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Servant of God Romano Guardini

  • HEATHER KING

Servant of God Romano Guardini (1885–1968), Italian-born German Catholic priest, author, and academic, authored The Lord, a spiritual classic.


guardiniHe is considered one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th century.

Father Guardini was born in 1885 in Verona.  His conventional Catholic upbringing left him unprepared for the virulent atheism he encountered as a student at the University of Munich.  The ensuing spiritual crisis was resolved when he one day read and saw with new eyes Matthew 10:39: Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Bishop Robert Barron points out that if we want to understand Guardini, we would do well to start with one of his earlier books, Letters from Lake Como.

On his first visits to the lake region around Milan as a young man, the bishop observes, Guardini was enchanted by "the manner in which human beings, through their architecture and craftsmanship, interacted non-invasively and respectfully with nature."  Already by the 1920s, however, he had noticed a change toward a more aggressive type of architecture, one not in tune with nature but fueled by an urge to master and dominate.

That line of thought found its way almost a century later into a press conference given by Pope Francis in conjunction with his 2015 encyclical Laudato si', when he observed: "God always forgives; human beings sometimes forgive; but when nature is mistreated, she never forgives."

Over the course of his career, Father Guardini taught at various German universities, wrote seventy-five books, and influenced such noted fellow theologians as Cardinal Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar.  His thought is widely credited as an influence on the Second Vatican Council.

But The Lord (1954) remains the work by which he is perhaps best known.  I bought my own copy over twenty years ago, when I was just coming into the Church.  In it, Father Guardini brought the person of Christ alive through the Gospels — and that brought him alive for me.

"Really," one passage ran, "life has something impossible about it! It is forced to desire what it can never have.  It is as though from the very start some fundamental mistake had been made as evinced by everything we do."

To follow Christ, he seemed to be saying, is to take an existential stance, a stance toward reality.  Yes! I thought.  That is just what my anguished heart longs for!

In calling for both a deepening of our relationship with Christ, and a renewed devotion to the traditions, doctrine, and liturgical forms of the Church, he has become an on­going, and vital, bridge between the old and the new.

Resigning his pontificate, Benedict XVI observed: "The Church is…a living reality.  She lives along the course of time by transforming herself, like any living being, yet her nature remains the same.  At her heart is Christ."

He was quoting one of his most cherished mentors: Servant of God Romano Guardini.

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Acknowledgement

king Heather King. "Servant of God Romano Guardini." Magnificat (February, 2019).

Reprinted with permission from Magnificat.

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The Author

king king1 Heather King is a sober alcoholic, an ex-lawyer, a Catholic convert, and a full-time writer. She is the author of: Parched, Redeemed: Stumbling Toward God, Marginal Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding, Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Poor Baby, Stripped, Holy Days and Gospel Reflectionsand Stumble: Virtue, Vice, and the Space Between. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website here

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