Pope's Address on Romano Guardini

«He Aspired to the Truth of God and to the Truth About Man»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s address, which he gave last month upon receiving in audience members of the «Romano Guardini» Foundation of Berlin, who were in Rome for a congress dedicated to the memory of the theologian, who was a teacher of Joseph Ratzinger himself.
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Most Illustrious President Professor von Pufendorf,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,
It is a joy for me to be able to welcome all of you here, in the Apostolic Palace, who have come to Rome on the occasion of the congress of the Guardini Foundation on the theme «Spiritual and Intellectual Heritage of Romano Guardini.» In particular, I thank dear Professor von Pufendorf, for the cordial words he addressed to me at the beginning of this meeting, in which he expressed all the present «struggle» that unites us to Guardini and, at the same time, calls us to carry forward his life’s work.
In the thanksgiving address on the occasion of the celebration of his 80th birthday, in February 1965, at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Guardini described his life’s task, as he understood it, as a way «of questioning oneself, in a continuous spiritual exchange, which means a Christian Weltanschauung» (Stationen und Ruckblicke, S. 41). The view, this joint look over the world, for Guardini was not a look from outside as a mere object of research. Nor did he pretend to the perspective of the history of the spirit, which examines and ponders what others have said or written on the religious way of an age. All these points of view were insufficient according to Guardini.

In notes on his life, he said: «What interested me immediately was not what someone said about Christian truth but what is true» (Berichte uber mein Leben, S. 24). And it was this approach of his teaching which impressed us young people, because we did not want to know the «pyrotechnic spectacle» of existing opinions in and outside of Christianity: We wanted to know what «is». And here there was one who without fear and, at the same time, with all the seriousness of critical thought, posed this question and helped us to think together.

Guardini did not want to know one or many things. He aspired to the truth of God and to the truth about man. For him the instrument to approach this truth was the Weltanschauung — as it was called at the time — which takes place in a lively exchange with the world and with men. What is specifically Christian consists in the fact that man knows himself in a relationship with God who precedes him and from whom he cannot subtract himself. Our thinking is not the principle that establishes the measure of things, but God who surpasses our measure and who cannot be reduced to any entity created by us.

God reveals himself as the truth, but the latter is not abstract, but on the contrary, is found in the concrete-living, in fine, in the form of Jesus Christ. However, whoever wishes to see Jesus, the truth, must «reverse his direction,» must come out of the autonomy of arbitrary thought to the disposition to listen, which accepts what is. And this reversal, which he carried out in his conversion, molded all his thought and life as a continuous going out of autonomy to listening, to receiving. However, even in a genuine relationship with God, man does not always understand what God says. He needs a corrective, and this consists in the exchange with others, which in the living Church of all times has found its reliable form, which unites all with one another.
Guardini was a man of dialogue. His works arose, almost without exception, from a conversation, at least interior. The lessons of the professor of the philosophy of religion and of Christian Weltanschauung at the University of Berlin in the 20s represented above all meetings with personalities of the history of thought. Guardini read the works of these authors, listened to them, learned how they saw the world and entered into dialogue with them to develop, in conversation with them, what he, in so far as Catholic thinker, had to say to their thought. He continued this custom in Munich, and, in fact, it was also the peculiarity of the style of his lessons, being in dialogue with the Thinkers. His key word was «look,» because he wanted to lead us to «see» and he himself was in a common interior dialogue with his listeners.

This was the novelty in regard to the rhetoric of old times: that he, in fact, did not seek any rhetoric, but spoke in a totally simple way with us and, at the same time, spoke with truth and induced us to dialogue with truth. And this was a wide spectrum of «dialogues» with authors such as Socrates, Saint Augustine or Pascal, with Dante, Holderlin, Morike, Rilke and Dostoyevsky. In them he saw living mediators, who discover the present in one word of the past, enabling one to see and live it in a new way. These give us a strength which can lead us back to ourselves.
From man’s opening to truth issues, for Guardini, an ethos, a base for our moral behavior towards our neighbor, as an exigency of our existence. Given that man can find God, he can also act well. True for him is this primacy of ontology over ethos, of the being, of the very being of God correctly understood and heard, from which follows correct action. He said: «A genuine praxis, that is, correct action, arises from truth and must fight for it» (Ibid., S. 111).
Such yearning for truth and the tending toward what is original and essential, Guardini observed, above all, in young people. In his talks with youth, particularly in Rothenfels Castle, which at the time, thanks to Guardini, had become a center of the Catholic youth movement, the priest and educator carried forward the ideals of the youth movement such as self-determination, personal responsibility and the interior disposition to truth: he purified and deepened them.

Liberty, yes, but only he is free — he told us — who is «completely what he must be according to his nature. […] Liberty is truth» (Auf dem Wege, S. 20). For Guardini the truth of man is essentialness and conformity to being. The path leads to truth when man exercises «the obedience of our being in regard to the being of God» (Ibid., S. 21). This happens ultimately in adoration, which for Guardini belongs to the realm of thought.
In supporting youth, Guardini also sought a new access to the liturgy. The rediscovery of the liturgy was for him a rediscovery of the unity between spirit and body in the totality of the unique human being, as the liturgical act is always at the same time a corporal and spiritual act. Prayer is dilated through corporal and community action, and thus reveals the unity of the whole of reality. The liturgy is symbolic acting. The symbol as quintessence of the unity between the spiritual and the material is lost when both are separated, when the world is fragmented in a dualistic way in spirit and body, in subject and object. Guardini was profoundly convinced that man is spirit in body and body in spirit and that, therefore, the liturgy and the symbol lead him to the essence of himself, in a word, lead him through adoration to the truth.
Among the great themes of Guardini’s life, the relationship between faith and the world is of permanent timeliness. Guardini saw above all in the University the place of the search for truth. The University can be so, however, only when it is free of all instrumentalization and advantages for political ends or of another type. Today, in a world of globalization and fragmentation, it is even more necessary to carry this proposal forward, a proposal that is very important for the Guardini Foundation, and for whose realization the Guardini chair has been created.
Again I express my cordial gratitude to all those present for having come. May appealing frequently to Guardini’s work refine sensibility to the Christian foundations of our culture and society. I impart willingly to you all the apostoli
c blessing.
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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