Saint of the Day – 22 December – Blessed Jutta of Disibodenberg OSB (c 1084-1136) – Religious Nun of the Benedictine Order, Foundress and Abbess, Spiritual Director (most notably of St Hildegard of Bingen), Mystic, miracle worker – born c 1084 in Spanheim, Rhineland-Palatinate (in modern Germany) and died on 22 December 1136 at Disibodenberg Abbey, Germany of natural causes.
“Jutta was like a river with many tributaries, overflowing with the grace of God.” – St Hildegard of Bingen OSB (1098-1179) Doctor of the Church.
Jutta, anchoress and foundress of the women’s cloister at Disibodenberg and spiritual mother to Hildegard, was born to Count Stephan II of Sponheim and his wife Sophia of Formbach in 1092.
Her father died when she was three and she was “nurtured with great care by her widowed mother”. At the age of twelve when “she was laid low by a severe illness, . . . she vowed to God that if she survived she would undertake a holy way of life”. After recovering, the beautiful girl had many suitors. “Many nobles and wealthy landowners were coming to her, even from far-off places, panting to be joined to her in the marriage union.”
Jutta kept her vow and at the age of twenty, with two companions, she was enclosed as an anchoress attached to the monastery at Disibodenberg. Jutta, instead of entering the convent at an early age, became an “anchoress,” a symbolic “anchor” for the world to God and thus she closed herself for life in a one-room shelter, with only a small window through which food was passed in, and refused to be taken out. This hut was next to the Benedictine monastery on Disibodenberg, where she was abbess. She tutored several female pupils from wealthy families and they lived with her in her hermitage. She taught and raised them all, but most notably the child Hildegard of Bingen. On the Day of All Saints, 1 November 1112, Hildegard was given over as an oblate into the care of Jutta of Sponheim, who was only six years Hildegard’s elder.
Jutta taught Hildegard to write, to read the collection of psalms used in the liturgy and to chant the Opus Dei (‘work of God’), the weekly sequential recitation of the Canonical hours. She probably also taught Hildegard to play the zither-like string instrument called the psaltery.
Throughout her religious life, Jutta practised extraordinary penance and became known as a healer. “Through her consoling words, many were restored from all kinds of wretched conditions.” She was so renowned for her wisdom that “all those from round about of whatever rank, nobles or common people, rich or poor, pilgrims or tenants, were asking only after the anchoress, the lady Jutta; they waited on her alone as on a heavenly oracle”.
On 2 December 1136, Jutta had a vision of a saint beloved by the Germans. “Do not be afraid, for I am Oswald, once king of the English people and I have now come to you, that I might let you know the day of your departure, which you have obtained today from the Lord by your daily prayers.”
For the next twenty days, suffering with fever, Jutta comforted her ten disciples. She received Viaticum almost every day and on 22 December she died. Hildegard and two other disciples prepared her body for burial.
Hildegard succeeded Jutta as abbess and when she left Disibodenberg to found her own convent at Rupertsberg, it was with the financial assistance of Jutta’s brother, Count Meinhard.