Dear Friends, Patrons & Benefactors:
My daughter, Alma Hildegard Mitsui, was born at 7:14 on Wednesday, 25 September. She is in the Neonatal Intenive Care Unit, and will likely remain there for a long time. She was born at 25 weeks and 4 days gestational age, and weighed 1 pound and 7 ounces. Please pray for her survival and health.
A medical student baptized Alma a few minutes after her birth, reading the text from my old 1936 hand missal. I was not present at the delivery, as it happened quite suddenly.
The name Alma, or something similar to it, is found in most European languages. Its popularity among Anglophones has waned over the past century, but I have met several Hispanic women named Alma. It is derived from a Latin word meaning kind or loving. My wife Michelle chose it in reference to the Alma Redemptoris Mater (Loving Mother of the Redeemer), a hymn to the Virgin Mary that is sung as a liturgical antiphon in the seasons of Advent and Christmas (when we presumed our daughter would be born).
Despite being out of season, Alma's birthday fell on the feast day of St. Herman of Reichenau, the author of this hymn, as well as of the Salve Regina. St. Herman was born severely crippled, due probably to either cerebral palsy or Lou Gehrig's disease, and could barely move without assistance. He had, however, an iron will and a brilliant mind, and became one of the outstanding intellectual figures of the 11th century. Entrusted to a Benedictine abbey as a child, he later took monastic vows and remained a monk at Reichenau for the rest of his life. He was renowned for his virtue, kindness and piety. His writings include a world chronicle covering more than a millennium, a treatise on music theory, plainchant offices for several saints and instructions for making astronomical instruments.
The name Hildegard is derived from Old German words meaning battle and protection, essentially meaning a guardian battle-maid.
Michelle and I chose the name in honor of St. Hildegard of Bingen, an abbess, composer, mystic and polymath of the 12th century, to whom we both have long had devotion. Like St. Herman, St. Hildegard was sickly her enitre life and was entrusted to the care of Benedictines as a child. Eventually elected superior of the community at Disibodenberg, she later founded monasteries at Rupertsburg and Eibingen. She wrote extensively on botany and medicine, and created her own language. From early years she received extraordinary visions, which she later described in her works Scivias, Liber Vite Meritorum and Liber Divinorum Operum. The striking miniatures depicting her visions in manuscripts of these works first drew my attention to her; it remains one of my ambitions as an artist to produce my own illustrated manuscript of Scivias.
Michelle is much interested in St. Hildegard's musical compositions. The Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum is a collection of her gorgeous poetry and music, containing antiphons, sequences and hymns. One of these antiphons, Quia Ergo Femina, was sung at our wedding. Michelle has sung others of them on various liturgical occasions. St. Hildegard's Ordo Virtutem is one of the earliest morality plays, and one of the only with surviving music.
We consider the Virgin Mary, St. Hildegard and St. Herman to be our daughter's personal parons, and have been asking their intercession for her. Although we hope that she will not suffer serious disability as a result of her premature birth, we are keeping in mind the examples of St. Hildegard and St. Herman, who suffered their infirmities gracefully and led great and holy lives.