Tributes mark life, legacy of late Catholic philosopher, teacher, author
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (CNS) – When Alice von Hildebrand wasn’t promoting her late husband’s work, the Catholic philosopher, teacher and author spent most of her life “reminding women of the privilege of womanhood and the gift of motherhood,” Rachel said. Bulman, a popular blogger and speaker.
She made the comments in a Jan. 28 appreciation of the life and work of von Hildebrand, who died peacefully at his New Rochelle home on Jan. 14. She was 98 years old.
“Alice invited women to be women, to have their power rooted in their own femininity. She believed that women could be responsive, nurturing, wise, and empathetic while wielding the vibrancy of intellect and culture,” Bulman said in an essay posted on the www.wordonfire.org website.
Bulman, who is a wife, mother of four and regular contributor to the Word on Fire blog, said she had never met von Hildebrand but was familiar with his writing, including his book ‘The Privilege of being a woman”, a reflection on “the woman as a unique and mysterious creation of God and the blessings of traditional femininity.
“She taught me that women don’t need everything but become men to be empowered, but femininity contains and wields a necessary power in itself,” Bulman said. “She also continues to inspire me towards a male/female complementarity that simultaneously honors male and female differentiation while respecting gender equality.”
Bulman’s article on Alice von Hildebrand was among many tributes that poured in after her death. His funeral was celebrated on January 22 at his parish church, Holy Family in New Rochelle.
Alice Marie Jourdain, known as “Lily” to family and friends, was born on March 11, 1923 in Brussels, Belgium, the third of five children born to Henri and his mother Marthe Jourdain. The family fled to France in May 1940 when the Nazis invaded Belgium. Alice was 17 years old. In June of that year, she and her sister Louloute went to New York to live with an aunt and uncle.
Alice enrolled in Manhattanville College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree. But before graduating, she began taking classes at the Jesuit Fordham University in New York, taught by her future husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand, a German-born Catholic philosopher and religious writer who left a post. teacher in Germany to escape. the Nazis.
Alice first heard Dietrich speak in 1942 – about “the will to change”. “From the first moment he started speaking,” she recalls, “I felt he was feeding my soul with food I had always craved. He spoke from a deep memory, and I drank every word.
She met Dietrich’s first wife, Margarete (d. 1957), and became a full member of the Hildebrands’ circle of friends. Shortly after beginning her studies with Dietrich, she began assisting him as a secretary. Over the next few decades she typed many of his book manuscripts, which he still wrote by hand, and translated a number of his essays into English.
In December 1947, Alice was hired for a three-week supply position at Hunter College, then offered a permanent teaching position.
“From the start she faced opposition from her own colleagues, partly out of professional rivalry – she soon became one of the most popular teachers – and partly because of anti-Catholic sentiment,” according to an obituary from the Hildebrand Project, which she co-founded.
“The latter surprised her, because she never talked about Catholicism in class. The difficulty was that several of his students began to convert to Catholicism,” he said. “She soon realized that it was her defense of the objectivity of truth against the prevailing relativism of the time that had set the stage for these conversions. “If anyone finds the truth”, she said, “he automatically finds God, because God is the truth”.
She and Dietrich married in July 1959. She often spoke of their unique partnership: complete unity in love of philosophy, music, literature, art “and above all, their Catholic faith “said the Hildebrand Project.
“They had a great love for the sacredness of the liturgy and the Church’s sacred music heritage. Together they have formed an extraordinary partnership in bearing witness to Christian culture and Christian life,” he added.
Dietrich taught philosophy at Fordham from 1942 until his retirement in 1960. He died in 1977.
After her death, Alice wrote “By Grief Refined” about the experience of becoming a widow. She also saw her primary mission as preserving her legacy.
Besides Hunter College, she has taught at several other institutions, including the Catechetical Institute of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York; the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, where she served on the board of trustees from 1987 to 1999; the Thomas More Institute in Rome; Ave Maria College in Michigan; and the Notre Dame Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
Alice retired from Hunter College in 1984 and has been on the speaking circuit, speaking in 35 US states, Canada, Mexico, and many countries in South America and Europe.
Throughout her career, she has received numerous awards and three honorary degrees, including from the Franciscan University. In 2013, she received the Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory.
Among her books are “The Soul of a Lion: The Life of Dietrich von Hildebrand”, published in 2000, and “Memoirs of a Happy Failure”, a 2014 autobiography. She wrote that she wrote many essays on the nature of education, reverence, liturgy, marriage and other themes. The website www.alicevonhildebrand.org is dedicated to her work.
She has made more than 80 appearances on EWTN, including two series with the late Father Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan friar of the Renewal, titled “Suffering and What to Do With It” and “Man and Woman: A Divine Invention.”
“One of the most central themes in the lives of Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand was the crucial importance of reverence if man is to order his life properly and fruitfully in this world,” said Father Gerald E Murray, pastor of the Holy Family, in his homily at Alice’s funeral.