Saturday, January 15, 2005 +

About Romano Guardini

Friday, January 14, 2005 +

Circles of Ankhs

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Thursday, January 13, 2005 +

Guardini: Possibilities of Action

From Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World, “Possibilities of Action”:

“What can be done?”. . . Man must accept the full measure of his responsibility; but to be able to do this, he must regain the right relation to the truth of things, to the demands of his own deepest self, and finally to God. . . . Everything that exists is shaped in a meaningful form which provides acting man with the norm from which to draw the possible and the right. Freedom does not consist in following our personal or political predilections, but in doing what is required by the essence of things.

Let us be explicit. Have we ever stopped to consider exactly what takes place when the average superior assigns a task to a subordinate . . . when the average school teacher teaches a class or maintains discipline . . . judge decides a case . . . priest champions the things of God . . . doctor treats a patient . . . industrialist directs his firm . . . merchant supplies his customers . . . factory-worker tends his machine . . . farmer runs his farm? Is it really clear to us in each concrete process what the decisive intention and attitude was, and what its direct and indirect results? Was the truth in each case protected? Its particular validity trusted? Did the person encountered go away feeling that he had been treated with dignity, that he had been received as a person by a person? Did that other appeal to his freedom, to all that is vital and creative in him? Together did they reach the heart of the matter, broaching it as it was meant to be broached, essentially?

The objection that these are private matters of no historical importance does not hold. Every historical process, even the most dynamic, is made up of just such situations, and the way they are dealt with is what gives each phase of history its particular mold.

Elementary things, which we ought to be able to take for granted, we can no longer take for granted.

The lack of human warmth and dignity in our contacts with “the world” is what chills the heart, and what lurks at the bottom of the growing feeling that things are no longer “right.” The fact must be recognized and accepted that even the most commonplace “public relations” are not a matter of private morality, but the life blood of every historical process and public policy, and that on them will depend the health or death of our political and cultural existence.

Let us attempt the difficult and thankless task of suggesting a few practical points of view. . . . First, we must try to rediscover something of what is called the contemplative attitude, actually experience it ourselves, not just talk about it interestingly. . . . In a word, man must learn again to meditate and to pray.

Next we must pose the elementary question as to the essence of things. . . . One look is enough to reveal how schematic is our attitude to things; what slaves of convention we are; how superficially—from the criteria of mere advantage, ease, and time-saving—we approach things. Yet each thing has an essence. When this is ignored or abused, a resistance is built up which neither cunning nor violence can overcome.

The elemental realities we live from, for, with. . . . We deal with them constantly, arrange and reshape them—but do we know what they are? Apparently not, or we would not treat them so casually. So we had better find out what they are, and not merely with a detached rationality, but by penetrating them so deeply that we are shaken by their power and significance.

Further, we must learn again that command over the world presupposes command of self. For how can men control the growing monstrousness of power when they cannot even control their own appetites?

There has never been greatness without asceticsm, and what is needed today is something not only great but ultimate: we must decide whether we are going to realize the requirements of rule in freedom or in slavery.

An ascetic is a man who has himself well in hand. To be capable of this, he must recognize the wrongs within himself and set about righting them. He must regulate his physical as well as his intellectual appetites, educate himself to hold his possessions in freedom, sacrificing the lesser for the greater. He must fight for inner health and freedom—against the machinations of advertising, the flood of loud sensationalism, against noise in all its forms. He must acquire a certain distance from things; must train himself to think independently, to resist what “they” say. Street, traffic, newspaper, radio, screen, and television all present problems of self-discipline, indeed of the most elementary self-defense—problems we hardly suspect, to say nothing of tackling. Everywhere man is capitulating to the forces of barbarism. Asceticism is the refusal to capitulate, the determination to fight them, there at the key bastion—namely, in ourselves. It means that through self-discipline and self-restraint he develops from the core outward, holding life high in honor so that it may be fruitful on the level of its deepest significance.

Further, we must weigh again, in all earnestness, the existential question of our ultimate relation to God. . . . Man is not so constructed as to be complete in himself and, in addition, capable of entering into relations with God or not as he sees fit; his very essence consists in his relation to God. The only kind of man that exists is man-in-relation-to-God; and what he understands by that relationship, how seriously he takes it, and what he does about it are the determining factors of his character.

Finally, Do everything that is to be done with respect for the truth, and do it in freedom of spirit, in spite of the obstacles within and without, and in the teeth of selfishness, sloth, cowardice, popular opinion. And do it with confidence!

By this I do not mean to follow a program of any kind, but to make the simple responses that always were and always will be right: Not to wait until someone in need asks for help, but to offer it; to perform every official act in a manner befitting both common sense and human dignity; to declare the truth when its “hour” has come, even when it will bring down opposition or ridicule; to accept responsibility when the conscience considers it a duty.

When one so acts, he paves a road, which, followed with sincerty and courage, leads far, no one can say how far, into the realm where the great things of Time are decided.

It may seem strange that our consideration of universal problems should end on the most personal level possible. But as the subtitle [to the second part of The End of the Modern World] of Power and Responsibility indicates, it is an attempt to set a course. What would be the sense of developing ideas while ignoring the point from which they can be realized or fail to be realized? It cannot have escaped the reader that in these pages we have not tried to present programs or panaceas, but to free the initiative for fruitful action.

Guardini: Reality Radio (1950)
Guardini: The New Concept of the World and of Man
Guardini: The Dissolution of the Modern World
Guardini: The Birth of the Modern World

Guardini: Reality Radio (1950)

From Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World, “Possibilities of Action”, note 3:

A well-known Hamburg newspaper, Die Zeit, reported that a modern radio-dramatist, secretly, by night, lowered a microphone in front of the open bedroom window of an elderly couple who lived in the apartment below him. The North Western German Radio then broadcast the matrimonial quarrel-scene along with other microphonic “candid shots” from everyday life. Apparently, not without certain misgivings. However, these were not moral but only juridical; they vanished when the dramatist produced convincing evidence that the people on whom he had eavesdropped, and whose intimacies he had violated with his tapes, had given him permission to broadcast them—in writing.

Guardini: The New Concept of the World and of Man
Guardini: The Dissolution of the Modern World
Guardini: The Birth of the Modern World

Notes 78

Liking makes loving easier.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 +

Guardini: The New Concept of the World and of Man

From Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World, “The New Concept of the World and of Man”:

To the end of time there will be no human existence that does not live with peril.

No constitutional clause, no Supreme Court or local authority, no treaty will avail unless the ordinary man feels that the fate of the res republica, the common cause of human existence in freedom and dignity, lies in his hands.

Present conditions require not the single great genius, but a whole new human structure.

The man we envision must unhesitatingly place security, utility, and welfare second; the greatness of the coming world image first.

. . . an elemental relationship to technology.

. . . profoundly aware of the dangers inherent in present-day conditions.

. . . love of the world . . . deepened by the precariousness, vulnerability, helplessness of his beloved.

The coming man is definitely un-liberal, which does not mean that he has no respect for freedom. The “liberal” attitude is that which declines to incorporate absolutes into existence because their either-or engenders struggle.

Here is the prerequisite for the greatest task he faces: that of establishing an authority which respects human dignity, of creating a social order in which the person can exist.

Guardini: The Dissolution of the Modern World
Guardini: The Birth of the Modern World

Christian Carnival LII

Tuesday, January 11, 2005 +

The Catholic Carnival #12: Strong in Faith

Cross 2001

Monday, January 10, 2005 +

Guardini: The Dissolution of the Modern World

From Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World, “The Dissolution of the Modern World”:

The Faith of Christian men will need to take on a new decisiveness. It must strip itself of all secularism, all analogies with the secular world, all flabbiness and eclectic mixtures. Here, it seems to me, we have solid reasons for confidence. The Christian has always found it difficult to come to an understanding of modern attitudes, but we touch an issue here which needs more exact consideration. We do not mean that the Middle Ages was an historic epoch fully Christian in nature, nor do we mean that the modern world was an age fully un-Christian. Such assertions would resemble those of Romanticism, which have caused enough confusion. The Middle Ages were carried forward by forms of sensibility, thought and action which were basically neutral to the question of Faith, insofar as one can say such a thing at all. Similarly the modern world was carried by neutral forms. Within the modern era Western man created as his own an attitude of individual independence, yet that attitude said nothing about either the moral or the religious use which he made of his independence.

To be a Christian, however, demands an attitude toward Revelation: this demand can be found in every era of Western history. As far as this Christian attitude was concerned, Revelation remained equally near and equally distant for each epoch. Thus the Middle Ages contained its share of unbelief in every stage of decision: similarly the modern world demonstrated its share of full Christian affirmation. The modern Christian differed in character from his medieval ancestor, since he was forced to incarnate his faith within an historic situation which espoused individual independence, but he often succeeded as well as did the man of the Middle Ages. Indeed, the modern Christian faced obstacles which made it difficult for him to accept his age in the simple way that the medieval Christian would accept his. The memory of the revolt made against God by the modern world was too vividly impressed on the modern Christian. He was too aware of the manner in which his age had forced all cultural values to contradict his Faith. He knew too well the dubious and inferior position into which the world had forced that Faith. Besides these indignities there remained that modern dishonesty of which we have spoken, that hypocrisy which denied Christian doctrine and a Christian order of life even as it usurped its human and cultural effects. This dishonesty made the Christian feel insecure in his relation to the modern age. Everywhere within the modern world he found ideas and values whose Christian origin was clear, but which were declared the common property of all. How could he trust a situation like that? But the new age will do away with these ambivalences; the new age will declare that the secularized facets of Christianity are sentimentalities. This declaration will clear the air. The world to come will be filled with animosity and danger, but it will be a world open and clean. This danger within the new world will also have its cleansing effect upon the new Christian attitude, which in a special way must possess both trust and courage.

The character and the conduct of coming Christian life will reveal itself especially through its old dogmatic roots. Christianity will once again need to prove itself deliberately as a faith which is not self-evident; it will be forced to distinguish itself more sharply from a dominantly non-Christian ethos. . . . The absolute experiencing of dogma will, I believe, make men feel more sharply the direction of life and the meaning of existence itself.

The Old Testament will take on a new significance.

Trust and courage will totally form the character of the last age. The surrounding “Christian” culture and the traditions supported by it will lose their effectiveness.

Loneliness in faith will be terrible.

The more precious will that love be which flows from one lonely person to another, involving a courage of the heart born from the immediacy of the love of God as it was made known in Christ. . . . Perhaps love will achieve an intimacy and harmony never known to this day.

No man has the right to say that the End is here. . . . If we speak . . . of the nearness of the End, we do not mean nearness in the sense of time, but nearness as it pertains to the essence of the End, for in essence man's existence is now nearing an absolute decision. Each and every consequence of the decision bears within it the greatest potentiality and the most extreme danger.

Guardini: The Birth of the Modern World

Sunday, January 09, 2005 +

Notes 77

Faith is a goal, not an accomplishment.

The closest thing to you is people.

Mass Man remains main.

Nature, Personality, Culture

Book title: A Man Without Adjectives

Heart Labyrinth

A Java applet.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-2

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. Matthew 3:13-15

What went ye out into the wilderness to see? Matthew 11:7

Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. Matthew 21:31

Shall We Gather at the River?

Robert Lowry

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?


Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.


Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.


At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.


Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.