ristian faith, and this paper will consider just two famous thinkers who made health care one of their top priorities: the medieval scholar and abbess Hildegard of Bingen (circa 1098-1179), and the modern liberation theologist and priest Gustavo Gutierrez. Both base their commitment to the sick on sound Biblical premises, and both have written extensively on why they have made healthcare one of the major concerns of their lives.
Hildegard of Bingen was a German noblewoman who was given to the church by her parents at very young age and who grew up to be a Benedictine nun and prioress. Alongside her busy work in the community where she lived, Hildegard was a writer of music, letters and literature, a seer of visions, and a very keen botanist and naturalist. She wrote two important books which we would nowadays label as “scientific”, though at the time Hildegard would have regarded them just as much religious texts as all her other writings. Her books Physica and Causae et Curae are Latin treatises on the properties of the physical world, as they were understood in her day and age. The Physica concentrates on rocks and minerals, with some descriptions of animals and elements as well, while the Causae et Curae focuses more on plants and medical cures for the ailments that were common in that period. Hildegard herself titled the Physica as “Subtleties of the Diverse Qualities of Created Things” which reveals a very medieval attitude whereby everything which God created has deeper meanings. Just as the Bible has a surface story and deeper religious meanings, so the medieval world believed that the visible animals, plants and natural surroundings have their physical and visible qualities, as well as deeper meanings and messages which only the initiated can understand. Hildegard labors to make plain these hidden messages so that they can be of benefit to people around her.
There are two main underpinning world views behind Hildegard’s presentation of the