Recently, I have become taken with Hugh of St. Victor. The Victorines were among the great theological and spiritual powerhouses in the 12th century, and Hugh’s teaching is the foundation for this. They laid much of the groundwork on which the scholasticism of the 13th century was founded. Hugh during his lifetime and for the next two centuries was no little known figure. So great and well-respected was Hugh of St. Victor that more than 100 years after his death the great doctor, St. Bonaventure, said, “Anselm [of Canterbury] excels in reasoning; Bernard [of Clairvaux] in preaching; Richard [of St. Victor] in contemplating; but Hugh [of St. Victor] at all three.” Despite all of this, however, we surprisingly know very little about him. The place of his birth and where he was raised is not known with real certainty. There is almost nothing known of his life and background before coming to the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris. What is truly incredible is that we also know very little about his life after he came to Paris.
I could not help, but be struck by the similarity to Our Lady in all of this. There is no greater woman who has ever lived, and no woman who has had such influence on the world as she has. Yet we no almost nothing about her life. However, we do know a great deal about our Blessed Mother’s work which is two-fold: (1) bringing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world, and (2) directing all to Him. This is also the case with Hugh of St. Victor. We may know very little about him, but we do know a great deal about his work, a work which is much like our Blessed Mother’s. Hugh in his teaching and writing sought always to praise the Holy Trinity, deepen our understanding of the Son’s work of redemption, and shed light on a sure path for our being united with God and attaining a state greater than that of Adam and Eve before the Fall. Of Hugh and Mary both, we may say, “God alone! All that is known of me is not for me, but for God alone.”