The Rev. Matthew Fox, creation theologian and Episcopal priest, is not one to mince words, especially when the subject is transformation of a system he sees as inadequate and ineffective — be it politics, education, economics or religion.
And he decries injustices in all of those areas.
Fox doesn’t just point fingers though. He sees new possibilities and offers solutions, while also warning that time is critically short.
To address the injustices in the world, he recommends turning to the wisdom of the woman who is the subject of his latest book, “Hildegard Of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century.”
The 11th-century mystic will be Fox’s focus during the second day of a two-day Spiritual Awakening Seminar, presented by The Red Shoes in partnership with the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge. The seminar is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 2 at the Unitarian Church, 8470 Goodwood Blvd.
During the Friday night session, Fox will draw on the wisdom of mystics such as Jesus, Meister Eckhart, Abraham Heschel, 14th-century Persian mystic and poet Hafiz, Rumi, Lao Tzu, the Buddha and Thomas Merton.
Already the author of two books about Hildegard, Fox began writing his third when he learned Pope Benedict XVI would recognize her as a Doctor of the Church in October 2012.
With elevation to that title, Hildegard became the fourth woman to be so recognized. Despite having been considered a saint for centuries, the visionary abbess’ sainthood had never been officially recognized as such.
“I had to hole up in a cheap motel to get it done in a rush but, having lived with Hildegard for over 30 years, was able to do so,” he writes.
Fox’s method with his current book on Hildegard is to create a “conversation” between her and contemporary thinkers such as Mary Oliver and Albert Einstein as well as other voices of wisdom such as Jesus and the Buddha.
In his latest book, Fox also traces Hildegard’s lineage to “creation spirituality,” a tradition with “deep lineage in the Jewish and Christian faiths” as well as being the “worldview of the historical Jesus.” Fox also finds connection in Hildegard’s paintings as well as her verbal images to the Rhineland mystics.
Creation spirituality, which sees creation as an original blessing with an emphasis on awe and wonder, is the mirror opposite of fundamentalist Christianity with its emphasis on sin and need for redemption and is a keystone of Hildegard’s theology and creativity, Fox explains.
His call is for individuals to become “agents of transformation” through participating in the revival of wisdom Hildegard advocated more than 800 years ago.
Despite the distance in centuries, Fox has found Hildegard’s words to be as vivid — and needed — today as they were during her lifetime.
“Religion is failing us, so we are failing the earth,” he said from Oakland, Calif. The need to “get back to what Jesus was talking about, living it and putting it into practice” is critical and requires grass-roots effort, he said.
“We are actually a brilliant and creative species,” he said, while cautioning that “time is running out” for solving the problems confronting all that lives on the earth — including humans — as well as the planet itself.
The possibility of making a difference while there is still time is what motivates both his writing and his willingness to travel, Fox said.
He also is deeply concerned about the damage created by “clerical hierarchy.”
Such ranking is not the answer, he said, citing “yes men” and “clerical coverups” as causing many to “vote with their feet by exiting formal religion.”
His 2011 book, “The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved,” Fox addresses that issue and offers the antidote of the “dawn of a new spiritual era.”
A medieval abbess, Hildegard was also an author, composer and artist who “understood the importance of the restoration of women’s deeply buried, cultured obscured feminine wisdom,” Fox writes.
Joan Chittister — like Hildegard a Benedictine — writes in her foreword to “Hildegard Of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times,” this endorsement: “What she knew then, our best thinkers are calling us to now.”
In his introduction, Fox notes that Hildegard “points the way to an alternative to the fundamentalism that is raging the world over — from the Christian Bible belt to the fundamentalism in the Vatican, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and wherever patriarchy feels threatened.”
A former Dominican priest silenced and expelled from his order in 1993 by Joseph Ratzinger — then Head of the Congregation of Doctrine and the Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI — Fox’s audience today crosses denominational and religious boundaries.
Wendy Herschman, executive director of The Red Shoes, sees both Fox and Hildegard as excellent guides for the personal transformation that occurs with those who follow God’s invitation to make the world whole. “The spiritual journey is about experiencing God, experiencing the transcendence,” Herschman said. “I love that he teaches that.”
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