Romano Guardini


Italian-born German Catholic Priest, Author and Academic

Author Quotes

The new danger arises from a factor intrinsic to the work of man, even to the work of his spirit. The new danger arises from the factor of power . . . Man today holds power over things, but we can assert confidently that he does not yet have power over his own power."

The new man . . . appreciates asceticism again. He knows that there is no authority, which does not begin with the command of self . . . Faith in the so-called goodness of nature is cowardice. It is the refusal to face the evil that is there, too, along with the good. Thus the good loses its depth and earnestness.

The world which is seemingly so clearly defined, distinct, sure, and so utterly concrete, is in fact none of these things; in it God is effecting a constant process of transformation. Under cover of the old, in day-to-day events, encounters and actions, grows the new world.

Trace the connecting line which leads from control of human conception to interrupted pregnancy; from race-breeding to the destruction of undesirable life. What may one not do if by 'one' we mean the average man we encounter everywhere, in the street, in our newspapers, on the screen, radio and television, in literature and drama, and, most ominous of all, in our statesmen, lawmakers, military and economic leaders? When man drops the ethical reins, he places himself utterly at the mercy of power . . . In the long run, domination requires not only the passive consent, but also the will to be dominated, a will eager to drop personal responsibility and personal efforts.

What will count will be not details or elaborations, but fundamentals: dignity or slavery, growth or decline, truth or lie; the mind or the passions . . . Here is the prerequisite for the greatest task he [this man] will face: that of establishing an authority which respects human dignity, of creating a human authority in which the person can exist . . . What real command and real obedience are must be rediscovered. This is possible only . . . when God is acknowledged as the living norm and point of reference for all existence. Ultimately, one can command only from God, obey only in Him.

The coming era will bring a frightful yet salutary preciseness to these conditions . . . As the benefits of Revelation disappear even more from the coming world, man will truly learn what it means to be cut off from Revelation.

The constant talker will never, or a least rarely, grasp truth. Of course even he must experience some truths, otherwise he could not exist. He does notice certain facts, observe certain relations, draw conclusions and make plans. But he does not yet possess genuine truth, which comes into being only when the essence of an object, the significance of a relation, and what is valid and eternal in this world reveal themselves. This requires the speciousness, freedom, and pure receptiveness of that inner ?clean-swept room? which silence alone can create?

The new age will declare that 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.

Silence open the inner fount from which the word arises.

The altar reminds us of the remoteness in which He lives ?beyond the altar,? as we might say, meaning divine distance; or ?above the altar,? meaning divine loftiness both to be understood of course not spatially, but spiritually. They mean that God is the Intangible One, far removed from all approaching, from all grasping; that He is the all-powerful, Majestic One immeasurably exalted above earthly things and earthly striving. Such breadth and height are founded not on measure, but on God?s essence: His holiness, to which man of himself has no access.?

Loneliness in faith will be terrible. Love will disappear from the face of the public world (Matt. 23:12), but 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.

On what does its [the spirit's] health depend? First Plato and later in the fullness of Revelation St. Augustine made this clear: The health of the spirit depends on its relation to truth, to the good and holy. The spirit thrives on knowledge, justice, love, adoration ? not allegorically, but literally.

Philosophy goes into the problem deeply, without changing being at all. Religion tells me that I have been created; that I am continuously receiving myself from divine hands, that I am free yet living from God?s strength. Try to feel your way into this truth, and your whole attitude towards life will change. You will see yourself in an entirely new perspective. What once seemed self-understood becomes questionable. Where once you were indifferent, you become reverent; where self-confident, you learn to know ?fear and trembling.? But where formerly you felt abandoned, you will now feel secure, living as a child of the Creator-Father, and the knowledge that this is precisely what you are will alter the very tap-root of your being.

If a person means only God, then he can say ?God' and mean only himself. There must be an objective reference.

Ethical norms are valid by their own inner truth, but they become historically effective by taking root in man's vital instincts, inclinations of the soul, social structures, cultural forms and traditions. The process we have been studying breaks these ancient rootholds. They are replaced ? at least temporarily ? by formalized rules and regulations and by various techniques known as 'organization.' But organization does not create an ethic. Thus the importance of ethical norms in men's lives gives way to stress on mere expediency. This is true above all of those norms which protect the person.

Who I am I can grasp only in relation to what is beyond me. No; it is better to say that I can understand myself only in relation to the One who has given me me. I cannot understand myself only in relation to myself. Questions about human life which use the word 'why' and the word 'I' cannot be answered by an individual alone. These questions include: Why am I as I am? Why can I have only what I have? Why do I exist? These questions can be answered only in relation to God.

Truth is power, but only when one has patience and requires of it no immediate effect. And one must have no specific aims. Somehow, lack of an agenda is the greatest power. Sometimes it is better not to think in terms of plans; here months may mean nothing, and also years. Truth must be sought for its own sake, its holy, divine greatness.

When a man feels proud of himself, he stands erect, draws himself to his full height, throws back his head and shoulders and says with every part of his body, I am bigger and more important than you. But when he is humble he feels his littleness, and lowers his head and shrinks into himself. He abases himself. And the greater the presence in which he stands the more deeply he abases himself; the smaller he becomes in his own eyes. But when does our littleness so come home to us as when we stand in God's presence? He is the great God, who is today and yesterday, whose years are hundreds and thousands, who fills the place where we are, the city, the wide world, the measureless space of the starry sky, in whose eyes the universe is less than a particle of dust, all-holy, all-pure, all-righteous, infinitely high. He is so great, I so small, so small that beside him I seem hardly to exist, so wanting am I in worth and substance. One has no need to be told that God's presence is not the place in which to stand on one's dignity. To appear less presumptuous, to be as little and low as we feel, we sink to our knees and thus sacrifice half our height; and to satisfy our hearts still further we bow down our heads, and our diminished stature speaks to God and says, Thou art the great God; I am nothing. Therefore let not the bending of our knees be a hurried gesture, an empty form. Put meaning into it. To kneel, in the soul's intention, is to bow down before God in deepest reverence. On entering a church, or in passing before the altar, kneel down all the way without haste or hurry, putting your heart into what you do, and let your whole attitude say, Thou art the great God. It is an act of humility, an act of truth, and every time you kneel it will do your soul good.

The word is a thing of mystery, so volatile that it vanishes almost on the lip, yet so powerful that it decides fates and determines the meaning of existence. A frail structure shaped by fleeting sound, it yet contains the eternal: truth. Words come from within, rising as sounds fashioned by the organs of a man's body, as expressions of his heart and spirit. He utters them, yet he does not create them, for they already existed independently of him. One word is related to another; together they form the great unity of language, that empire of truth-forms in which a man lives.

Today's faith should arise out of an informed, reflective, self-critical assessment. A 'doubting faith' must let go of many beautiful religious and liturgical expressions of faith in order to remain anchored in its essential elements. A faith that does not run from doubt

Truth is a power especially when we require of it no immediate effect, but have patience and figure on a long wait. Still better, truth is a power when we do not think in general about its effects but seek to present it for its own sake, for its holy, divine greatness . . . Sometimes, especially in recent years, I had the sense that truth was standing as a reality in the room.

Life is in many respects a battle, and in this battle, falsehood and deceit might sometimes seem useful. But what on the whole gives us firmness and strength are truth, honesty, and reliability. These qualities bring about enduring results: respect and confidence.

Stillness is tranquility of the inner life, the quiet at the depths of its hidden stream. Stillness is a collected, total presence, a being all there, receptive, alert, ready.

A human person is not solely an individual entity, not solely a private reality. Along with having autonomy, each human being exists in relation to other people. For the Christian, the social aspect of human life springs from the fact that the true or proper 'person,' God

God speaks to us both from within ourselves through the voice of our conscience and also from outside ourselves in the seeming coincidence of people and events. The divine word from within us clarifies the divine word from outside us, and vice versa. A person's ethical life arises out of the continually new challenges coming from the interplay of the inner word and the outer world . . . The interplay of the word within us and the word outside us simultaneously engages the deepest elements of our human existence and the riches of divine revelation.

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Italian-born German Catholic Priest, Author and Academic