Romano Guardini on sacred integration

The Catholic priest who illuminated faith with doubt , humanity with eternity, and culture with truth.

Appears in Fall 2008 Issue: Making the most of college (third annual)
September 1st, 2008

St. Ludwig Kirche in Munich stands amid Ludwig Maximilian University on the city's majestic Ludwigstrasse. It is a place of worship, prayer, and meditation for the university's students, faculty, and staff, as well as for nearby residents. This church is noteworthy not only because it unites Byzantine and Italian-Gothic elements in its neoromanesque architecture, but also because it preserves the remembrance of Romano Guardini, its remarkable preacher from 1948 to 1961.

Romano Guardini, a Catholic priest and a theology professor, is honoured there today in two ways. First, affixed to the church's pulpit is a bronze plaque with an image of Guardini, his name, and his words: "The truth has a bright and calm power. In my pastoral work, I have one aim: to help by means of the truth."

Second, the church contains a meditation chapel in which Guardini is buried. After walking through a dark, low passageway, visitors enter a high-vaulted room aglow with natural light. As they stand, sit or kneel in uncluttered stillness and face an altar, they can find their souls pulled upward by the chapel's elongated windows so that they gaze toward the heights in and beyond the church's arches. In this movement, they can engage in the contemplation that Guardini himself practiced and taught.

Who was Romano Guardini (February 17, 1885 - October 1, 1968), and what were some of his insights?

Born in Verona, Italy, Guardini grew up in Mainz, Germany. At an early age, he matured into a "man of letters," a Renaissance thinker, in pursuit of life's meaning and truth. Working in theology, philosophy, literary criticism, and cultural analysis, he held professorships in Berlin (1923-1939), Tübingen (1945-1947), and Munich (1948-1963). With his approximately 70 books and 100 articles and countless lectures, he touched the hearts and minds of thousands of people, including Hannah Arendt, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Martin Buber, Dorothy Day, Martin Heidegger, Thomas Merton, Olivier Messiaen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Flannery O'Connor, and Karl Rahner, S.J. Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI (formerly, Josef Ratzinger) still frequently quotes Guardini.

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