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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Monday, 16 November 2015

GUARDINI AND THREE POPES (plus) UNITY IN DIVERSITY II - THE HOUR OF RECONCILED DIVERSITY


Romano Guardini: Father of the New Evangelization
CHRISTOPHER SHANNON
my source: Crisis Magazine

As Benedict XVI prepared to step down from his pontificate, he offered the following words to those who feared that his resignation marked a dangerous departure from tradition:  


“The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but 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.”



These words were not his own, but rather those of his intellectual mentor, Romano Guardini (1885-1968).  Much of Benedict’s writing has been, at least implicitly, a long meditation on the work of Guardini.  In some cases, the connection has been more explicit:  Benedict’s The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000) is in many ways an updating of Guardini’s own 1918 work, also titled The Spirit of the Liturgy.  That original work inspired a dialogue between Guardini and the phenomenologist Max Scheler, whom Karol Wojtyla would make the subject of his doctoral dissertation under Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange.  As a student in Munich during the 1980s, Jorge Mario Bergoglio considered writing his dissertation on Guardini himself; more recently, as Pope Francis, he invoked the legacy of Guardini in some of his earliest public addresses of his pontificate.

Who is this man who has had such a profound influence on our last three popes? How are we to understand his vision of the Church as a dynamic, living reality when such an understanding has so often served as a rationale for rejecting traditional understandings of Church doctrine?  Is not the turn to phenomenology and other philosophies of experience responsible for what Pope Benedict himself has called the “tyranny of relativism”?  Guardini’s work had a profound influence on the Second Vatican Council and can still induce anxiety among the kind of traditionalist who views any departure from mid-century Thomism as apostasy.   His distance from the dominant Thomism of his day was, however, a measure of his proximity to an older Augustinian tradition that seemed to offer the possibility of a more fruitful engagement with the modern world.  With his emphasis on the need for an intimate encounter with the person of Christ and his openness to seeing the good in the modern world outside of the Church, Guardini deserves to be considered among the earliest fathers of the New Evangelization.

Romano Guardini 1950Romano Guardini was born in 1885 in Verona, Italy.  Soon after his birth, his family moved to the city of Mainz, Germany, where his father went to pursue his career as an import/export merchant.  Guardini grew up in a faithful, if not excessively devout, Catholic home.  This merely conventional Catholic upbringing left him unable to respond to the intellectual challenges posed by the rampant agnosticism and atheism he encountered as a young man attending the University of Munich.  Guardini soon began to question his own faith and underwent a period of spiritual crisis that he would later compare to that of St. Augustine.  Guardini’s tolle lege moment came while on vacation from university at his parent’s home in Mainz while on vacation from university.  The scripture passage that drew him out of his confusion was Matthew 10:39:  “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Apart from all of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God stood the primary, existential submission of the will:


It became clear to me that there exists a law according to which persons who “find their life,” that is, remain in themselves and accept as valid only what immediately enlightens them, lose their individuality. If they want to reach the truth and attain the truth in their very selves, then they must abandon themselves….


Even as Guardini recognized the submission as a means to true freedom, he also realized the dangers of a freedom conceived apart from any communal authority; his personal conversion came with a renewed appreciation for the necessity of the Church as an objective referent giving meaning and order to freedom.

After resolving his crisis of faith, Guardini returned to his secular studies, but soon felt called to the priesthood, eventually receiving holy orders on May 28, 1910.  Over the next ten years, he held various parish assignments in Mainz as he pursued the degrees necessary to qualify him to teach in the German university system.  Never questioning the authority of the Church in matters of doctrine, Guardini would nonetheless devote his priestly and scholarly life to moving beyond narrowly juridical notions of the Church in favor of a fuller appreciation of the Church as the font of freedom and love.

Sadly, in the wake of Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism in 1907, words like freedom and love had acquired the odor of heresy.  Guardini chafed under the rigid discipline of the seminary at Mainz; the textbook Thomism devised as a bulwark against the errors of Modernism left him cold.  His decision to explore the Platonic/Augustinian tradition of the Church by writing his thesis on St. Bonaventure (rather than St. Thomas) brought him into conflict with his clerical superiors and eventually prevented him from securing a teaching position at the diocesan seminary.
Solesmes Abbey in France
The Liturgical Movement started here

Guardini’s search for a way to bring freedom, love and unity together within the Church eventually led him to the liturgical movement. The movement began as part of the renewal of Benedictine monastic life in nineteenth-century France. By the early twentieth century, Pius X sought to direct the movement outward to the parishes in the service of cultivating a more conscious, active participation of the laity at Mass.  In his classic The Spirit of the Liturgy, Guardini presented the experience of the liturgy as an antidote to the cold rationalism and narrow moralism that he saw afflicting the Church of his day.  Against these, Guardini sees in the spirit of the liturgy a spirit of playfulness:  “The soul must learn to abandon, at least in prayer, the restlessness of purposeful activity; it must learn to waste time for the sake of God, and to be prepared for the sacred game with saying and thoughts and gestures, without always immediately asking ‘why?’ and ‘wherefore?’”  The liturgy is, to be sure, serious play, with set rules and complex symbols, but these are all in service of at deeper experience of God.  This experience, while personal, is never private. Guardini feared that the popular devotions that had energized the Catholic revival of the nineteenth century had fostered a spiritual individualism in which prayer had become simply a tool for accruing merit in the quest for individual salvation. Against this, the spirit of the liturgy is above all a spirit of community, uniting the faithful with each other even as it unites them to God.

Guardini would develop this theme of community more fully in his next major work, The Church and the Catholic (1922). Based on a series of lectures delivered to a meeting of the Catholic Academic Association, the book nonetheless addressed a problem facing the broader Western world:  the absence of community.  Modernity had destroyed the bonds of traditional society and marginalized the Church as a source of social unity, leaving in its wake the anarchic individualism of liberal capitalism.  Communism offered an alternative to this anarchy, but only at the expense of eliminating individual freedom.  Against the extremes of Communism and individualism, Guardini held up the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ, an organic union of persons that made possible the full flourishing of the “free personality,” which is “the presupposition of all true community.”  Guardini’s Catholic message struck a chord with the non-Catholic world, earning him the chair of Philosophy of Religion and Catholic Weltanschauung at the very Protestant, and still largely anti-Catholic, University of Berlin.

Guardini’s academic position at a non-Catholic university put him in an unusual position with respect to the intellectual life of the Church.  His ideas on community and liturgy would find papal approbation in Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis (1943) and Mediator Dei (1947), yet his fellow Catholic academics largely ignored him. He did not speak the language of Thomism and generally avoided the axe-grinding, triumphalist apologetics that were the stuff of mainstream Catholic “engagement” with the world.  His lectures did, however, attract some of the brightest young minds of his day, including Josef Pieper, Hans Urs von Balthasaar and Hannah Arendt.  In reaching out to the world, Guardini looked for theological themes in places where Thomists feared to tread—namely modern literature and Eastern religions. In these explorations, Guardini often found himself perceived as too “liberal” for mainstream Catholics and too Catholic for mainstream secularists.  In writing on non-Catholic figures such as Friedrich Hölderlin, Eduard Mörike and Rainer Maria Rilke, Guardini was able to express an appreciation for the depth and beauty of their accounts of human experience, yet still hold them accountable to Catholic truth.  Similarly, at a time when so many intellectuals were abandoning Christianity for Eastern religions, Guardini saw the need to acknowledge the truth and goodness in Buddhism while insisting on the absolute uniqueness of Christianity.  Jesus Christ is not a wise man who points us to the truth; He is the Truth.  Christianity is not based primarily on a set of dogmas, but on the person of Jesus Christ.

Guardini’s vision of Catholicism and its relation to the modern world won him many accolades from the non-Catholic world.  Though hardly a “representative” figure of early-twentieth century Catholic theology, his writings, along with those of the French ressourcement movement, had a profound effect on shaping the vision of the Second Vatican Council.  Like so many of those French theologians, Guardini recoiled at the early efforts to implement the vision of the Council, most especially the liturgical innovations that worked directly against his understanding of the spirit of the liturgy.  Those who directed the life of the Church in the decades following the Council were bad Thomists without being good Augustinians.  It would take good Augustinians and careful readers of Guardini such as Josef Ratzinger to help set the Church back on the right path.


This path, however, involves neither a return to the pre-Vatican II Church nor a “conservative” interpretation of the Council.  Guardini, Ratzinger, Wojtyla and Bergoglio have all in various ways sought to fashion a Catholic modernity, a new Catholicism appropriate to our time yet faithful to tradition.  Catholics since the Council have largely either retreated into a fortress of unchanging, timeless truth or surrendered to the tyranny of relativism.  Our Church offers us another way to think about living in time and embracing historical particularity.  No one age can embody the entire truth of the faith.   God gives us each age as a gift embodying the particular aspect of the faith most needed at a particular time.  Romano Guardini was one of the first to offer to the modern world a vision of the Church nurturing the flourishing of free personality within community.  If secular modernity has yet to recognize this vision, it is perhaps because Catholics themselves have yet to embrace it


Christopher Shannon
Dr. Christopher Shannon is a member of the History Department at Christendom College, where he interprets the narrative of Christian history from its foundations in the Old Testament and its heroic beginnings in the Church of the Martyrs, down through the ages to the challenges of the post-modern world. His books include Conspicuous Criticism: Tradition, the Individual, and Culture in Modern American Social Thought (Johns Hopkins, 1996) and, most recently, Bowery to Broadway: The American Irish in Classic Hollywood Cinema (University of Scranton Press, 2010).




The Pope on the current relevance of Romano Guardini
The Pope spoke on true repentence


The Holy Father’s remarks to the participants turned on two central themes of Guardini’s theological work: true repentance as the condition of the efficacy of grace in our lives and in the world; and the need to cultivate docility to the Divine will in order to enter into what the theologian calls, “a living unity” with God.
Vatican City, 13 November 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Pope received in audience members of the Romano Guardini Foundation attending the Congress promoted by the Pontifical Gregorian University to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Italian-born German priest, theologian and writer. During the audience the president of the foundation, Professor Ludwig von Pufendorf, announced the imminent publication of a previously unpublished text by Guardini who, as the Holy Father affirmed, “has much to say to the people of our time, and not only Christians”.

Francis recalled that Guardini, in his book “The Religious World of Dostoevsky”, cites the episode in “The Brothers Karamazov” in which a peasant confesses to the starec (the spiritual guide of orthodox monasteries) that she had killed her sick husband who had mistreated her throughout his life. The starec notes that the woman, desperately aware of her guilt, is entirely closed in on herself and that any reflection, comfort or counsel would meet this wall. The woman is convinced she is condemned; however, the priest shows her the way out. Her life has meaning, because God will receive her at the moment of repentance. He urges her not to be afraid since there is not, and there cannot be, a sin on earth that God cannot forgive to those who repent sincerely, nor can there be a sin so great that it exhausts God's infinite love. In confession the woman is transformed and receives new hope.

“The simplest people understand what this is about”, said the Pope. “They perceive the greatness that shines in the starec's wisdom and the strength of his love. They understand what holiness means, that is, an existence lived in faith, able to see that God is close to man, that He holds their life in His hands. In this respect, Guardini says, that by accepting with simplicity existence in the hand of God, personal will transforms into divine will and in this way, without the creature ceasing to be only a creature and God truly God, their living unity is brought about”.

For Guardini, this “living unity” with God consists of the concrete relationship of people with the world and with others around them. “The individual feels a part of the fabric of the population, that is, in an original union of men that by type, country and historical evolution in life and destinies are a single entity”. The author of “The Meaning of the Church” considered the concept of “population” as the “compendium of what in man is genuine, profound and substantial. We are able to recognise in the population, as in a mirror, “field of the force of divine action”.

“Perhaps we can apply Guardini's reflections to our own time, seeking to uncover the hand of God in current events”, observed the Holy Father. “In this way we will perhaps be able to recognise that God, in His wisdom, sent us, in rich Europe, the hungry to be fed, the thirsty to slake their thirst, the stranger to be welcomed and the naked to be clothed. History then shows this: if we are a population, we will certainly welcome these as our brothers; if we are merely a group of individuals, we will be tempted only to save our own skins, but we will have no continuity”.

The Pope greeted the members of the Foundation, expressing his hope that Guardini's work will help them increasingly to understand the meaning and value of the Christian foundations of culture and society”.

UNITY IN DIVERSITY II: Francis suggests Lutherans might discern taking Catholic communion individually.
Joshua J. McElwee  |  Nov. 16, 2015
my source: National Catholic Reporter

ROME Pope Francis has strikingly suggested that Lutherans married to Catholics can personally discern whether to take Communion in the Catholic church, saying it is not his role to give permission to such persons but to encourage them to listen to what God is telling them about their situations.
In a moving ecumenical visit to Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran church Sunday afternoon, the pontiff also called for “reconciled diversity” between the Christian denominations and said both must ask forgiveness of each other for historic persecutions.

The pope’s words about the issue of communion for Lutherans will likely attract wide attention, as Catholic teaching currently prohibits members of other Christian denominations from taking communion in the church in normal circumstances.

Francis spoke about the issue during Sunday’s visit in response to a question from a Lutheran woman who said she is married to a Catholic man and that the current prohibition on Lutherans receiving communion in the Catholic church causes them sadness.

“We have lived together for many years, sharing joys and pains,” the woman said. “And therefore it hurts us very much being divided in the faith and not being able to participate together at the Lord’s Supper. What can we do to reach, finally, communion on this point?”


The pontiff responded with a wide-ranging reflection on the nature of Christian faith and on Jesus’ words as recorded at the last Supper, when he is said to have told his disciples: “Do this in memory of me.”

“I ask myself: Is sharing the Lord’s Supper the end of a path or is it the viaticum for walking together?” said the pontiff, using a Latin term for food or provisions along the journey.

“It is true that in a certain sense sharing is to say that there are not differences among us, that we have the same doctrine -- I underline the word, a word difficult to understand -- but I ask myself: Don’t we have the same Baptism?” he continued.

“And if we have the same baptism, we must walk together,” he said. “You are a witness of an even profound path because it is a conjugal path, a path truly of family, of human love, and of shared faith. We have the same Baptism.”

The pontiff then spoke of a friendship he had with a deceased Episcopal bishop, who every Sunday worshipped with his own faith community and also attended Catholic Mass with his wife and two children, who were Catholic. The pope said that was an example “of a way of participation in the Lord’s Supper.”

“I respond to you only with a question,” Francis then told the Lutheran woman. “’What can I do with my husband, so that the Lord’s Supper accompanies me in the paths of my life?’”

“It is a problem to which everyone must respond,” said the pontiff. “But a pastor friend told me: ‘We believe that the Lord is present there. He is present. You believe that the Lord is present. And what is the difference?’”

“There are explanations, interpretations,” said the pope. “Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always make reference to Baptism.”

“‘One faith, one baptism, one Lord,’ Paul tells us,” Francis continued. “From there, grab hold of the consequences.”

“I will not ever dare to give permission to do this because it is not my competence,” he said. “One Baptism, one Lord, one faith. Speak with the Lord and go forward. I do not dare to say more.”

Francis was speaking Sunday in a lengthy visit to the Lutheran church, which saw him answer questions from one child and two women, pray with the church community, and offer a homily.

The pontiff focused his reflection in the homily on a portion of Matthew’s Gospel focused on the criteria Jesus will use in his final judgment.  

“Which will be the questions that the Lord will ask us that day: ‘Did you go to Mass? Did you make a good catechesis?’” asked the pope. “No, the questions are on the poor, because poverty is at the center of the Gospel.”

“‘You, your life, have you used it for yourself or to serve?’” Francis gave an example of one of the questions. “‘To defend yourself from others with walls or to welcome them with love?’”

The pontiff then asked rhetorically how Catholics and Lutherans would be judged as communities.

“There were ugly times amongst us,” said Francis. “Think of the persecutions -- amongst us! With the same baptism! Think of those burned alive.”

“We must ask each other forgiveness for this, for the scandal of division,” he said.

“I would like, at the end, when I see the Lord … I would like to ask him that he may be the servant of unity, to help us to walk together,” said the pope. “Today, we prayed together. Let us pray together, work together for the poor, for those in need; loving them together, with true love of brothers.”

Francis then imitated a Lutheran who might think differently, saying, ‘But, father, we are different because our dogmatic books say one thing and yours say another.’

“A great one of yours said one time that there is the hour of reconciled diversity,” the pontiff responded. “Let us ask today for this grace, the grace of reconciled diversity in the Lord, the servant of Yahweh, of that God who came among us to serve and not to be served.”

Earlier in the visit, Francis responded to a question from a young child who asked what he likes most about being pope.

“The thing that I like, sincerely, is to be a priest, to be a pastor,” responded the pontiff. “I don’t like office work. I don’t like that work. I don’t like doing protocol … but I must do it.”

“Dialogue with children -- this I like,” he continued. “You are a kid and maybe you might understand me. You [kids] are concrete; you don’t make questions that live in the air.”

“That’s why I like being a priest and … what I like most is to be with children, to speak with them, and to learn so much,” he said. “You learn so much. I like to be the pope with the style of a priest.”

“I love so much to go to prison, but not to put me in jail!” Francis later joked, speaking of how he likes to visit prisoners.

“Why speak with prisoners?” he asked. “Maybe you will understand that which I will say to you -- every time I go to a prison I ask myself: ‘Why them and not me?’ And there I feel the salvation of Jesus Christ, the love of Jesus Christ for me.”

“Because it is he who has saved me,” said the pope. “I am not less of a sinner than them, but the Lord has taken me in hand. And this, I feel it.”

“Being pope is being bishop, being priest, being pastor,” said Francis. “If a pope doesn’t act like a bishop, if a pope doesn’t act like a priest, doesn’t act like a pastor, he will be a very intelligent person, very important, will have much influence in society, but I think -- I think! -- that in his heart he is not happy.”


[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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