Intentio Benevolentiae Nature of Love

Sisterly Love

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Today’s blog post is a continuation of my reflections on Dietrich von Hildebrand’s The Nature of Love. In this reflection we look at love in the form of Intentio Benevolentiae with the example of sisterhood.

Sisterhood is a precious gift.

This last year, I was given the opportunity to be a coordinator of my sorority.  It seemed that it would be a reasonable responsibility to take part in and I was confident that I could handle all the tasks involved. From what I had observed from past coordinators there was a good deal of  administrative work that needed doing. There were constant deadlines to be met and commitments to attend, but the coordinators always looked joyful in their position. I was entirely up for the challenge.  

My first semester of coordinatorship changed my whole idealized view of what it meant to lead other women. And that was my first problem, I was not supposed to be “leading other women” but leading my sisters. I learned that there were many different ways that to know the meaning of service.
One particular way that I discovered the meaning of service was by listening. All of us having to live in the same dorm area, forced us to live like a family. There were many times I would get back to my dorm, kick my shoes off, take my contacts out and change into comfy clothes after a long day of school. Barely would I crawl under the covers, than there would be a knock on the door. I learned quickly what that knock meant. The next thing I heard was, “Catherine, I need to talk to you.” I could not hesitate. I responded to the knock and her plead for my presence. This movement to respond to her was greater than I could imagine. It was through this movement I transcended myself. Out of all the things she could possibly discuss, I knew that her news might be good or bad. Whatever it was, I was ready to rejoice with her or, if need be, suffer with her.

My love for my sisters affected me and sunk deep into my experience. My heart was connected with all the hearts in our sisterhood, and as coordinator I was not only given the role of sister. I was also given the duty, as a sister, to enter the domain of motherhood. These type of encounters with my sisters showed me that “everything affects me under the aspect of the objective good or evil for the beloved person.” (1) I relate this to the characteristics of a mother because she is a model of one who wills the good for children. When her children are rejoicing, she is rejoicing. Moreover, When her children are hurting, she is hurting. As Hildebrand says when speaking of Intentio Benevolentiae, “I who love rejoice because the other experiences something that is gladdening for him, and I suffer when the other suffers.” (2)

One realizes a profound truth in this situation concerning the love of others. This response to the other is not just a response out of natural attraction but rather for the ultimate good for the other. Love is a super-value response because it is a response in which one goes above and beyond what is due to the beloved in strict justice.Love is an abundant response, in which the good of the beloved is on the heat and mind of the lover. This love is an objective good for the beloved person. I did not realize the meaning of this type of love for another in the beginning. There is a beautiful solidarity of knowing that what is beneficial for the other is beneficial for me or what is harmful for the other is harmful for me. In just this way, love takes on the good of the beloved as my own good. Sisterhood has made me aware of this type of love and I am forever thankful.  

Image [1] by Catherine O'Camb
Image [2] by Catherine O'Camb

[1] Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009) 146.
[2] Ibid., 146.

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