Giants in Our Midst: Dietrich Von Hildebrand Print
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 01 June 2007 11:32

A couple of lay Christians who had a huge impact on the 20th century were Dietrich von Hildebrand and Henrietta Mears.

They could not have come from more profoundly different backgrounds. Von Hildebrand was the son of sculptor and had an extraordinary childhood, growing up in a 16th century Franciscan monastary turned villa in Florence in an remarkably cultured and artistic non religious family.

He converted to Catholicism as a young man and moved to deeply Catholic Munich, was a brilliant philosopher but not a man of practical action. And yet, he was one of the first Catholics in Germany to see clearly and absolutely the profoundly anti-Christian nature of the Nazism and became a hero of the resistance.

I have found it almost unbearably poignant is to read in his biograph Soul of a Lion (a great read, by the way!) of the many Catholic leaders in one of the most sophisticated and Catholic cities in Europe who actively suppored Hitler: bishops, Dominican theologians and provincials, etc.

Discernment, real discernment, takes more than a knowledge of doctrine and more than being steeped in Catholic culture. The Catholics of Munich had those things in spades and they were still taken in. But Hildebrand had a remarkable ability to see to the root of things and an asbolute willingness to follow wherever the truth lead. He sacrificed everything to take a public stand against the rising tide.

He is a wonderful example of one type of lay apostle.

Visit the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project to learn more.

I'll talk about Henrietta Mears in a separate post.