Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Best of The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the August 15, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. I found a CD of instrumental music and songs composed long ago by Hildegard of Bingen. What do you know about her? It would be nice if she’s a canonized saint because her songs have a great spiritual quality I haven’t heard before.

A. Hildegard was a 12th century German Benedictine mystic nun, poet, musician, artist, historian and well-informed author on medicine and Scripture. With all her wondrous qualities she felt called to chastize emperor and pope alike, and she did.

She lived to be 80, remarkable in those days. Nearly a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas. Although she was never canonized, on May 10 of last year Hildegard of Bingen was added to the Catholic Church’s formal list of saints, and Catholics worldwide may celebrate her feast day with a Mass and special readings by order of Pope Benedict XVI. Later that year, Pope Benedict declared St. Hildegarde a Doctor of the Church. She’s a perfect patron for women who feel driven to challenge president and pope alike.

Q. Personally I find the book of Revelation so strange it makes me wonder why it’s in the Bible. Maybe you agree that a majority of people who read that book get a lot of different ideas that could just as well be avoided. Do you agree that Revelation has caused more trouble than any other Bible book?

A. It took many years for Revelation to achieve equal status so let’s not be hasty to eliminate it. Besides, it’s the mother lode for free-wheeling prophecies of fundamentalists. What would they do without it?

The Book of Daniel has a similar apocalyptic style. When you read Daniel you will think you’re on the wrong page.

The apocalyptic style of writing, with its bizarre symbolism and foreboding forecasts, was popular for about 200 years before and after Christ. It was really underground literature like the “samizdat” writings that were smuggled out of the Russian gulag camps 25 years ago.

Revelation can be fascinating if you keep these in mind:

1. It was written to strengthen the faith of a frightened minority that was facing horrendous persecutions.
2. All images about colors, numbers, birds and animals have coded meanings. A good commentary will give you inside info to help you break the code.

Finally, neither Revelation nor Daniel are prophecies in the sense of foretelling current world events. Those martyrs were facing torture and death every day and they couldn’t have cared less if their world was going to last into the 21st century.

Q. We believe the David and Goliath story was a sign of God’s power in his chosen servant David, as though there could ever be any doubt. In Bible study class Father said it’s at least open to discussion because it’s not essential to faith. What’s there to discuss?

A. Many events in the Old Testament need a little latitude, a little wiggle room, because not all the parts fit together perfectly, or even remotely. “David Slays Goliath” makes a wonderful headline (1 Sam. 17:1), but later the article says someone named Elhanan killed the 10-foot giant. And Elhanan went on to slay Goliath’s big brother, too.

There is no better public relations story than a battle report that this little boy David, with one shot from his sling, killed the fearsome giant dead in his tracks. If you were one of the scribes hired by King David to write the annals of the Golden Age of the Israeli empire you might agree to glorify the crowned head of youir boss. It certainly would not hinder your career.

Scripture scholars recognize “midrash” when they see it. It’s an old Jewish practice of embellishing a story a little here and there, like adding a sprinkle of salt and a twist of pepper. Not to worry. It’s okay.

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