She often remarked, quoting her late husband Dietrich, that what is called “culture” today is actually a type of “anti-culture.” In her essay “A touch of metaphysical humor” von Hildebrand pinpointed the root of so many of society’s ills by saying, “We have lost sense for mystery, for sacredness and this might explain why our society is not only sick but in many ways ‘comatose.’ A society that has lost the sense of the sacred is a society which has chosen death.”
The last time I wrote to Alice von Hildebrand was over five years ago when I had just decided not to return from my maternity leave at CNA in order to stay home full time with my two daughters. As I drafted the email, I remember feeling a pang of shame. Looking back I can see that it was the breath of the Evil One in my ear telling me that my choice to stay home with my children, instead of continuing my career, was an inferior one that I’d quickly come to regret. I should have known that if there was anyone who understood my decision, it was Lily.
“Of course I’ll miss our contact,” was her frank response, “but a mother should be home with her children. No one can replace her.”
Perhaps some mothers who work outside the home will bristle at such a remark, but I don’t share these words to shame anyone for her choices or circumstances. I share these words to encourage those of us who may not feel any real importance in the endless marathon of being a stay-at-home mother. I bring to mind her words when I feel the most run-down and discouraged by motherhood, tempted to believe that I should be doing something “better” or “more useful” with my time.
Alice often championed women as the “privleged” sex in her writings. While Aristotle painted women as the passive, and therefore inferior, sex von Hildebrand explained that (with all due respect) the Greek philosopher failed to look beyond physical strength and appreciate the true honor that is written into a woman’s very body.
In her essay, “Praise of receptivity” von Hildebrand reminded the reader that God didn’t create one sex superior to another, but rather He made them complementary, “enriching one another.” However, she notes that while Adam was made “from the slime of the earth” Eve was brought forth from Adam, “a fact which gives the female body a special dignity.”
Will anyone remember the words I’ve pounded out on a keyboard years after I die? Most likely not. But will my children, who I’ve offered my body up for four times over, give thanks for their lives and offer up a little prayer for me? I certainly hope so.
When I told my now 5-year-old that I was writing an article about a friend of mine who had recently died, she sincerely asked, “So, is she a saint now?”
“I think so,” I told her. “She spent her life teaching others the truth about God.”
Alice von Hildebrand, pray for us.