Whatever might be said about the current Pope Emeritus, it was Benedict XVI who recognized the prolific writings of Hildegard von Bingen as being worthy of a club of only 36 names. On October 7th, 2012, Hildegard was proclaimed Doctor of the Church alongside Saint John of Avila, becoming what some would consider a super-saint. But why now, so many centuries later? Because, according to Pope Benedict, her extensive writings are a sizable and significant enough doctrine to still have a distinct impact on Christianity and its adherents today. But that alone is not enough to merit recognition as a Doctor of the Church; Pope Benedict was of the persuasion that she merited the office thanks to the adaptability and longevity of Hildegard’s bibliography. Namely, that the Liber Vitae Meritorum and the Ordo Virtutum are so timeless in their moral and ethical teachings that Christians today still look to them for new meaning regarding their faith and place in the world.
Perhaps the greatest idea of Hildegard’s left for posterity, I believe, is the idea that one can look back at something once seen, many years later, and still find new meaning, new significance in it. For her sudden elevation to Doctor of the Church is nothing if not evidence of that idea’s longevity and applicability.