Romano Guardini

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Romano Guardini
Romano Guardini um 1920.JPG
Guardini in 1920
Ordination28 May 1910 (Priest)
by Georg Heinrich Kirstein
Personal details
Born(1885-02-17)17 February 1885
Died1 October 1968(1968-10-01) (aged 83)
Munich, Germany
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Title as SaintServant of God

Romano Guardini (17 February 1885 – 1 October 1968) was a German Catholic priest, author, and academic. He was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th century.

Life and work[edit]

Guardini was born in Verona, Italy, in 1885 and baptized in the Church of San Nicolò all'Arena. His father was a dealer in eggs and poultry. Guardini had three siblings. The family moved to Mainz when he was one year old and he lived in Germany for the rest of his life. He attended the Rabanus-Maurus-Gymnasium. Guardini wrote that as a young man he was “always anxious and very scrupulous.”[1]

Fluent in Italian and German, he also studied Latin, Greek, French, and English. After studying chemistry in Tübingen for two semesters, and economics in Munich and Berlin for three, he decided to become a priest. He studied Theology in Freiburg im Breisgau and Tübingen. Impressed by the monastic spirituality of the monks of Beuron Archabbey, he became a Benedictine oblate, taking the name Odilio.[2] Guardini was ordained a diocesan priest in Mainz by Georg Heinrich Kirstein in 1910.

Peterskirche, Mainz

He briefly worked in a pastoral position at St. Christoph's Church, Mainz before returning to Freiburg to work on his doctorate in Theology under Engelbert Krebs. He received his doctorate in 1915 for a dissertation on Bonaventure. He completed his "Habilitation" in Dogmatic Theology at the University of Bonn in 1922, again with a dissertation on Bonaventure. Throughout this period he also worked as a parish priest at St. Ignatius, St. Emmeran's, and St. Peter's and served as chaplain to the Catholic youth movement. During World War I he served as a hospital orderly.[2]

In 1923 he was appointed to a chair in Philosophy of Religion at the University of Berlin.[1] In the 1935 essay "Der Heiland" (The Saviour) he criticized Nazi mythologizing of the person of Jesus and emphasized the Jewishness of Jesus. The Nazis forced him to resign from his Berlin position in 1939. From 1943 to 1945 he retired to Mooshausen, where his friend Josef Weiger had been parish priest since 1917.

In 1945 Guardini was appointed professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Tübingen and resumed lecturing on the Philosophy of Religion. In 1948, he became professor at the University of Munich,[1] where he remained until retiring for health reasons in 1962. That same year, he received the Erasmus Prize,[2] an annual prize awarded by the board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation to individuals or institutions that have made exceptional contributions to culture, society, or social science in Europe.

Pope Paul VI offered to make Guardini a cardinal in 1965, but he declined.[3]

Guardini died in Munich, Bavaria on 1 October 1968. He was buried in the priests’ cemetery of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Munich. His estate was left to the Catholic Academy in Bavaria that he had co-founded.

In December 2017, the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising opened the cause of canonization for Guardini, thus designating him a Servant of God.

Reputation and influence[edit]

Guardini's books were often powerful studies of traditional themes in the light of present-day challenges or examinations of current problems as approached from the Christian, and especially Catholic, tradition. He was able to enter into the worldview of those such as Socrates, Plato, Augustine, Dante, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, and make sense of them for modern readers.

His first major work, Vom Geist der Liturgie (The Spirit of the Liturgy), published during the First World War, was a major influence on the Liturgical Movement in Germany and by extension on the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.[4] He is generally regarded as the father of the liturgical movement in Germany, and in his "Open Letter" of April 1964 to Mgr. Johannes Wagner, the organizer of the Third German Liturgical Congress in Mainz, he "raises important questions regarding the nature of the liturgical act in the wake of individualism, asking whether it is possible for twentieth-century Christians really to engage in worship. Is it possible to 'relearn a forgotten way of doing things and recapture lost attitudes', so as to enter into the liturgical experience?."[5] It was his glad hope that after the call by the Second Vatican Council for liturgical reform, the Catholic Church might shift its focus from the merely ceremonial, important though that was, to a broader idea of true liturgical action—action that "embraced not only a spiritual inwardness, but the whole man, body as well as spirit."[6] He himself gave an example of his meaning: A parish priest of the late 19th century once said (according to Guardini's illustration), "We must organize the procession better; we must see to it that the praying and singing is done better." For Guardini, the parish priest had missed the point of what true liturgical action is. He should instead have asked, "How can the act of walking become a religious act, a retinue for the Lord progressing through his land, so that an 'epiphany' may take place."[6]

As a philosopher he founded no "school", but his intellectual disciples could in some sense be said to include Josef Pieper, Luigi Giussani, Felix Messerschmid, Heinrich Getzeny, Rudolf Schwarz, Jean Gebser, Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), and Jorge Mario Bergoglio (later Pope Francis). In the 1980s Bergoglio began work on a doctoral dissertation on Guardini, though he never completed it. Pope Francis cited Guardini's The End of the Modern World eight times in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si', more often than any other modern thinker who was not pope. Hannah Arendt and Iring Fetscher were favourably impressed by Guardini's work. He had a strong influence in Central Europe; in Slovenia, for example, an influential group of Christian socialists, among whom Edvard Kocbek, Pino Mlakar, Vekoslav Grmič and Boris Pahor, incorporated Guardini's views in their agenda. Slovak philosopher and theologian Ladislav Hanus was strongly influenced in his works by Guardini, whom he met personally, and promoted his ideas in Slovakia, writing a short monograph.[7] In 1952, Guardini won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

The 1990s saw something of a revival of interest in his works and person. Several of his books were reissued in the original German and in English translation. In 1997 his remains were moved to the Sankt Ludwig Kirche, the University church in Munich, where he had often preached.

Guardini's book The Lord, published in English translation in the late 1940s, remained in print for decades[8] and, according to publisher Henry Regnery, was "one of the most successful books I have ever published."[9] The novelist Flannery O'Connor thought it "very fine" and recommended it to a number of her friends.[10]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Gottes Werkleute. Briefe ueber Selbstbildung, 1921
  • Von heiligen Zeichen, 1922–1925
  • Der Gegensatz, 1925
  • Grundlegung der Bildungslehre, 1928
  • Das Gute, das Gewissen und die Sammlung, 1929
  • Vom Sinn der Kirche, 1933
  • Christliches Bewusstsein, 1935
  • Das Wesen des Christentums, 1937
  • Dante-Studien. 1. Band: Der Engel in Dantes Göttlicher Komödie 1937
  • Welt und Person, 1939
  • Der Tod des Sokrates, 1943
  • Die Lebensalter, 1944
  • Freiheit, Gnade, Schicksal, 1948
  • Das Ende der Neuzeit, 1950
  • Sorge um den Menschen, 1962
  • Begegnung und Bildung, (together with O. F. Bollnow), 1956
  • Dante-Studien. 2. Band: Landschaft der Ewigkeit (München 1958)
  • Dante-Studien. 3. Band: Dantes Göttliche Komödie. Ihre philosophischen und religiösen Grundgedanken (Vorlesungen). Aus dem Nachlaß herausgegeben von Martin Marschall. Grünewald / Schöningh, Mainz / Paderborn 1998, ISBN 3-7867-2129-7 / ISBN 3-506-74559-X

Major works translated into English[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Smith, Nicholas Wolfram. "Romano Guardini, Beloved Theologian of Two Popes — and Potential Saint", National Catholic Register, December 15, 2017
  2. ^ a b c Romano Guardini: Proclaiming the Sacred in a Modern World, (Robert Anthony Krieg, ed.) LiturgyTrainingPublications, 1995, p. 15ISBN 9781568541068
  3. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (25 February 2018). "How Romano Guardini helps to shape the 'Spirit of the Papacy'". Crux. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  4. ^ Robert Anthony Krieg, Romano Guardini: A Precursor of Vatican II. University of Notre Dame Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-268-01661-6
  5. ^ Bradshaw & Melloh (2007). Foundations in Ritual Studies: A Reader for Students of Christian Worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8010-3499-2.
  6. ^ a b Guardini, Romano. "Open Letter".
  7. ^ Hanus, Ladislav. Romano Guardini: Mysliteľ a pedagóg storočia. LÚČ, Bratislava, 1994. ISBN 80-7114-124-0
  8. ^ It was still in print as of 2012, with an Introduction by Pope Benedict XVI. ISBN 978-0-89526-714-6
  9. ^ Regnery, Henry S. (1985). Memoirs of a Dissident Publisher (PDF). Lake Bluff, Illinois: Regnery Gateway Inc. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 December 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  10. ^ Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being. Letters, edited by Sally Fitzgerald. Vintage Books, 1980. ISBN 0-394-74259-1[page needed]

External links[edit]