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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Thursday, January 21, 2010
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand
Carl A. Anderson:

I'd like to welcome our guest Dr. Alice von Hildebrand and thank her for participating in this discussion of her distinguished husband's book Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love.

Mrs. Rene O'Riordan
Many moons ago I read a piece about "natural shame" and was very impressed. I didn't know the author but have remembered the piece ever since. It now seems to me that this author was indeed Dietrich von Hildebrand's work. It was a tremenduously important thought, as,at that time, everywhere people were trying to rid themselves of any feelings of shame about exposing their naked bodies. Did he write on this and where? God bless you Dr. Alice and thank you for your fidelity. - Rene
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

No, the question, that I will tell what he would say. English is an anemic language. Shame in English is usually associated with somethign unappetizing. In French, there are words that distinguish between shame as something dirty and shame as a type of humility. Which is intimate, personal or even secret. The second meaning is totally different. It is a feeling of reference of some deep reference.

In Latin the term would be pudor.

Take Christopher West. He recommends people stand naked in front of the mirror to appreciate their body. This is incorrect. This is one of the major confusions that you find in the talks of Christopher West.

You are permitted in front of God to reveal your naked body, but you must have a holy bashfulness. With a proper respect that only comes forth in marriage.

Scott Broadway
Lake Mary, Florida, USA
Worthy Supreme Knight,

What are some ways that the Knights of Columbus can promote the teachings of von Hildebrand on marriage? We seem to be talented at service, but we sometimes fall short at sharing with our brother Knights the value of theology within our daily lives.

Carl A. Anderson:
First and foremost, live out your life and your marriage as a positive witness to Catholic teaching. As Pope Benedict has put it, as Catholics, it is our duty to say "yes" to Jesus Christ, and to show how beautiful that yes is. There is no substitute for example. I think it was St. Francis who was quoted as saying: "Preach, and if necessary, use words." In addition, you can recommend books like this one - and the writings of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict that deal with love and marriage to help others more fully understand Catholic teaching in this area. In addition, for men, our website, and our monthly magazine Columbia often have content dealing specifically with issues marriage related to Catholic marriage. There can be real benefit to sharing those resources.

Former State Warden Robert B. Camilleri
Honolulu, Hawaii
In Honolulu, the Hawaii State Senate will take up a civil union bill which would "legalize civil unions between same sex couples" on January 22. A vote on the bill is planned for on January 23, 2010. If the bill is passed by the State Senate, it will then be sent to the State House of Represenatives, which will accept the changes from the State Senate bill or take the bill into conference with the State Senate so both the State House and the State Senate can "come up with a compromise". (Borreca, R.,January 20, 2010 Honolulu Star Bulletin, p.10). Please explain why same sex marriage and civil unions are not the same as traditional marriage and why these practices are a threat to traditional marriage.
Carl A. Anderson:
In 2003, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) addressed this issue at great length in a statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That letter, which you can access at this link provides a key overview in the Catholic Church's teaching. In addition, good resource page provided by the US Bishops - this page provides an excellent bibliography on the issue.

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

We live in a world where confusion reigns. God created man male and female. Once again you see the poverty of English. In Latin God created homo, not man and woman. God is telling clearly that fullness in life is to be found in two human beings, with a very important spiritual, and metaphysical difference.

For this reason God has made them to be complementary at a metaphysical level throughout every facet of their lives. God has made a man to enrich a woman in a fashion in which no other woman can do and vice versa.

The moment we forget this truth we fall into the dire perversion of believing that man can marry man.

Man and woman need one another.  My husband once once told me that no one understood me as fully and completely as you.  

New Haven, CT
While I haven't yet read this work of your husband's, I'm currently reading your "Letters to a Young Bride," which I was given last year as a wedding gift. (I'm now recommending it to all my friends who were recently married, too -- thank you!) What did you find to be the hardest challenge in the first years of your own marriage, and how did you and your husband meet it?
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

I had known my husband long before we were married. We knew each other so well we did not have the difficulty that some people have who know each other superficially.

The challenge is to remain spiritually alert. Habit is one of the curses. The danger is to take each other's kindnesses for granted. You cannot lose the alertness and gratitude either on the spiritual or personal level. Three words must be repeated every day: I love you.

Like marriage and the gift of the other person's love, every single day when you receive the Eucharist, you must be alert and as grateful as on that day of first communion.  

Suzy Nead
Weatherford, TX - USA
When we married in 1997, my husband already had two divorces, one from a civil ceremony with a JP, the other while he was a member of The Way Biblical Research and Teaching Ministry. We don't even know if they still exist. The first priest we talked to said I had no standing with the church as far as the Sacraments go. My husband, who was raised Catholic, is a person with faith who is basically anti-religion. I miss communion, but my husband is not going to pursue this with me. What options are available to me?
Carl A. Anderson:
First, keep praying for your husband. Second, I would suggest that you speak to someone in the family life office of your diocese. They can talk to you in detail and help you with advice about your particular situation.

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:
The best thing is to go to a priest to discuss this situation. Someone who is an expert in Canon law who can lay out the options.

Royersford, PA USA
Dear Dr. Hildebrand,

I have been reading lately about submission as a wife and I do see the wisdom and beauty of this. I wonder, however, what are we to do if our husbands do not take their faith as seriously as we do, or do not believe the reality of spiritual warfare and therefore make decisions that we as wives do not agree with? Are we to pray and remain faithful in our duty and trust that God will work things for good, or do we step out of our role in this case?

Thank you for your time and God Bless you,
Carl A. Anderson:
I would suggest that you read two works by the late Pope John Paul II: Mulieris Dignitatem and the Letter to Women. In these works, Pope John Paul deals with related topics that you may find helpful. Both are available on the Vatican's website

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

In some ways its very simple. Submission is a misleading word. In every relationship, there must be a head. Obviously, the greater the love, the greater the harmony in this relationship. If your husband makes any demand against your faith or against the Church, then say no to your husband.

Marriage is an ideal situation, however, for making small sacrifices -- whether you eat early or late, go for a walk or not, mundane things. The wise and loving wife will submit to his wishes on these small things. When it comes to the matters of faith, God must lead. So on these matters the woman must be like a rock.

Camarillo, CA, USA
I was just wondering what you do when you believe your husband has a problem with stuffing his feelings with food and drink? He is a wonderful husband and I know not everybody's perfect (definitely not me), but I don't know how to better handle this situation. Plus when he drinks a little too much, he becomes clingy and this irritates me.
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

It seems that when people have a weakness with drinking, they probably need medical help.

There is great difficulty in convincing people that have a drinking problem that they even have a problem. It is always a great act of humility to turn to other people and say I need your help.

Los Angeles, CA
What would you say is the most important aspect of a successful marriage?
Carl A. Anderson:

Pope John Paul often spoke and wrote of a "total gift of self." That is, of a love in marriage that was completely giving of its love and of its self to the other person. When one looks at marriage from a selfish rather than selfless perspective, and when one's motives are selfish, that limits love. So the most successful marriage is one in which each spouse gives the total gift of self to the other.

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

The ideal is when the love based on common faith and common devotion to the Church and Christ. First, understand that marital love is self giving based on a perception of the beauty of the other, the ideal that God had for that person when he created them. Second, you must care also for your spouse's eternal welfare, and third, there is the desire for union with one another which is essential. My husband spoke of these three factors often.

Remember that love is not selfishness. It is self giving.

Wilmington, DE
Author's like this one, and Pope John Paul II have really promoted the importance of marriage in the 20th century - and beyond. How important do you think it is for this message to get out, especially in the modern era?
Carl A. Anderson:
Especially when marriage is not understood and is under assault, it is very important that we have people - like John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Dietrich von Hildebrand, who help bring the beauty and meaning of marriage to the public. It is also important that the laity take this message to heart, and live out marriages that are truly witnesses to the beauty of Catholic teaching and to saying yes to Jesus Christ through the vocation of love in marriage.

Scott Broadway
Lake Mary, Florida, USA
Marriage is not always an easy prospect to live out each day. What are the things you have learned from within your own marriages on coping with suffering and rediscovering joy?
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

The question is always to make the holy detour to Christ. We human beings are so imperfect, that unless we make this detour, we run into problems. Whenever a problem arises in marriage, it must be solved before the sun goes down.

Even if your fault is very small, and the other's is very large, you must say you are sorry when conflict arises to avoid bad feelings. Remember to always make that holy detour through Christ and the sacraments.

Washington, DC
There seems to be much confusion over marriage and what it means in today's world. How can we explain the beauty of sacramental marriage in a world that increasingly doesn't understand either its beauty or its importance?
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:

It is very simple. One key idea of the few my husband picked up on was the apostolate of "being", which I think applies to marriage as well. You can be an apostle by speaking or writing, but in a way the most important apostolate is your own being. Imagine coming into a room and everyone feels you radiate peace and joy and love. To come into a room and there is a feeling of awe and grace emanating from a person- this was the effect of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. People felt it and would say she lives in the grace of God. If your marriage radiates hope and joy and peace, people will come to you and ask you what your secret is. 

Carl A. Anderson:
I'd like to say a special thanks to Dr. von Hildebrand for joining us today.  I'm looking forward to our February discussion on The Difference God Makes - A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture by Francis Cardinal George, OMI.

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