The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 26, 2023 - 4:58:49

Alice von Hildebrand on love and suffering

Katie van Schaijik, Jun 17, 2013

Alice von HIldebrand began visiting and speaking at Franciscan University when I was a junior there, in 1986. Her wise and witty words, uttered in that inimitable voice, spoke to my spirit at an unfamiliar depth and with a soul-unifying power.  Up till then, my experience had been that intellectual things were sometimes  interesting, but they didn't touch my heart. They didn't really rouse me; they didn't reach my self.  And emotional things, while absorbing in their drama and immediacy, lacked substance; they seemed rather unreliable and immature—dead-endish. Looking back, I see I was sort of stuck.

By her witness, the dilemma was resolved. The kind of truth that came to me through her was of a high intellectual caliber, illuminating and challenging my mind, and at the same time, stirring, rejoicing and exalting the heart. It was truth I could give myself to.

I was reminded of that moment of discovery when I read her article on Love and Suffering published yesterday at Catholic News Service. It is "vintage Lily". Truth to love and live by. 

Until it starts loving the human heart hibernates. This affective response (sanctioned by the will) is a response to the beauty of another person that has shaken our heart from its slumber. It is such a powerful “wake up call” that all of a sudden “all things are new.” He who has never loved has never truly lived.

The overwhelming joy that is linked to this awakening has two paradoxical effects. One of them is that the newborn lover gains the certitude that man has been made for immortality. (Wisdom 2: 23) It is inconceivable that what the lover experiences in truly loving should be evanescent; like a flower that blossoms, enchants us by its beauty … and soon fades and dies. We live in a transient world where things are born and die. The sunrise is followed by a sunset; the joy of a new birth is followed by the grief of death. This is why it is overwhelming indeed to gain the absolute, unshakeable certainty that what is experienced in loving victoriously conquers death. This has been beautifully expressed in one of Gabriel Marcel’s plays, “Le Mort de Demain,” in which the key character exclaims: “Toi, tu ne mourras pas.” (“Thou, thou shalt not die.”)