About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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“Our Christian people regard with great joy everything that contributes to the splendor of the ceremonies. Jesus—who was poor in His private life—received ointment on His feet. See Thomas Aquinas (Prima Secundae, q. 102, art. 5, ad 10) and the holy Curé of Ars. The Church has always loved beautiful churches, and so forth. We must preserve our sacred patrimony and make sure sacred objects do not become secular possessions.”
— Abbot & Council Father denouncing “noble simplicity” during Vatican II

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Alice Von Hildebrand in her 90’s
published 8 January 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

EFORE my snow-bird flight from cold Connecticut to Sunny California this month, I got to visit Alice Von Hildebrand in a rehab facility where she was recovering from a fracture. I thought I would tell you about the visit as an inspiration, especially for more elderly Watershedders or those who might dread the thought of living long.

In the year 1958 I had a great joy of meeting within 3 minutes two of the most outstanding Catholic women of the 20th and now 21st century: Madeleine (to become wife of Lyman Stebbins, founder of Catholics United for the Faith), and Alice – always called Lily by friends (to become wife of Dietrich Von Hildebrand). At the time I was an atheist seeking truth. For the “miracles” that led to my meeting these two holy Catholic women and their husbands and finding Christ in the Church see my autobiography: En Route to Eternity – Miriam Press or www.rondachervin.com click on books, then free e-leaflets and go to Saved!

Most of you know Alice Von Hildebrand from EWTN appearances, and so you only know her as a widow. When I met her she was in her 30’s, beautiful, very European, eyes shining with loving interest in whoever approached her. All of these adjectives still apply. Just the same, even though I had seen her a year ago, still flourishing, having learned in her late 80’s how to e-mail to satisfy publishers of her articles and books, I was a little afraid that after her fall she might be so diminished in strength that our visit would be very sad.

My friend and driver, Marti Armstrong, also a dedicated widow, accompanied me through the corridors of the rehab center where we found dear Lily sitting up in bed, eyes shining with joy to see us. Within minutes she was talking not about her physical state but about the most important ideas she wanted us to be sure to convey to others. These insights will follow; but first a description of how she continued with her train of thought even while hanging onto a walker, and going through the corridors of the rehab at a rapid pace, accompanied by her attendant. The scene called to mind a response of a priest in his fifties. When I suggested he might want to build a retirement home on the property of his parish, he replied after a day or two: “You know, Ronda, I looked up the word “retirement” in the Concordance and I couldn’t find it!”

Now to the insights I have been pondering since. “We have to baptize our pleasures.” Lily explained that it is not that we need to pray for suffering only as Christians, but that we need to take in the pleasures always with gratitude instead of greed.

The other point she explored with us was one of her husband concerning “the theme of the moment.” When choosing between two good possibilities, we must always pray to understand the theme. I recalled what was to me at the time of my conversion a rather shocking example often given in my own spiritual formation by those in the Von Hildebrand circle. If you are with a lonely person in pain who wants to be diverted by playing cards, that is not the moment to insist that discussing a spiritual book would be better!

Since the visit, a month ago, I have been working on the “theme” challenge. Sitting in a spa with my seven year old grand-daughter, I wanted to give her a little catechism class, but she wanted to talk about her dog. Why not postpone my desire to evangelize the dear little one, to follow the theme of building a bridge to her heart through the doggie?

However, the main lesson I took from the visit is that I cannot insist that seventy-five is an ideal time for me to retire in the face of Alice Von Hildebrand’s enthusiastic philosophizing and teaching at age ninety.