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Romano Guardini

Romano Guardini

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Romano Guardini was a Catholic priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

, author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

, and academic. He was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in 20th-century.

Life and work

Guardini was born in Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 1885, but his family moved to Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

 when he was one year old and he lived in Germany for the rest of his life. After studying chemistry in Tübingen for two semesters, and economics in Munich and Berlin for three, he discerned a vocation to the priesthood. He studied Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 in Freiburg im Breisgau
Freiburg im Breisgau is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In the extreme south-west of the country, it straddles the Dreisam river, at the foot of the Schlossberg. Historically, the city has acted as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest in the Upper Rhine Plain...

 and Tübingen, and was ordained priest in Mainz in 1910. He briefly worked in a pastoral position before returning to Freiburg to work on his doctorate in Theology under Engelbert Krebs. He received the doctorate in 1915, for a dissertation on Bonaventure
Saint Bonaventure, O.F.M., , born John of Fidanza , was an Italian medieval scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also a Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He was canonized on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the...

. He completed his “Habilitation
Habilitation is the highest academic qualification a scholar can achieve by his or her own pursuit in several European and Asian countries. Earned after obtaining a research doctorate, such as a PhD, habilitation requires the candidate to write a professorial thesis based on independent...

” in Dogmatic Theology
Dogmatic theology
Dogmatic theology is that part of theology dealing with the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and his works, especially the official theology recognized by an organized Church body, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Dutch Reformed Church, etc...

 at the University of Bonn
University of Bonn
The University of Bonn is a public research university located in Bonn, Germany. Founded in its present form in 1818, as the linear successor of earlier academic institutions, the University of Bonn is today one of the leading universities in Germany. The University of Bonn offers a large number...

 in 1922, again with a dissertation on Bonaventure. Throughout this period he also worked as a chaplain to the Catholic youth movement.

In 1923 he was appointed to a chair in Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of religion
Philosophy of religion is a branch of philosophy concerned with questions regarding religion, including the nature and existence of God, the examination of religious experience, analysis of religious language and texts, and the relationship of religion and science...

 at the University of Berlin, which he held until forced to resign by the Nazis in 1939. In the 1935 essay “Der Heiland” (The Saviour) he had openly criticized Nazi mythologizing of the person of Jesus, and emphasized the Jewishness of Jesus. 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. Finally, in 1948, he became professor at the University of Munich, where he remained until retiring, for health reasons, in 1962. His ill health prevented him playing any active role in the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...


Romano Guardini died in Munich 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.

Reputation and influence

Guardini's books were often powerful studies of traditional themes in the light of present-day challenges, or conversely examinations of current problems as approached from the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

, and especially Catholic, tradition. He was able to get inside such different worldviews as those of Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, Dante
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

, Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

, Kierkegaard 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
Liturgical Movement
The Liturgical Movement began as a movement of scholarship for the reform of worship within the Roman Catholic Church. It has grown over the last century and a half and has affected many other Christian Churches, including the Church of England and other Churches of the Anglican Communion, and some...

 in Germany, and so ultimately on the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

. Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...

 offered to make him a cardinal in 1965, but he respectfully declined.

As a philosopher he founded no “school”, but his intellectual disciples could in some sense be said to include Josef Pieper
Josef Pieper
Josef Pieper was a German Catholic philosopher, at the forefront of the Neo-Thomistic wave in twentieth century Catholic philosophy. Among his most notable works are The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance; Leisure: the Basis of Culture; The Philosophical Act and Guide...

, Luigi Giussani
Luigi Giussani
Monsignor Luigi Giovanni Giussani , Italian Catholic priest, educator, public intellectual and founder of the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation .-Biography:...

, Felix Messerschmid, Heinrich Getzeny, Rudolf Schwarz
Rudolf Schwarz
Rudolf Schwarz may refer to:* Rudolf Schwarz , German architect* Rudolf Schwarz , Austrian-born British conductor...

, Jean Gebser
Jean Gebser
Jean Gebser was a philosopher who described the structures of human consciousness, a linguist, and a poet.-Biography:...

, and Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

). Even Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt was a German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact...

 and Iring Fetscher were favourably impressed by his work. He had a strong influence in Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

; in Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

, for example, an influential group of Christian socialists, among whom Edvard Kocbek
Edvard Kocbek
Edvard Kocbek was a Slovenian poet, writer, essayist, translator, political activist, and resistance fighter. He is considered as one of the best authors who have written in Slovene, and one of the best Slovene poets after Prešeren...

, Pino Mlakar
Pino Mlakar
Pino Mlakar was a Slovenian ballet dancer, choreographer, and teacher. He was born in Novo MestoIn 1927 he graduated from the Rudolf Laban Choreographic Institute in Hamburg....

, Vekoslav Grmič and Boris Pahor
Boris Pahor
Boris Pahor is a Slovene writer from Italy. He is considered to be one of the most influential living authors in the Slovene language and has been nominated for the Nobel prize for literature by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts...

, 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
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, writing a short monograph. In 1952, Guardini won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is an international peace prize given yearly at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt am Main, Germany...


The 1990s saw something of a revival of interest in his works and person, reflected in the reissuing of several of his books 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 by Henry Regnery Publishing in the late 1940s, remained in print for decades and, according to Henry Regnery, was "one of the most successful books I have ever published." The novelist Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor
Mary Flannery O'Connor was an American novelist, short-story writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries...

 thought it "very fine" and recommended it to a number of her friends.

Selected bibliography

  • Gottes Werkleute. Briefe ueber Selbstbildung, 1921
  • Der Gegensatz, 1925
  • Grundlegung der Bildungslehre, 1928
  • Das Gute, das Gewissen und die Sammlung, 1929
  • Christliches Bewusstsein, 1935
  • Das Wesen des Christentums, 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
    Otto Friedrich Bollnow
    Otto Friedrich Bollnow was a German philosopher and teacher.He was born the son of a rector in Stettin in what was then northwest Germany and went to school in the town of Anklam...

    ), 1956

Major works available in English

  • The End of the Modern World. Sheed & Ward, 1957. More recently in a revised edition by ISI Books, 1998. ISBN 978-1-882926-23-7
  • The Art of Praying: The Principles and Methods of Christian Prayer. Sophia Institute Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0-918477-21-7
  • The Lord. Regnery Publishing, 1996. ISBN 978-0-89526-714-6
  • The Essential Guardini: An Anthology, edited by Heinz R. Kuehn. Liturgy Training Publications, 1997. ISBN 978-1-56854-133-4
  • The Spirit of the Liturgy. Crossroad Publishing, 1998. ISBN 978-0-8245-1777-9
  • Living the Drama of Faith. Sophia Institute Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-918477-77-4
  • Learning the Virtues. Sophia Institute Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-918477-64-4
  • The Death of Socrates. Kessinger Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4325-5430-9
  • The Rosary of Our Lady. Sophia Institute Press, 1998.

External links