Hildegard’s Abbey

Charity abounds in all things, from the depths to high above the highest stars, and is most loving to all things; for to the high king it has given the kiss of peace.
— Hildegard of Bingen, “caritas abundat”

On the vineyard-covered hills above Rüdesheim am Rhein, Germany, sits the Abbey of St. Hildegard of Bingen, where Benedictine nuns with heavenly voices still chant Hildegard’s ancient music. Hildegard of Bingen—writer, composer, and mystic born in 1098—founded the abbey that would eventually become what is now in Eibingen, above Rüdesheim.

Seven times a day the nuns gather to pray, in accordance with Benedictine rule (taken from Psalm 119:164). As Benedictines they also exemplify gracious hospitality, opening their doors to guests of all kinds. For a weekend in late March 2002, I was one of those guests.

It was Palm Sunday weekend, the time when Christians prepare for Easter by first marking Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem before his crucifixion death. The worship included a procession outside the chapel with palms and incense.

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Wise Words From the Past

journalTen years ago I was preparing to study abroad for a year in Tübingen, Germany. After a tumultuous sophomore year at Valparaiso University, I was both excited and a bit fearful of such a commitment to spend my junior year in Germany. My life was changing. I had changed majors from Meteorology to German, and a new adventure was ahead. No longer weighed down by high level calculus and advanced physics, I used the energy toward spiritual discernment, with some surprising results.

Today, while browsing through an old journal, as I am prone to do from time to time, I noticed the entry for this day, August 1st, 2001, ten years ago. Here’s a portion that the 21-year old me wrote:

My time in the US is growing smaller. Yesterday I was deep in thought about leaving. There are so many things I will not see for so long. There is joy in my heart, but I also carry around fear…I could doubt my talents all day, but there is no going back now. I just have to do it. I am going to live in Germany, speak German every day…there are so many things I will miss, but so much to discover…so many possibilities to learn, and so many ways for failure. Please Lord guide me and give me strength so I may learn, explore, create, challenge, and succeed.

They were profound thoughts, I think. I acknowledged fear and doubt, but did not let them get in the way of what I imagined could be an amazing experience; and cultivated the audacity to be challenged through learning and exploring. These thoughts were foundational to the life I would live in Germany, and an important step toward a life of ministry.

Ten years later, I am going through a similar process, as I prepare to spend 2 years teaching English in Indonesia through Global Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. However, this time around the process is going to be more intense, and the life and work will be very different. Instead of a student, I will be a teacher (yet I will be learning so much). Instead of going for myself, I am being called and sent by the Church. Instead of the familiar Western Europe, I will be in SE Asia. And so on.

There will, of course, be many details forthcoming about Indonesia—what I will be doing, the thrills of getting a visa, information on the country itself, and more as the months go on.