Hildegard of Bingen vs. Brother Lawrence

Hey, guess what? We're halfway through the Elate Eight! Yesterday, Joseph swept past Joanna the Myrrhbearer 69% to 31% to join Harriet Tubman as the first two saints to make it to the Faithful Four.

Today Hildegard of Bingen squares off against Brother Lawrence for a shot at Harriet. To get to this round, Hildegard got by Romanos the Melodist and Elizabeth the New Martyr, while Brother Lawrence upset both Patrick and Margery Kempe.

So, how's your bracket going? For those of you who filled out brackets in advance, are you thriving, surviving, or dying? We want to know! But first, go do your civic Lenten duty and cast today's vote.

Hildegard of Bingen

Before I begin, please click this link and let it play in the background. It’s a Hildegard chant remix and it helps to set the mood.

When I began investigating the strange world of Hildegard von Bingen kitsch, I wondered if I’d find anything at all. I knew she was popular in academic and environmental circles but nothing prepared me for the Hildegardian bazaar.

Join me as we walk through the market stalls and allow the repetitive thrum of this terrible remix to lull you into not asking too many questions.

At the Hildegard bazaar, we will find facial creams, intermittent fasting regímenes, Strong Will Tea, cookies to alleviate unhappiness, and something called “Hildegard’s original bitter herbal supplements.”

“Original how?” I wonder.

Here you’ll also find an entire German company named after Hildegard which claims to be among the oldest sources of knowledge on the saint and the reason that she’s so popular. They were established in 1976, by the way. The company sells a white wine with parsley and honeythat cures heart ailments. “Anyone who drinks the heart wine on time and regularly will very likely be spared serious heart problems in old age!"

At yet another section of this bazaar, it is all about green. Playing off Hildegard’s use of the term viriditas, we find a holistic beauty and wellness company based out of Austin, TX named Viriditas Botanicals, as well as a landscape company hoping to bring that medieval German flair to customers who long to see their lawns “sweat green.”

I’ll admit that having become invested in Hildegard as a thinker, mystic, scientist, and composer, it’s both funny and a little disappointing to see her name and theological concepts slapped onto everything from a (really, really terrible) remix to intermittent fasting regímenes with green herbal pills that make it all possible.

And yet…

Stepping back, and seeing the market as a whole, I also can’t help but be impressed by the vibrancy and sheer variety of all these people hawking their wares. Under the remarkably large tent of Hildegard’s legacy, one finds both theologians and environmentalists, mystics, musicians, and herbalists, gardeners and DJs. There are people selling both “original bitter herb supplements” as well as a medical doctor and medievalist who has been inspired by Hildegard to advance a movement called Slow Medicine.

What this busy marketplace makes clear is that in these strange days of COVID-19 and environmental collapse, Hildegard’s relevance is only increasing and that more and more people will find inspiration in the musical, theological, and environmental universe envisioned by this medieval saint. It feels as if we’re all still catching up with her.

--Miguel Escobar

Brother Lawrence
You cannot get to know Brother Lawrence without reading his work. You can start your immersion into an ordinary life with a copy of “Practice in the Presence of God” from Ebay for a mere $3.99:

While you peruse Brother Lawrence’s work, marvel at the ordinary, while sipping on a cup of ordinary water.


Examine your ordinary life while gazing at an ordinary tree in winter and realize that God is working through you as well:

Consider the broken plates for which Brother Lawrence is known for shattering.  Can you think of ways that God can piece you back together?


Look in this ordinary mirror—see that ordinary face staring back?  That’s the image of someone whose extra-ordinary grace of God is working:

While realizing your ordinary awesomeness. Go make an ordinary omelet and contemplate the enjoyment in the simple things in life. Anna says to crumble in some goat cheese into the mix for a little extra-ordinary, you can thank her later.

Anna Courie

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134 comments on “Hildegard of Bingen vs. Brother Lawrence”

  1. Another tough choice . But thanks to the Product Overviews, we know who has the superior name branding, breadth of product, and market penetration. Capitalists and business majors of the world unite for Hildegard!

    1. Mark, the sarcasm round is next round. But you make a really good point about name branding and "market penetration." (Certainly that club mix has become an ear worm.) It's hard to separate our judgements about Christian fidelity from the PR people who have "made straight a highway to the larder" of spiritual consumerism. In an era when states are forced to compete on the open market for face masks, when the stockpile was sold off, I'm not sure "simplicity" offers the answer. Speaking of "capitalism," you still have your name written all over a certain Vatican Bank reform. . .

    2. Follow the money. Just like pro athletes whose skills and work ethics garner huge sums, Hildegard has been lifted to our awareness. It is deserved in her case especially as all the money was not hers. Give me an athlete that lives in poverty like Hildegard.

  2. Even though I love Hildegard, I voted for Brother Lawrence after downloading his book on kindle and reading every evening before sleeping. Repairing Broken plates yes, a way. Japanese do it with the art of kintsugi (using gold to put the oiece tigether. Is n't that what God does for us?

    1. Yes, Gloria. That is what God does for us. Well said, and the art of kintsugi is so very beautiful.

    2. Gloria, such a beautiful image! Thank you so much! And I voted for Brother Lawrence straight through and I am sticking with my first choice today, too. I don’t think he has much of a chance but I think it will be a close race. His philosophy of being fully present with God in every moment of our lives, not just the so-called spiritual moments - hard to do but definitely worth working toward. It would be wonderful if the proponent of that philosophy won the Golden Halo.

  3. PLEASE p L e A s E. Please re-read the original write-ups before you vote this time!

    1. Thank you, Beth, for encouraging the re-read of the original posts before voting. It was a tough choice as I love them both. Rereading the posts made the choice clear for me.

    2. Well said!
      Please do not let the Hildegard kitsch distract from her profound wisdom and Menschlichkeit.

  4. Very tough choice today! Two of my favorite saints pitted against each other. I finally settled on Hildegard von Bingen, for the music and medicine and theology, though I will continue to revere Brother Lawrence for the Practice and the tendency to drop the dishes we are drying!

    1. I agree with Lucy and with Beth who encourages voters to red the original bios before voting. I love brother Lawrence's simple, dogged devotion to God and strive to find such patience and humility in myself. But Hildegard was so talented, so bold and I'm so thrilled that her impact on medicine continues today (actually, is being rediscovered in the 21st century)!

  5. Hildegard's bazaar music made me nuts so I voted for Bro. Lawrence and his simplicity in recognizing the grace of God.

    1. PLEASE listen to some of the other Hildegard selections - I found many right on the same page. Her Vision and Feather on the Breath of God are so beautifully calming and sacred. Veriditas is the name of the Society of the Labyrinth - please discover that and the beauty and simplicity of both these saints will just wash over you like the beauty of Spring. In this time of sequestering and returning to basics - they are the ones to turn to. This looks like the closest race to date. There is an awesome movie about the first 60 years of Hildegard's life called Vision - please watch. I met the amazing director as it was premiered and showcased at the Miami Film Festival a few years ago. It ended with her getting on a horse to start preaching around Europe, often accompanied by St. Bernard de Clairvaux, who had taken her visions to the Pope who blessed them. These visions were interpretations of the Gospel, making it possible for the people of that time to see and understand them for the first time on their own. The comment was right - we are just now catching up with what Hildegard's gifts brought to the world. Her healing herb therapies, her amazing writings and interpretations, her boldness and her music - she was the first one to use 3 octaves. And she learned from the Benedictine monastery where she grew up when basically abandoned by her folks at 8 years old, the 10th child and very sickly. She lived, worked, advised, prayed, worshiped, preached and sang till 80!!!

    2. Me, too. I turned the music off after 20 seconds. Awful! I think I will read “Practice in the Presence of God” in the near future. Also I am a klutz in the kitchen, especially when it comes to knives. Need I say that my husband does most of the cooking?? I need Brother Lawrence's words of wisdom.

  6. That remix is a brain-crusher. "Starker Wille" means strong will in German. You say tea, but I'm thinking more like laxative. Thank you, Miguel, for your "big tent" approach; your creativity matches Hildegard's (and certainly surpasses DJ BrainCrusher's). Anna deserves some kind of award for her inspired approach to Brother Lawrence, the MAN WITH NO KITSCH, probably because he broke it all. 'Tis a gift to be simple,'tis a gift to have no kitsch. Thanks, bloggers. Bravo, and brava.

    1. I'm with St. Celia - that remix is definitely crushing something inside my skull this morning I don't think it's the coffee pounding. 🙂

      Two really great write-ups today - thanks to both bloggers, very much. I've rooted for both of these saints, and I'm now forced to decide between the one my father would have chosen, and the one who speaks most to me. Hmmm.

  7. Really, REALLY relieved that Mr. Escobar finds the "remix," or better, travesty, of Hildegard's chants "really, really terrible." It so distorts and ruins her music. Ugh!

  8. It's Hildegard today to set up the Battle of the H's (Ages). The left side of my bracket is looking good, right side is kaput.

  9. The photo of the tree in Br. Lawrence's write up is anything but ordinary! It is spectacularly beautiful. Thank you for that. ANd your inspires write-up. However, I went with Hildegard who's music I've loved for years and who was so extraordinary.

  10. I love Brother Lawrence because he saw God in the most ordinary, simple things and actions. Yes, I love spectacular sunsets and gorgeous stained class windows but he taught us to love a single blade of grass and simple chores such as washing dishes. If we can see God in these mundane things and actions, then we can see God everywhere!

  11. I fell for Hildegard's kitsch, and Miguel's text. But I am intrigued by Brother Lawrence and will download his book.

  12. I’ve always been a fan of both, and whoever wins today will make me happy. I thought the cleverness of the Lawrence kitsch had me, but the final line in the writing about Hildegard sealed the deal today.

  13. THANK YOU to our bloggers. Both brought me to tears, laughing all the way, because permeating it all is the amazing grace of the Holy, who makes all things holy! Hildegard for her vast wisdom and experience, and Br. Lawrence for his particularity of the ordinary. If there ever was a time to have the "both/and" vote, this is it! But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! This is MADDNESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Miguel did a terrific job! This is exactly the kind of in-depth reporting that I come to this round for.

      1. Blister in the Sun is not quite the icepick-in-the-ear that the "Hildegard Remix" is, thank the Lord.

  15. I agree, this should be a both/ and vote but....... Life isn't easy these days. I love Hildegard and admire her contributions, but I live with Brother Lawrence and take God with me into the supermarket, the laundry, out to my old fashioned clothesline where I still hang the sheets and towels, at the sink as I scrape carrots and pray, or as I pull weeds and praise God for the coming spring. The disciples started as ordinary people doing ordinary things. Let's take the ordinary road today. Vote Brother Lawrence!

  16. Yes, both bloggers are exceptional today. I hope Miguel returns for future Madnesses; thank you, Anna, for the lovely take on the kitchless Lawrence (goat cheese and all).

  17. Oh, that club mix made me laugh - before it made me want to break some plates. Both bloggers did so well today - I was laughing the whole time.
    I intend to make each disinfecting swipe an honor to God today in honor of Brother Lawrence, for whom I'll cast my vote.

  18. I still have two in the running for Final Four: Harriet and Joseph. My winner was Clare, so I'm really sad she lost to Elizabeth Fry (though she's a great substitute). I am now #TeamHarriet!

  19. I tried to listen to the remix while reading and deciding. Gave up after four minutes, which personally I consider quite an achievement. Did anyone make it all the way through? In my pandemic haze I'm visualizing a dark club while everyone is dancing to Hildegard six feet apart. Anna made an excellent effort to put together something for Larry. I shouldn't be surprised that he is a man without kitsch, but thanks to the film efforts of St. James, we know there is at least one peg doll out there. All kitsch put aside (which I hate to do), my vote went for Lawrence, who I only learned about two years ago. He has become a huge inspiration for me.

  20. You forgot to mention the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard is a community of Benedictine nuns in Eibingen near Rüdesheim in Hesse, Germany. Founded by Hildegard of Bingen in 1165, it was dissolved in 1804, but restored, with new buildings, in 1904. It specializes in making marvelous wine

  21. Of course, as I plant my herbal garden, inside, I must vote for the gardener! Using what God provided and we replant every year to, help,those affected with whatever!
    I also on my Facebook page asked for donations for my 77th EASTER SUNDAY, towards Mental Health! Do whatever we can this 2020 to help physically and emotionally everyone we know and do not know on this planet we call EARTH! God our maker is watching!

  22. This could be the closest head-to-head yet! I voted for Hildegard (despite the really, really terrible remix -- if anyone would like the opportunity permanently to erase that travesty from auditory memory, feel free to imbibe a beautiful album of Hildegard's music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6qFCYRQKVA). But finding God in the ordinary is always a particular desire (and need) of mine -- on pretty much any other day I would have gladly cast a ballot for the humble Brother Lawrence.

  23. I can't stand all this hype about Hildegard and as I look out on my peaceful lake I vote for Brother Lawrence and pray for peace and calmness for us all at this time.

  24. Going with Brother Lawrence today. It’s the ordinary, the routine, that helps us get through this unprecedented, unpredictable time of Covid-19.

  25. Love you, Brother Lawrence and all professors and practitioners of Practical Theology, especially the ones at Perkins School of Theology. This is where the rubber meets the road, and you're one of the foremost authorities on the subject.
    I voted for Hildegard, remix notwithstanding, because she was not only a saint but a Renaissance (the twelfth century one) woman. I wonder how many years off purgatory Fr. Jonathan of the St. Laika's website would give anyone who could manage to listen to the whole thing.

    1. I don't know...because I think we now know what the background music in Purgatory consists of.