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

Hildegard of Bingen vs. Brother Lawrence

  • Hildegard (52%, 3,649 Votes)
  • Brother Lawrence (48%, 3,357 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,006

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

  1. Is it just me, or is the writing from the celebrity bloggers on the kitsch better than ever this year?

  2. I had intended to vote for Hildegarde because she's an extraordinary woman who made her own pathway at a time when that was almost unheard of and, unlike Clare of Assisi, e.g., she didn't or wasn't required to or bucked requirements to lock herself away from humanity. I've been listening to her music for several decades now and love that she even wrote a play. But when I read today's meditation on Brother Lawrence I felt the writer was speaking to me the words I very much needed to hear. Can God's grace actually be working through my oh-so-ordinary life? It made me stop in my tracks to take this in as even a possibility . . . and to consider the blessedness of daily toil and daily joys, work, and sharing.

  3. I love Hildegard and more than 35 years ago rescued a stray in Brooklyn NY after her (nickname Hildy). I gave her my last name and her formal name, Hildegard Gardner, made the name even more delightful and funny.

  4. Comment edit:

    I love Hildegard. More than 35 years ago I rescued a stray in Brooklyn NY and named her after Hildegard (nicknamed Hildy). I gave her my last name, so her formal name was Hildegard Gardner, which made the name even more delightful and funny.

  5. When visiting Germany severely years ago to study the life of Hildegard, my favorite place was Disenbodenberg where she was interred with Juta as a child. They made a wonderful white wine there. If I wasn’t interred in another state due to the virus, I would send a picture of a cork board I made from Disenbodengurg Winery corks.
    Hildegard challenge popes, wrote music including an opera, painted her visions, developed medicinal garden that grow complementary plants together that even today modern science confirms as unbeatable. She followed the vision given her to found convents, and care for all who came to them. Truly and amazing example of a woman who accomplished much in a time when it was not the norm for women to do so. Can you tell I’m talking golden halo here!

  6. Wow. This is tough today. Both understanding the deep wisdom in and of God's natural world. Hildegard's images and vision especially have sung to me through the years as a person for whom dream life has been and is one of the deep wells. We visited Hildegard's abbey in Bingen this past year, and earlier in my life I was involved in producing a Hildegard video. And yet I've never quite touched the simplicity of Lawrence's vision as much and as clearly as the "kitsch" of Anna's images conveyed today. Thank you Anna.
    Given these, I am going to ponder through the day, and vote late.

  7. Brother Lawrence for me for finding the Sacred in ordinary things and everyday life. In these days of quarantine I am finding myself thinking of others in all times and places who have been isolated or quarantined - the homesteader of the American West (including my grandparents), those who fought the plague in the Middle Ages (read the book Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks), so many others. My grandmother told me living on the prairie was lonely and difficult but that the prairie has a beauty all its own. May you and I find holiness in the beauty and the weeds of our own yards, and in the everyday tasks and chores we do today.

  8. Viriditas now! With Hildegard all the way! Love for Brother Lawrence but Hildegard brings it today.

  9. If memory serves, this is the closest match yet this year. I am such a huge fan of Brother Lawrence (I hesitate to actually label myself a follower, as I still fall so short of the Practice of the Presence). But I have this consolation if Hildegard hangs onto her lead. It would have broken my heart to vote against either Brother Lawrence or Harriet Tubman. I had almost decided not to vote in that one.

  10. Well, this one is shaping up to be the first barn-burner of Lent Madness 2020. Currently Hildegard 52% to Lawrence 48%. What to do? If the contest were on who has the most outstanding kitsch Hildegard would be the clear choice. ("Outstanding" not in a good way.) That acid jazz remix probably has Hildegard rolling in her grave. But I'm voting for Lawrence today, partly because I like underdogs, and partly because I don't think our friend Hildegard needs any more kitsch -- and remember, the Golden Halo comes with a kitschy mug. Many kudos to Anna Courie for a valiant effort on behalf of Lawrence in this round!!

  11. I handled about 5.3 seconds of the remix and escaped with my ears intact. Thank you Miguel for this fine, funny and insightful write-up of Hildegard. Your last sentence threw my vote to Ms. von Bingen. It was a tough decision as Anna's writing gave me new and find insight into Bro Law. Today's is the best celebrity blogging I've read since I started Lent Madness!

  12. There are hard days and there are harder days. This is truly like choosing between your two favorite children. Arghhhhh

  13. I wanted to vote Lawrence, I had a simple boiled egg with salt & pepper for breakfast. However I voted for Hildi.

    It is time to seriously assess Hildegard's form of healing compared to our modern healing system. Today, if we come down with the covid19 virus, we are asked to stay home and care for ourselves and only seek healthcare assistance when we have breathing problems, at which time we can go to a facility where they will mechanically blow air into one's lungs, a desperate act that will keep one alive, but damage the lungs. Dr Fausi just isn't telling us to shelter in place and drink water infused with things like elder anise, long used to support the lungs.

    So how is it we care for ourselves and our families and help our sick ones to heal and maintain health? I sense that looking to Hildegard is helping address those questions at this difficult time.

  14. Sad to have two such worthy persons competing against each other, but I went with Hildegard. I think this may come down to Hildegard vs. Joseph, and Joseph will win the Golden Halo.

  15. Staying home and experiencing the “ordinary” of life at this extra-“ordinary” time in the life of this fragile home to all of us mortals, has made me appreciative of so much. Books. Candles that adorn my sacred space. Lent Madness that entertains my morning! Gardening that brings me closer to God’s “natural” world. Creating meals from a freezer that used to “eat better” than we did. I love the ordinary! I love Brother Lawrence for helping me see God today in the “ordinary”.

  16. Aye, I be for Brother Lawrence ta sail forth with. Me life has been strewn with broken pottery and I feel a ken to this good fellow as a mate of me own callin' Tis Lawrence for me!

  17. I am a great admirer of Hildegard. No one can deny her many gifts, her many accomplishments, but those very qualities make her somewhat intimidating. Brother Lawrence, on the other hand, is not the least bit intimidating. He is so beautifully ordinary, that one can relate to him. I can imagine chatting with him as we do the dishes together - he washing, me drying, and both of us dropping plates. Ordinary me voted for ordinary Lawrence.

  18. I have known about Hidegard for a long time. But Brother Lawrence speaks to me as an ordinary person doing the best she can. Difficult vote.

  19. Fortunately, at least on my version of YouTube, other works by Hildegard show up that make for easier listening. Unfortunately for her, though, they sabotaged her candidacy in my case. As the Hortus Deliciarum drew me closer to contemplation, it also drew me toward Brother Lawrence, the apostle of the commonplace. I don’t think such an outcome would displease Hildegard.

    So in her honor I submit the following recipe for Hildegard Cocktails or, more familiarly, The Hildegard:

    Start to play the Hortus Deliciarum.
    Thoroughly wash your hands for as long as it takes to play the first chant.
    Pause the Hortus.

    Run out to the grocery store and buy up to six different fresh herbs.

    On returning, wash your hands for the length of the next chant.

    Disinfect the herbs by soaking them in white vinegar during the third chant. Rinse them and place them in a large bowl.

    Pour a bottle of good Rhine wine over the herbs and leave them to steep for the rest of the video.

    Remove the herbs and, if necessary, strain the wine through a muslin cloth. If you don’t have one, strain it through a scarf not previously used as a substitute for a face mask.

    Taste the wine with a teaspoon. Add a tablespoon of raw honey and taste again with another teaspoon.

    Add honey until the cocktail is barely drinkable, or more to taste, using a different teaspoon each time you taste it.

    Using a funnel, pour the resulting potion back into the wine bottle.

    Serve over ice.

    I can’t wait to try this out.

    1. Wow, Davis. That's a whole spiritual practice. (Won't the vinegar wilt the herbs as it disinfects them?) Honestly I think I'd rather run lots of water over the herbs and let them dry on a paper towel. Then sit down and enjoy that good bottle of Rhine white wine (riesling?) Then mince the herbs over chunks of chuck roast that have been marinated in Guinness overnight then floured and browned. Then put it all into a big pot and add beef broth and carrots and leeks and garlic and maybe more onions and some mushrooms. Simmer for a couple of hours. In the meantime open and drink a good bottle of pinot noir (from Oregon this time). When the pot is done, serve the contents over mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles. Enjoy. I call that the Irish Stewdegard. Very good for your health and wellbeing. "May you live a thousand years."

      1. Ooh, I like it. And I just happen to have some Guinness left over from St. Paddy’s Day.

      2. You really think Hildegard would win over Harriet Tubman? I don't think Hildi stands a chance!

      3. My friends, you have outdone yourself. Davis, your cocktail preparations sound very safe and CDC approved. (Although some may argue whether or not that trip to the grocery store is an "essential" trip; I say, of course, it is essential!") You are on to something there--but it sounds too sweet even for me, and that's saying something!

        St. Celia, the roast made my mouth water. One of these days we need to have a big party with all these great recipes--food AND drink!

      4. Irish Stewdeguard! Brilliant. Somehow, I think Brother Lawrence would have enjoyed it, too.
        But it makes it even more difficult to choose between them. Sigh.

  20. I voted against my own bracket today and voted for Lawrence. (Which brings me to my eternal question on brackets: Does one fill them out the way one prefers it to go, or the way one suspects the Lent Madness Global Public will vote? They are not the same at all.) So I voted for Brother Lawrence, though my bracket has Hildegard vs. Harriet in the next round. I had Harriet vs. Clare in the matchup for the halo, so you can see my bracket is halfway demolished. So far.

    Kudos to the bloggers—great kitsch vs. great imaginary kitsch. Oh the cleverness of thee!

    1. SUCH an eternal Lent Madness question, Susan! I stopped trying to fill out my bracket ahead of time a few years ago, because I always end up voting contrary to my own picks!

      If I had filled out my bracket beforehand based on my own preferences, I would have had Andrew (who is SO underrated, plus I teach at St. Andrew's Episcopal in Austin) and Eustace (because Sant'Eustachio Cafe in Rome has the best coffee in the entire world) as my final two... and they both got knocked out in the first round!

  21. i love how it said "go make an ordanary omlet."when not everything is ordanary.

  22. Almost laughed 'til I wept. . . the bloggers today have outdone themselves! God bless 'em! Gloria, your sharing of the Japanese repair of 'broken things' touched a spiritual nerve. . .my vote goes to Lawrence.

    1. All the celebrity bloggers this year are fabulous. They have all earned CB Halos!

  23. I voted for Hildegard because of her music and amazing career, and because I would LOVE a mug w/ her on it, but this was a toughie because I remember reading and loving Brother Lawrence's book years ago -- I should read it again!

  24. Hildegard and Brother Lawrence are my last two saints on my bracket!

    I think it was from a childhood connection to her name, that I picked Hildegard, and she is my choice to go forward. I can only hope that the next round will go as her celebrity blogger writes, "... 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."

    All, be well.

  25. This was a very difficult choice as I admire both Hildegard of Bingen and Brother Lawrence. I have deepened my walk with Christ through the example of their lives and writings. The re-mix is not very indicative of the contemplative, mystical, and spiritually deep music of Hildegard. I recommend trying this beautiful meditative example of Hildegard's music. http://www.openculture.com/2018/06/experience-the-mystical-music-of-hildegard-von-bingen.html

  26. A virtual tie--with Hildegard surging forward in the commercial line. I feel sad for Hildegard who probably never intended to birth an industry. I'll go with the simpler Brother Lawrence.