On Vision TV, Mondays at 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm starting March 17th 2003. Please check local listings for station/channel information.
Episode One: Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), the "Sybil
of the Rhine," was among the most accomplished women of
her time. Possessed of wide-ranging intellect and indomitable
will, she founded a convent, wrote works on theology, natural
science and healing, and composed music of enduring beauty.
Throughout her life, she had divine visions, which some historians
believe were the result of migraine attacks. As her reputation
grew, she corresponded with political and religious leaders,
who paid heed because they believed God to be speaking through
her. Her ideas about female sexuality and the mind-body-spirit
connection were centuries ahead of their time, and her music
continues to be performed to this day.
Episode Two: The Hungarian Princesses
Like the modern-day Princess Diana
of Wales, some mystic women were royals who chose to work
for the good of others. St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)
was raised in the royal court of Thuringia. Drawn to the
ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, who advocated voluntary
poverty and service to the destitute, she devoted her days
to charitable labours. St. Margaret of Hungary (1242-1271),
the daughter of King Bela IV, was promised to God by her
parents while still in the womb - a sacrifice they hoped
would protect the country from invading Mongols. Raised in
a Dominican convent, Margaret rejected all trappings of her
royal heritage. Instead, she lived a life of self-sacrifice,
tirelessly serving the poor and performing the most punishing
of tasks in the convent. Despite intense pressure to behave
as royal princesses, both Elizabeth and Margaret ultimately
succeeded in deciding their own destinies.
Episode Three: Divine Negotiators
At a time of political upheaval in
Europe, and division within the Catholic Church, some mystic
women worked for peace and unity. St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373)
saw visions all her life, and eventually became convinced
that she was God's messenger. She attempted to heal the crisis
in the Church by urging the Pope to return the Holy See from
Avignon to Rome, and sought to bring an end to the Hundred
Years' War. She accomplished neither, but in a vision before
her death, Christ assured her that all would be fulfilled.
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) wished to live a reclusive
life of prayer and fasting, until a series of mystical experiences
prompted her to enter public life. Her diplomatic efforts
led Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome in 1377. The next year
brought the Great Schism in the Church, which she spent her
last days working to resolve.
Episode Four: The East Anglians
East Anglia, a region long known for
its religious fervour and non-conformity, was home to two
of the most famous mystic women. Bawdy and passionate, Margery
Kempe (1373-1438) has been described as a combination of
Germaine Greer, Sister Theresa and the Wife of Bath. She
had a divine vision after giving birth to her fourteenth
child and decided to become celibate, devoting herself to
her "true" husband, Jesus Christ. She traveled
through Europe and the Holy Land on a spiritual quest, and
recorded her experiences in the first autobiography written
by a woman in English. Julian of Norwich (1342-c.1416) was
an anchoress who lived within a small cell attached to a
parish church. She dwelled in the passion of Christ, describing
her visions in powerful prose. Theologians still study her
writings - in which God is referred to as "she" -
and her shrine continues to attract pilgrims.
Episode Five: Daughters of Saint Francis
St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) fled
a wealthy life in Italy to become the first woman to write
the rules for her own community of nuns. Like her mentor
and friend, St. Francis of Assisi, she was devoted to poverty,
self-denial and service to the poor. Today, her order of
Poor Clares works throughout the world to alleviate suffering.
St. Francis also influenced Douceline de Digne (1214-1274),
whose prophecies convinced the wealthy of Provence to support
her in establishing a kind of religious commune to care for
the sick and the poor. She was said to be able to levitate,
and proved the strength of her relationship to God by enduring
physical tests, such as having hot lead poured over her feet.
Douceline gained a cult following, which politicians sought
to manipulate for their own ends.
Episode Six: Joan of Arc
Her story is perhaps the best known
of all the mystic women. St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was
the illiterate daughter of a French peasant farmer. As a
teen, she heard the voices of saints urging her to come to
the aid of the embattled monarch Charles VII. Joan would
go on to lead the French troops in a series of battles against
the English. But she fell into enemy hands in 1430 and was
turned over to the ecclesiastical court at Rouen, where she
would be tried for witchcraft and heresy, and ultimately
burned at the stake. Joan was canonized in 1920, and the
story of her life - today romanticized and wildly exaggerated
- continues to inspire books, plays and films.
Mystic Women of the Middle Ages airs on WTN,
Mondays, 7:30pm et/pt, starting January 1, 2001
and Thursdays, 11:00 pm et/pt, starting January 4, 2001.
Mystic Women premiered on Vision TV on October 4, 2000.
Please check your local listings for station/channel information.
Program One: Visions of Prophecy, Voices of Power
A look at the background behind the Hildegard phenomenon, what led to the
power, popularity and threat of the medieval female mystics in Europe.
From early Christian times, the role of women in the church, and their
image in the Bible, helped give some medieval women the strength to find
their own voice, and through mysticism, gain a credibility and power
usually reserved for men in a male-dominated society and church
hierarchy. From the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and transvestite
saints, the recurring themes of enclosure, denial, erotic spirituality
and devotion are related to such modern issues as anorexia, retreat and
the struggle for equality.
Program Two: Julian Of Norwich
This East Anglian English mystic was an anchoress, a woman who had
herself enclosed in a brick addition to a church for life, in order to
concentrate on her relationship to God. Julian dwelled on the Passion of
Jesus Christ, and wrote of her beautiful and terrifying visions in some
of the most compelling prose in English. She was also the first to refer
to God as 'she', forging the way for the inclusive language now used in
many Bibles. Her writings are still studied by theologians, her shrine
still attracts pilgrims, and she remains a model for women who seek a
way to withdraw from the pressures of family and business to a more
Program Three: St. Clare of Assisi
Clare fled a wealthy and comfortable Italian life to become the first
woman to write the rules for her own community of nuns. It wasn't easy.
She had to battle a patriarchal and conservative Catholic authority,
because like her mentor and friend Francis of Assisi, she was devoted to
poverty, self denial and working for the poor. We join the people of
Assisi today in celebrating Clare's life and legacy, as her order of
Poor Clares still works throughout the world to alleviate suffering.
Program Four: Douceline de Digne
In the warm hills of southern medieval Provence, Douceline's prophecies
convinced the noble and wealthy to support her establishing a kind of
religious commune for laywomen, devoted to caring for the sick and poor.
Doucleine was determined to prove the strength of her relation to God by
undergoing extreme physical tests, such as having hot lead poured over
her feet and needles stuck in her arms. We will also investigate the
many authentic and sincere accounts of her ability to levitate. She
gained a cult following, and as with Joan of Arc, politicians soon found
they could manipulate that popularity for their own ends.
Program Five: Margery Kempe
Described as a combination of Germaine Greer, Sister Theresa and the
Wife of Bath, Margery was lusty, feisty and never took no for an answer.
An East Anglian business woman and mother, in her 40s after the birth of
her 14th child she had a vision of Christ and decided to become
celibate, devoting herself to her 'true' husband, Jesus Christ, and
travelling throughout Europe and the Holy Land in a spiritual quest. Her
raucous, touching and divine experiences were recorded in the first
autobiography by a woman in English.
Program Six: Constance of Rabastens
Born into the rebellious religious climate of the Cathar heretics of
southwestern France, Constance had extraordinary visions while gazing at
the frescoes of her local church, a stopping point on the pilgrimage
route to St. James of Compostela. Her dramatic visions were of the
Apocalypse, and she truly believed she had a power of prayer which could
'turn' the world. She gained enormous influence over politicians of the
day, and though persecuted by the Inquisition, remained determined to
have her voice heard - whatever the consequence.