Today was a good day for 20th century Catholic culture. Three philosophical luminaries share the birthday of October 12, two even sharing the same year: Christopher Dawson (b. 1889), Dietrich von Hildebrand (b. 1889), and Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (b. 1891 as Edith Stein). Sr. Teresa wrote extensively on the philosophy of phenomenology and its potential ties to Thomism, and though she was the last born she was the first to die as a prisoner in Auschwitz in 1942. Dawson’s career was concerned with a Catholic philosophy of history and culture in a body of work some have compared to St. Augustine’s City of God, finally passing away in 1970. Von Hildebrand was a German-born philosopher also impressed by phenomenology and he passed in 1977, but not before terrorizing modernists to the delight of traditionalists everywhere, and he left a widow who continues to terrorize feminists and popularizers of John Paul the Second’s “theology of the body.”
All three were converts to the Faith.
Although I have no reason to believe the October Twelfthers ever met one another (Stein and von Hildebrand both worked on their doctorates at the University of Göttingen, but in different years), it would be a great deal of fun to write a dialogue between them, perhaps post mortem à la Peter Kreeft’s socratic novels. Sadly, someone with more philosophical training than me will be needed for this project.
So raise a glass to the Lover of Culture, the Reluctant Traditionalist, and the Carmelite Martyr. Pray for the eternal repose of the first two through the intercession of the third, and may we continue their work.