Tag Archives: Hans Urs von Balthasar

The Good Priest

vB on priesthoodIn the region of the country in which I live there are some very good priests: attentive to matters of faith and reason, attentive to their spiritual life, eager for apostolic work, work on being truly human and serious about the offering sacrifice as a priest of Jesus Christ. The men I am thinking of are not clowns. They prepare for the sacred Liturgy, want to do good by the Church and the Lord, they see their spiritual director monthly,  and spend time in daily prayer. These priests also read books, visit musea, and like people. Theirs is a real life of prayer, work and study.

On the other hand, I have known lots of priests who seek preferment in civil and ecclesial circles under the guise of “obedience”, develop a personality cult, I know who one is a frequent visitor to sex shops, others are alcoholic, addicted to power, I know one is in prison for drug related charges, others are lazy, economical with the truth, ignorant and ill mannered, superficial and these are their good qualities. Just recently a priest proudly stated that he was leaving his venerable religious order and the exercise of Catholic priesthood and joining the Episcopal Communion. Another priest I know who falls in this category of “bad priest” was recently given a new job of considerable authority and influence in his diocese and who has little integrity, or care for others. This same priest has had charge of men preparing for sacred priesthood, too.

For the record, there is no time when the words “I’m the priest, and this is my parish” are to be uttered and heard. Otherwise, the one who thinks in such way betrays his baptismal and priestly ordination.

The sinful aspects of what I described above are the result of the thoughts, will and affections being disordered by someone other than the Most Trinity — that is, Satan. We too often allow the circumstances of life control the beauty of personhood slowly moving us away from our true self as we are made in God’s image. And in moving away from our true center we move away from God who gave us those beautiful desires to know, love and to serve in this world –that is, to have the hundredfold promised Jesus– to serve under another banner not divine or holy. Hence, the metaphor of the “bad priest.”

So, when you read this phrase, “A good priest is a miracle of grace” it ought to be a striking idea upon which to reflect. Thanks be to God of Balthasar!

Loyola taught us that the three devices of Satan are money, power and fame. He also notes the sin of ingratitude –a big sin for Saint Ignatius.

Those who reflect on this issues with depth and sincerity will notice the ways in which the devil corrupts those who have consecrated their lives to God for the service of the Church. Think of CS Lewis’ book, Screwtape Letters. Recall the agenda of the tempter: the priesthood and sacramentality are messed around with by Satan. Many fall prey, others don’t. And that is why I’m so grateful for priestly vocations lived well.

Hans Urs von Balthasar remembered

Von BalthasarToday is the anniversary of death of Hans Urs von Balthasar, the renowned theologian of our era. Remembering Balthasar I also recall my dear friend, Jesuit Father Edward T. Oakes, who did much to make Balthasar’s theological perspective known and used.

Father Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–1988), a Swiss Catholic theologian, is remembered as one of the 20th century’s great theologians yet was not never a university professor nor invited as a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council. Balthasar’s theological and philosophical output was massive which has influenced the course of theology today. His key idea was the idea that God’s relation to creation is the convergence of of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  It was Oakes who would remind me that Balthasar was the “kneeling theologian,” that is, appreciating the contemplative and liturgical tradition and indicating the way I ought to reflect on the Divine Majesty versus the academic or “sitting” theological approach (most often credited to people like Karl Rahner).

In 1929, he entered the Society of Jesus with a doctorate in literature. During theological studies for priesthood he found himself discouraged by the neo-scholastic theology offered having been attracted to the Church Fathers. He and the Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth had mutual interest in theological thinking; Balthasar later wrote a book on Barth.

From experience we know that we all have our complements. Balthasar’s was doctor and mystic, Adrienne von Speyr, whom he had received into full communion with the Church. Their complementarity was friendship in the Lord looking for greater communion in the Divine, Trinitarian Life. Balthasar and Speyr founded a Secular Institute, the Community of St John –which you can read about in the book, Our Task, that tries to bridge religious and lay vocations. At this point he was dismissed from the Society of Jesus.

In 1988, John Paul II announced his intention to name Balthasar to the College of Cardinals. He had been offered the red hat before, but declined its acceptance. He died two days before the consistory on June 26, 1988.

“In the trinitarian dogma God is one, good, true, and beautiful because he is essentially Love, and Love supposes the one, the other, and their unity.”

Prayers for Hans Urs von Balthasar: priest, theologian, cardinal-designate.

Holy Saturday from an Orthodox perspective

Holy Saturday is one of the mis-understood days the sacred Triduum. As a church body, we just don’t have a firm  grasp of what Mother Church has to say and experience. Several theologians, for example, Popes John Paul and Benedict, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Richard John Neuhaus have all tried to focus our attention on what God has done for us on Holy Saturday. Father Alexander Schmemann, an orthodox liturgical theologian and priest, is one of my favorite liturgical authors. Sadly, he died of cancer many years ago, but his work continues to bear much fruit, as I hope you will appreciate by reading the following entry. Since today is Holy Saturday for the Orthodox Church, I am offering for our meditation (a review?) the events of our salvation.

Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath.

“The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:

God blessed the seventh day.

This is the blessed Sabbath

This is the day of rest,

on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works….” (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

Holy Saturday icon.jpg

By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.


Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day–Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another–Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death that Christ continues to effect triumph.

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The Eucharistic Theology of Pope Francis: Covenant and holiness for service and life

Breaking of the bread. Español: Fracción del p...

As the “new man” on the block I am trying to figure what the new Roman Pontiff’s taught prior to his move to Rome. In 2008, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio now Pope Francis, was invited to give a teaching on the Holy Eucharist to International Eucharistic Congress, Quebec City, Canada. The title of his talk was “The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World.”

I would say that his controlling idea is based on the Aparecida document where it is written, “The Eucharist is the vital center of the universe, able to satisfy our hunger for life and happiness. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood in this happy banquet participates in eternal life, and thus our daily existence is transformed into an extension of the Mass.” He then develops the theme of the Eucharist as gift and mission in light of the Church’s enduring self-understanding as covenant. He appeals to tradition, some saints and the Mother of God to demonstrate that evangelization is about Eucharistic Presence, sacrifice, and communion. He argues in the key of communio theology.

Much of what we’ve heard in the last two weeks in his papal addresses and homilies given here.

The text: Bergoglio Eucharist Gift of God for the Life of the World.pdf

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What Benedict XVI will be reading?

vB Post Critical Bib Inter.pngI can’t verify this information personally but Salt and Light TV heard the news bite, and it sounds right, that one of the books Benedict XVI will be reading in his retirement is W.T. Dickens’ Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theological Aesthetics: A Model for Post-Critical Biblical Interpretation (UND Press, 2003).

Dr. Dickens also published a journal article in The Heythrop Journal, “The Liturgical Shaping of Biblical Interpretation” (March 2012; Vol. 53, Is 2;  pp. 191-203).
W.T. Dickens earned his doctorate at Yale, was a visiting professor at Cornell University and is now the Chair of Religious Studies at Siena College.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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