NEW YORK — Pope Francis has declared Catholic philosopher, author and teacher Alice von Hildebrand a Dame Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory in recognition of her work, witness and service to the Church.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, formally invested her in the chivalric order Oct. 30 at a gala dinner in New York celebrating her 90th birthday.
Cardinal Burke said that Pope Francis conferred the honor to recognize her “outstanding and faithful service” and “in public recognition of the esteem in which she is held in the Church.”
Membership in the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory, which dates back to 1831, is the highest honor a pope can bestow upon a layman. Membership is given to individuals who have served the Church and society and witnessed to their Catholic faith in an exemplary way.
The gala was hosted by the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, an academic organization based at Franciscan University of Steubenville dedicated to the work of Alice von Hildebrand’s late husband.
Von Hildebrand addressed the dinner guests, reflecting on the importance of gratitude, love and friendship, calling them the “remains of the earthly paradise.”
She said she came to value philosophy through her husband.
“His approach showed that philosophy is not an abstract discipline. It is life,” she said.
“It involves my heart, my intelligence and my will, and therefore opens a vista of greatness and beauty that most of us are not aware of.”
She added, “He showed me that what we call Christian philosophy is not an abstraction; it is simply reason baptized by faith.”
The Belgian-born von Hildebrand has been a regular commentator on EWTN and is a retired professor of philosophy at Hunter College in New York City, where she taught for 37 years. Her books include The Soul of a Lion, The Privilege of Being a Woman, The Dark Night of the Body and By Love Refined.
Cardinal Burke said the von Hildebrands worked together “in the study of truth taught to us both by faith and reason and in the life of truth through love of God.”
He said, “In thanking God for the gift of Alice von Hildebrand to us and to so many whose lives she has transformed by her teaching and her writing, let us join with her in preserving the memory of her beloved husband and in making his important writings more available and better known.”