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The Soul of a Lion: Dietrich Von Hildebrand, a Biography

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The Soul of a Lion Dietrich von Hildebrand, widely regarded as one of the great Catholic philosophers of the 20th century, is well-known for his numerous books, but, until this present work, not much has been known of his remarkable and inspiring life. Written by his wife, Alice, also a highly respected Catholic thinker, this is a fascinating, moving and, at times, grippin The Soul of a Lion Dietrich von Hildebrand, widely regarded as one of the great Catholic philosophers of the 20th century, is well-known for his numerous books, but, until this present work, not much has been known of his remarkable and inspiring life. Written by his wife, Alice, also a highly respected Catholic thinker, this is a fascinating, moving and, at times, gripping account of a truly great man of the Church... Full description


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The Soul of a Lion Dietrich von Hildebrand, widely regarded as one of the great Catholic philosophers of the 20th century, is well-known for his numerous books, but, until this present work, not much has been known of his remarkable and inspiring life. Written by his wife, Alice, also a highly respected Catholic thinker, this is a fascinating, moving and, at times, grippin The Soul of a Lion Dietrich von Hildebrand, widely regarded as one of the great Catholic philosophers of the 20th century, is well-known for his numerous books, but, until this present work, not much has been known of his remarkable and inspiring life. Written by his wife, Alice, also a highly respected Catholic thinker, this is a fascinating, moving and, at times, gripping account of a truly great man of the Church... Full description

30 review for The Soul of a Lion: Dietrich Von Hildebrand, a Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Yosef the Heretic

    This was a good chance find, a book I'd never heard about, reminiscent of a Padre Pio biography I read last year in prosaic simplicity and clear, compulsively readable style from a source directly linked to the topic. When one is increasingly overwhelmed with the passion and sacred mysteries of Christ, one can become so filled with the Holy Spirit that the most sturdy locks of the most hidden ideological doors come bursting from their handles. Of the unlimited things to keep in mind concerning vo This was a good chance find, a book I'd never heard about, reminiscent of a Padre Pio biography I read last year in prosaic simplicity and clear, compulsively readable style from a source directly linked to the topic. When one is increasingly overwhelmed with the passion and sacred mysteries of Christ, one can become so filled with the Holy Spirit that the most sturdy locks of the most hidden ideological doors come bursting from their handles. Of the unlimited things to keep in mind concerning vocation in the priesthood, it is that you are neither the first nor the last young man ready to become the next Saint _______. No one here is discouraging saintliness. However, it is vital to have a passion or interest(s) outside of religion. Sports, birding, model trains; anything will do. Well, I am neither a priest nor interested in many things diverting from academic pursuits and lay-autodidacticism at this point in my life; thus, when a breezy, intelligent book comes my way it is much appreciated. This is good light reading and has also moved some of Hildebrand's books toward the top of the unknown cloud, or, my theological reading list.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charles Lewis

    For me this was completely unexpected and a complete joy. I read it in two days, which is fast for me. I had never heard of von Hildebrand before (shame on me). And even so this biography grabbed me. What a brave and courageous man. When people speak of the best of the Catholic Church they are speaking of Dietrich Von Hidebrand. Anyone who wants to be moved, inspired should read this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Crofut

    It's only fitting that I would finish this book on the anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet pact: von Hildebrand was one of the few people in Europe who saw that the relationship between those two ideologies is not one of being diametrically opposed but rather of being close kin. To join the one out of fear of the other was an error von Hildebrand called out vociferously, making him very unpopular with both. I was reading this alongside von Hildebrand's Transformation in Christ. One might read that boo It's only fitting that I would finish this book on the anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet pact: von Hildebrand was one of the few people in Europe who saw that the relationship between those two ideologies is not one of being diametrically opposed but rather of being close kin. To join the one out of fear of the other was an error von Hildebrand called out vociferously, making him very unpopular with both. I was reading this alongside von Hildebrand's Transformation in Christ. One might read that book and accuse the author of living a plush life, what with all of the love thy enemies stuff, but von Hildebrand wrote that while the Nazis were actively seeking his life. He becomes a penniless refugee, probably made all the more difficult by comparison with the affluent world he grew up in, and yet he persevered not only physically, but far more importantly he persevered spiritually. The book itself, written by his second wife (the first having passed away after over four decades of marriage), has a hagiographic feel to it, but I don't see that as a drawback. The man very likely is a saint, so there shouldn't be much of a surprise that his story reads like one. A better criticism is in the balance of the work. The chapter covering his university years is far longer and more detailed than his years publishing and speaking against the Nazi regime. Granted, von Hildebrand himself seems to have written a book on that subject and this book might just be a supplement to the former work, but I don't own that book, so that was a bit of a letdown. I would also have liked to read more about his philosophy, especially given how impressive Transformation in Christ has proven itself. Nevertheless, this was an engaging and informative read, and I would pair it with Metexas' biography of the other famous anti-Nazi theologian named Dietrich, Mr. Bonhoeffer. Many, many similarities in their lives. It is a shame they never seemed to have met. They both traveled among the top of German society, both were sons of world famous elites (one a psychologist, the other a sculptor), both had a found appreciation of music and high culture but without letting such love become a mere marker of rank (aristocrats rather than oligarchs), neither grew up in particularly religious families, both studied under the leading intellectuals of the day (men like Karl Barth and Max Scheler and Husserl), both were deeply pained by the mass apostasy their church experienced as professed Christians collaborated, tolerated, and often actively supported an evil ideology completely opposed to the doctrines of Christ, and both chose to fight that evil specifically due to their love of God. God have mercy on both of them and may they pray for us.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rhea Peters

    Named “the most dangerous enemy of National Socialism” (Nazi’s) and an ardent opponent of the the racism, atheism, materialism and totalitarianism of both the Nazi and communist parties during WWII, Dietrich von Hildebrand truly had the soul of a lion. This was one of the best books I have ever read and a great discussion at our family book club.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dhanaraj Rajan

    I like the style of Alice von Hildebrand's writing. She writes with a passionate Catholic conviction. That style appealed me in the first book that I read of her (Man And Woman: A Divine Invention). And for that reason I bought this book knowing nothing of Dietrich von Hildebrand, her husband. Now that I have completed reading the book I can make few remarks: Alice was a loving wife who loved her husband much and that is evident in her book and Alice's intention was also to present a Catholic phi I like the style of Alice von Hildebrand's writing. She writes with a passionate Catholic conviction. That style appealed me in the first book that I read of her (Man And Woman: A Divine Invention). And for that reason I bought this book knowing nothing of Dietrich von Hildebrand, her husband. Now that I have completed reading the book I can make few remarks: Alice was a loving wife who loved her husband much and that is evident in her book and Alice's intention was also to present a Catholic philosopher and the work of God's grace in his life. The Catholic conviction with which she writes speaks of her faith and that helps the reader. About Dietrich von Hildebrand: He was born in a Protestant family in Germany and he later found the Catholic Church through the ethical discussion. Later he became a Catholic and produced monumental works expounding Catholic understanding of virtues. He was a Catholic ethical philosopher. Later when Nazism took hold in Germany he saw it as anti-Christian/anti-Catholic and opposed it vehemently with his writings and lectures and that earned him the title, 'number one enemy of Nazism'. He was a target to be assassinated. He had to escape Germany and the war torn Europe to stay alive. His escapade to USA in 1940 is the culmination. The biography ends here. It does not speak of his life in USA and his death. But then Alice keeps you moving over each page with eagerness and attention. I will have to get hold of the other books of Alice von Hildebrand.

  6. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Excellent! I want to review this for my blog, okie-booklady, when I get some time. My only complaint was that it ended too early in his life! Rod is reading it now and can't believe he wasn't shot by the Nazis--or sent to a death camp. God obviously had a plan for his life because he certainly did everything he could to oppose the National Socialist Party's rise to power. WARNING: SPOILER INFORMATION! (Thanks to Morning Star's careful reading of my original review, I have amended it! Von Hildebran Excellent! I want to review this for my blog, okie-booklady, when I get some time. My only complaint was that it ended too early in his life! Rod is reading it now and can't believe he wasn't shot by the Nazis--or sent to a death camp. God obviously had a plan for his life because he certainly did everything he could to oppose the National Socialist Party's rise to power. WARNING: SPOILER INFORMATION! (Thanks to Morning Star's careful reading of my original review, I have amended it! Von Hildebrand was never shot--but it's truly a miracle that he wasn't as he was a top political enemy of the Nazis. He was marked for execution had he not escaped Germany in time.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    If Dietrich von Hildebrand’s books illuminate the scope and originality of his mind, this biography written by his (now late) second wife, Alice, demonstrates the depth of his personality and specifically his moral courage in the face of adversity. Soul of a Lion paints a picture of a man deeply sensitive to values from an early age who was never afraid to stand alone against the crowd in order to defend Truth. Special attention is paid to his significant relationships with his friends and colle If Dietrich von Hildebrand’s books illuminate the scope and originality of his mind, this biography written by his (now late) second wife, Alice, demonstrates the depth of his personality and specifically his moral courage in the face of adversity. Soul of a Lion paints a picture of a man deeply sensitive to values from an early age who was never afraid to stand alone against the crowd in order to defend Truth. Special attention is paid to his significant relationships with his friends and colleagues (especially the wayward Max Scheler, the dutiful Adolf Reinach, and the wise but awkward Edmund Husserl) as well as a plethora of smaller characters who, through God’s Grace, came to play important roles in Dietrich’s trials and tribulations of escaping a Europe being rapidly swallowed but the horrific evil of Nazism. Overall, the book lends an acute glance into the life of one of the most underrated thinkers of the 20th century and the life that directly influenced his philosophy. (Also, the book My Battle Against Hitler is an excellent companion piece to this text as it gives context to his intellectual struggle against National Socialism in his own words as well as some of his actual attacks on that abhorrent ideology).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jacinta

    Not only is this book a gem for Catholics to read about the life of such a warrior for Christ, but its an eye opener to see such a resemblance to our society today and of the Nazi's! - Some people who were comfortable called those who were sounding the alarm against the Nazi's "pessimists" and so on. - Some people (Bishops! A Cardinal! Priests!) became stupidly infatuated with Nazism and began to justify Nazism and falsely claim its "Christian points". - The few who spoke the truth encountered h Not only is this book a gem for Catholics to read about the life of such a warrior for Christ, but its an eye opener to see such a resemblance to our society today and of the Nazi's! - Some people who were comfortable called those who were sounding the alarm against the Nazi's "pessimists" and so on. - Some people (Bishops! A Cardinal! Priests!) became stupidly infatuated with Nazism and began to justify Nazism and falsely claim its "Christian points". - The few who spoke the truth encountered huge obstacles and were faced with debilitating disappointments with their own country, their own close friends and those who they expected to be against Nazism but who turned out to be pro Nazi / pro Hitler. - The "community over the individual" mentality (sound familiar?) This book is an excellent reminder to us Catholics who are fighting against Communism today in our own society and who may feel like they are totally alone. We are never alone when we fight on God's side; the side of truth!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pat aka Tygyr

    Dietrich was known for his strong Catholic faith. His wife who wrote this is also known for her faith. Dietrich lived during the Hitler days. He was high on the list of most wanted by the Nazis. His son was also high on their list. Dietrich was from a wealthy family. The story of his wealthy upbringing, living through the Nazi occupation of his Germany that he had to flee from, living at a much altered living standard. Reading a first hand account of the troubling times, was very educating. Whil Dietrich was known for his strong Catholic faith. His wife who wrote this is also known for her faith. Dietrich lived during the Hitler days. He was high on the list of most wanted by the Nazis. His son was also high on their list. Dietrich was from a wealthy family. The story of his wealthy upbringing, living through the Nazi occupation of his Germany that he had to flee from, living at a much altered living standard. Reading a first hand account of the troubling times, was very educating. While I did find parts to be uninteresting, overall it was a very good book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Garcia

    Me encantó, por cómo está escrito y por la personalidad que describe. Verdaderamente un gigante y un alma de león, buscador de la verdad y no de lo fácil, de quien aprender mucho, de quien recuperar y leer sus escritos...

  11. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Novinsky

    A little slow moving, but a touching story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Costello

    Joseph Ratzinger writes in the forward, "I am personally convinced that, when, some time in the future, the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century is written, the name of Dietrich Von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time." This biography by his wife is a moving account of this great thinker and heroic fighter against Nazism. The book is both the beautiful and captivating story of a man's life and a moving testimony to Providence. While I ha Joseph Ratzinger writes in the forward, "I am personally convinced that, when, some time in the future, the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century is written, the name of Dietrich Von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time." This biography by his wife is a moving account of this great thinker and heroic fighter against Nazism. The book is both the beautiful and captivating story of a man's life and a moving testimony to Providence. While I have never read works by Dietrich von Hildebrand, I am inspired by his life and courage. Alice von Hildebrand writes this account with the love and admiration that can only come from a spouse. Wonderful read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    If you are at all interesting in anti-Nazi figures, read this book. Hildebrand was a philosophy professor who risked his life to speak out against Nazism. This book covers his early life up through his escape from Europe and exile to the United States. Fascinating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Very intriguing life. He has a brilliant mind and was a gift to the Church. Highly recommend this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pius Franco

    I thank God and my wife for giving such a wonderful book. An amazing man, who despite all the troubles he had, he maintained his peace in God, who never failed him.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Juan Acevedo Habeych

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Reger

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sally Colman

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dominic Hassan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Guillermo García-pimentel ruiz

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marc Herbert

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marcela Parada

  28. 4 out of 5

    Giuliana Rosa

  29. 4 out of 5

    Akasleen Ryan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

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