Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lectio: By Love Refined

{recommended reading}

I like to think Andrew and I are a pretty literary couple.  We were both English majors who practically owe our relationship to the class discussions of Charles Dickens and Latin American folktales in which we first caught each other's attention, we talk often about what we're reading, and we send tons of dorky, wordplay filled texts during the day.  Still, when it comes to the intellectual life (which I enjoy but don't exactly aspire to, if that makes sense), we don't hold a candle to the von Hildebrands.  Dietrich von Hildebrand and his wife, Alice, are both pretty prolific theologians who've written quite a bit about love, marriage, and virtue.  I've actually never read anything of von Hildebrand the Mister's, but about a year ago, I did crack open this one by the Missus.

Letters to a Young Bride, Alice von Hildebrand, pre-cana reading, Catholic books, books to read before marriage, Catholic marriage books, Catholic wedding, Catholic marriage prep, Catholic wedding blog,Catholic wedding planning, Catholic bride

This book, By Love Refined, is subtitled Letters to a Young Bride.  The setup is that Alice, writing under the name Lily, is responding to her beloved friend Julie's letters, containing Julie's reflections and questions about newlywed life.  It's a pretty clever way, I think, to discuss big issues like arguments, qualitiy time, and money in a wise, gentle voice- it's like practical advice disguised as a nice note.

Usually these posts feature books I've read and loved, which leads to inordinate raving.  Honestly, though, I have to tell you that I didn't completely adore this one (I do, however, think the title is awesome).  We are not a perfect couple (far, far from it, in fact), but I don't feel like I gained much advice that I wasn't already aware of- we've always been pretty calm, fair fighters, for instance, and have never felt particularly awkward talking about things like sex and money.  Maybe the fighting thing is just a reflection of our quieter personalities, during our engagement we read parts of the Theology of the Body while I worked as a chastity speaker, which made it pretty easy to be frank about sexuality, and we talked about spending early on, as soon as it became clear that my tendency to shop too much was at odds with Andrew's extreme (I really mean extreme) thriftiness (as a bachelor, he survived almost completely on cheap, horrible frozen burritos, eggs, and generic, fake Crunchberries).

I do realize, though, that every couple has one or two issues that need to be probed more than others, and that certain things come easier or harder for different people.  That said, I do think this book is worth a read- even if some of it is kind of old fashioned (example: "I want a dishwasher and he wants a stereo"-- I'm all about the housewife thing, but I've never really coveted large kitchen applicances), it's beneficial because through each letter, Alice calls your attention to aspects of newlywed life that you might not have anticipated otherwise, like loving ways to criticize, the uselessness of comparing yourselves to other couples who seem to have it all together, and the fact that you two might have different social schedules and preferences.

Have any of you read this?  Am I nuts for thinking it's not the greatest?  I'm open to changing my opinion, so I'd love to hear what you think!


  1. My favorite part of this book was the chapter where she talks about a wife being blessed with the "Tabor vision" for her husband, and vice versa. (Excerpt from the book here:

    I think I've taken this idea and run with it, in my own life. I believe that one of the blessings of marriage (if it's properly nourished), is to see your spouse as God does, and love him as God does. Marital love should bless us with a vision of the soul of our beloved, as God meant them to be, and we should cling to that. We should support our spouses as they struggle to become more truly themselves.

  2. I read this book early on in our marriage so it has been a little while, but I will write what I remember. It does hit a lot of points that seem obvious, but the way they are strung together made an impact on me. The problems are approached from a less-emotional, more spiritual side which is great since I usually let my emotions run amok. I appreciated the repeated themes which grant an overall understanding that daily sacrifice for the love of your spouse and God is what makes a marriage work.

  3. Thanks for your insights, ladies =)

  4. I don't think you're crazy for not being over the top enthused about this book. My husband bought me Alice von Hildebrand's "The Privilege of Being a woman" thinking I'd love it, but it fell totally flat with me. Something about her style of writing and her approach I find... I don't know... overly delicate. Erm... can't really explain, but finding theological-pastoral writing is a bit like dating. Even perfectly respectable, kind, smart men may not be the one that gives you that spark. Even theologians who say things you agree with might not give you that inspiration.



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