest one yet. I want to vote for both!

  9. Okay, that was a persuasive pitch! Hildegard stole my vote at the last minute.

  10. So difficult to choose. The bloggers made it even more challenging. A shout out to both for bringing to flooor the essence of a need to see some chence as we relate to one another and creation. Green is great, being a marine ecologist, I am weighed by a bias to favor Hildegard, but I am in awe of both.

  11. Very hard choice filks! But in the end Hildgerd has to be my choice. I learned about her over 30 years ago and have found hero be a spiritual leader for me in her writings and her painting.

  12. Loved Miguel Escobar's powerful, passionate message inspired by Hildegard. That's why this 12th-century visionary gets my vote today and always.

    1. This battle is too hard! It was so difficult to choose. I decided to vote for Hildegard, but whoever wins this battle is fine with me!

  13. If you think this choice was tough, wait till Wednesday.
    Thank God for *all* of them.

  14. Another fabulous post and a wonderful season. With all that we can no longer have right now, thank you for keeping this going.

  15. Bloggers, respect. Beautiful discourses, both of you. I love the bold, expressionist icon of "Harriet crossing the river." However, I was swayed by Miguel's "panentheistic" (is that Richard Rohr's term?) appeal on Hildegard's behalf, linking bio-catastrophe with the nationalistic shouts of the devil. We need a renewed vision; we need to "turn" to wisdom. Let us never give up resisting evil and healing the planet. We are all in this together. Two worthy women; I voted for Hildegard.

  16. Hard choice as both we courageous, visionary women. The reflections today were both beautiful and powerful. Thanks!

  17. Yes...the choices become more difficult, but for 2020 we need Hildegard to rise above our dividedness and sink into wisdom. I believe Hildegard's wisdom was manifested in Harriet's work. Therefore, I will stick with the ancient voice of Hildegard.

  18. This one is really hard. And both bloggers were persuasive. Maybe I'll wait awhile and read more comments before voting.

  19. Arguments for both very compelling. I think this is Harriet's time for the gold. Bless them both. Bless us all at this trying time. Keep going!