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. Well, the club remix certainly was interesting! For something closer to music Hildegard might recognize, here's a sampling of pieces from the wonderful, award-winning 1982 CD on Hyperion Records, _Feather on the Breath of God_, which features soprano Emma Kirkby and
    Gothic Voices performing music by Hildegard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NGTsdL2YzE

  2. Thankfully I read the posts and enjoyed both, withOUT listening to the Hildegard (attempt at a) remix, and I voted for Hildi. (As an amateur gardener, I really love the concept of Viriditas!)

    I came back to listen to the remix after I'd had my coffee, and it's truly terrible... and I can appreciate a good House music remix... but that one, as Hildi might say, was nicht gut!

  3. Practicing the Presence or singing chants about greenness? Today I went with Hildegard for her music--NOT the remix, thank you very much! I can imagine Hildi and Larry in the kitchen together, fixing supper with an awareness of God and a lovely green salad, singing all the time.

    1. By the way, I listened to some Hildegard--O Frondens Virga--sung by the group Chanticleer.
      I highly recommend it!

  4. I have really struggled today. I love both of these saints. The celebrity bloggers outdid themselves today with their wonderful work. I was very nearly swayed by the simplicity of kitsch free Brother Lawrence, but in the end voted for Hildegard who achieved so much and whose work is still bearing fruit today.

  5. I learned so much more about Brother Lawrence thanks to Lent Madness. I believe he is what this pandemic world needs right now. I have known HIldegard longer but I believe it is the kitsch that turned me off. It looks like a close race but whoever wins, I plan on getting to know Brother Lawrence more in the future.

  6. It is lovely to see someone for whom the only “kitsch” is the world of God’s creation. Congratulations to Anna Courie for this tour de force piece.

  7. I am presently reading about Hildegard and have read Bro Lawrence...Due to time times we are living through I must vote for Lawrence.

  8. I had to go with Brother Lawrence to see God in everything. I believe that was taught somewhere during Sunday school. Since now under quarantine I see
    The birds in the sky and their calls to one another. God in every bird, tree, clouds and wind

  9. For several years, folks in our congregation would dress up as saints for All Saints Sunday. One year I was Hildegard of Bingen, so had to do some research to discover who she was. What a remarkable woman! A couple of years ago, I read Brother Lawrence's book. His devotion to God was exemplary and happened in the ordinary. He got my vote today!

    1. Marcia, was that church St. Thomas's in Richmond? I have fond memories of that place. It's great to see you here! I've moved to Canada and I'm now a priest in Bowmanville Ontario!

      1. Hi, there, Lucia Lloyd! Yes, Lent Madness has been my Lenten 'thing' for about 5 years now. I saw on your Facebook page that you had moved to Canada. What prompted the move? I thought you'd never leave Tappahanock. PS - I'm also trying to get a good Flat Jesus to post.

  10. Voted for Hildegard. Have a CD of her songs and they are beautiful. too bad it is at my office and I can´t get to it. Right side of bracket is gone!

  11. I am happy today to vote FOR someone I admire and would like to learn more from - Brother Lawrence - and not merely a protest vote against Hildegard von Bingen. I have been thinking that on one level I could apply the same selective approach to von Bingen that I do with the dietary rules in Leviticus or the writings of Paul: discard what is clearly of its time - bound to the cultural milieu - and affirm what is of timeless value. It's just that the homophobia wasn't incidental to her work; she was actively hostile.

  12. How can I choose between ordinary and extraordinary? I must have both! I love Lawrence. I heart Hildegard. Last night I had a dream about breaking plates——my ordinary/extraordinary Spode earthenware. The Hildegard remix is blaring. I can’t think!!! Lord, help me to pray. The remix ends. Tears flow. The answer comes. It’s Hildegard.

  13. Two remarkable people, two remarkable blogs. Hildegard is an example of what I tell people when they begin sentences, "In the past, women couldn't..." Women could and did, they just had to fight the tide to do it, they were strong in the way women must be, and they didn't always make the history books. However, Brother Lawrence has captured my heart from the first round, and Anna's blog was brilliant. May Lawrence's kitsch be ours in this quiet time.

  14. Although I like Hildegard, it's Brother Lawrence for me! I like his philosophy on life and am in awe of his ability to find the Sacred in the simplest of things. That is something I need to work on and he inspires me to get on the stick.

  15. I voted for Hildegarde.
    I predict final matchup will be Harriet Tubman v. Elizabeth Fry, and Harriet will win it in a cakewalk.

  16. I finally voted. I have waited all day to ponder. I cast my vote for Brother Lawrence, although my bracket has Hildegard all the way to the winner's circle with the Golden Quidditch (er, halo). I voted solely on the basis of the kitsch. I really admired the creativity with which Anna worked with absolutely nothing but her own imagination. One thing I have noticed is that I think people are starting to relax into the rounds (I have seen this over the years) and respond to the blogs; I am willing to let each day's blog posts speak to me, and I'm finding that I vote counter to my bracket. I'm not that fond of Lawrence; I can't quite get past his breaking all the dishes. Were I a monk working next to him, I'd be really exasperated, because I feel that he would cause me extra work (every single day). But the emphasis on simplicity speaks to me. I'm posting here a link to a YouTube video by John Butler on "Without Fear." I watched it last night on the Trinity Cathedral YouTube channel. I found it really powerful. Peace, all.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this video! Brought me to tears. Perhaps this is why Brother Lawrence speaks so strongly to me.

  17. From @NobodyLikedThat on Twitter:

    Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

    Me: This quarantine is great for productivity! I wrote 1000 words today.

    Hildegard: I KNOW! I've already written a song, 400 letters, experienced divine, discovered a new plant, skyped with Barbarossa & invented my own language!

    Me: Uh huh

  18. Here's a squeaker at last! It's 52/48 at the time I am voting, while listening to that horrible, terrible, hideous remix that I can't unhear, but it's what won me over to Hildy today. She's the übersankt for today. And that, to borrow from a future "Martha", is a good thing.

    1. Do you mean Übergemeinschaft (Super Community)? I think the Lent Madness community is the Übergemeinschaft.

  19. She certainly was a polymath, particularly relevant to our times. I like action saints and ones who are relevant to our times.

  20. As this is my 1st lenten madness I look at the memes as soon as I read the blogs. Then I go back through the day and read the comments.YES VIRGINIA I HAVE NO LIFE NOW!!!. I read all the comments about the remix but missed it in the readings.When I went back to listen it was just what I needed.I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.I rate it an 8. Hard to listen to but fun to dance to. Her music is truly beautiful.I'm glad there is only one dance version though.Couldn't take anymore. Today was just what I needed I needed the laughter.

  21. Wow! If I was voting on kitsch alone, Hildegard would already have the Golden Halo. She’s a very strong candidate for non-kitsch reasons, too.

    However, Brother Lawrence has been my model since I was young and I vowed to see him through to final victory. Here’s to the Holy in the Ordinary!

  22. Kudos to Anna Courie for thoughtful points while writing about someone who clearly doesn't have kitsch associated with them. Very touching writing.

  23. Made my choice (see my 10:32am comment). Hildegard would usually have been my vote, but each Saint has their time.... and in the midst of this Covid19 crisis and living in quarantine, and sheltering-in-place, the presence of God in the ordinary, in the simple things actually available to as moment by moment, Brother Lawrence is the saint for this time. God Bless all, stay safe.

  24. As someone who loves to sing, I have to go with Hildegard. A healer is certainly someone our world needs now both physically and spiritually. But it was the white wine with parsley and honey that clinched it for me - I must find this!

  25. So glad I clicked. So many ideas for next Labyrinth Walk event at church, though it will no longer be appropriate to call it a "Quiet Day". Click this link, he said. Right up there with "Here, smell this..." as something I should know better than to do. I really liked the ordinary water and the ordinary tree but I voted Hildegard in celebration of Miguel finding perhaps the worst kitsch week item of all time.

  26. With Hildegard's narrow win today, my bracket is pretty much intact - I've only lost three of the match-ups, which makes me think, "What's wrong?"

  27. Monastics & Martyrs is blown. Miscellaneous is blown. Mostly Modern still good. Biblical is excellent, with St. Joseph going all the way to the Golden Halo!

  28. Excellent writeups by the celebrity bloggers this year. Excellent kitsch round so far. Excellent comments every year. So needed this year. Thank you all.