Editor’s Note: Dr. Alice von Hildebrand died on January 14, 2022. We share this interview with her to honor her legacy.
Alice von Hildebrand, Ph.D., is a noted speaker and author of several books on a variety of topics related to Catholicism. She is the widow of the famous Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, whom Pope Pius XII dubbed “the 20th century doctor of the Church.”
Born in Belgium in 1923 (whence she derives her French accent), Dr. von Hildebrand received her doctorate at Fordham University and was a professor of philosophy at Hunter College in New York for 35 years.
In a conversation I had with her, she spoke on two of her common topics — the lost sense of the supernatural and feminism.
What do you mean when you lament the “lost sense of the supernatural?”
St. Augustine highlighted beautifully, profoundly, the difference between nature and super-nature. When God created man, he gave him a human nature. Man had all the characteristics of “creaturehood,” one completely dependent upon God.
But in his infinite love and goodness, he gave man an additional gift, super-nature, the partaking in God’s divine nature. In some way, if we are faithful to God’s grace, we become God-like. This is a gift human nature can never achieve by itself. It pre-supposes a complete collaboration between God’s gift and man’s freedom.
Yet this gift makes enormous demands on us. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people were given a unique position in the world as God’s chosen people. But they constantly rebelled against this gift. Their special call required them to meet certain obligations which they did not like, and which were not required of pagans.
The same is true with Roman Catholics. It is my firm conviction, through God’s grace, that the Roman Catholic Church alone possesses the fullness of divine revelation … But many Catholics seem to resent it! Roman Catholics must not only obey the natural law, but also divine revelation and the teaching of the Church. This places a burden upon Catholics, which most do not like.
Consider, for example, the sexual sphere. Pagans live very much as they please. Roman Catholics are taught certain things about the relationship between man and woman, the mystery of sex, obligations such as not using artificial contraception, and the prohibition against abortion, and so on, that they resent!
[Over the years I’ve tried] to show that modern man has more and more lost sense of the greatness and uniqueness of the supernatural. To get the precious pearl of which Christ speaks you should be willing to sell everything. But often, in practice, we are willing to sell the precious pearl for a mess of pottage.
This is a danger for us all. I notice in my own life as soon as the supernatural is making demands upon me which I do not like, my “unholy trickiness” looks for ways of escaping.
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