Tag Archives: Hans Urs von Balthasar

Adrienne von Speyr

A women not really known in the US is the Mystic and Theologian, Physician, Writer: Adrienne von Speyr (20 September 1902 – 17 September 1967); she is known in theological circles as being a close associate to the Swiss theologian and priest, Hans Urs von Balthasar.

On this date, the feast of Saint Hildegard von Bingen, von Speyr died. Some will say that Speyr’s devotion to Hildegard provided her with a fitting intercessor at the Throne of Grace at this key time in her mission. Both shared a similar vocation.

Among the interesting things about Adrienne’s theological work is her 4 volume commentary on the Gospel of St John which she claimed St John dictated to her. Likewise, her volume, Book of All Saints, is quite interesting. A book I have not read but that is recommended to me is Matthew Sutton’s Heaven Opens: The Trinitarian Mysticism of Adrienne von Speyr.

Balthasar once wrote of his friend,

“In fact, on one occasion very soon after her conversion, she was driving home from her office, she suddenly saw a great light in front of her car (a pedestrian also jumped aside in fear, and Adrienne stopped) and heard a voice close by which gave the key to all that was to follow: Tu vivras au ciel et sur la terre  (You shall live in heaven and on earth).”

Hans Urs von Balthasar, First Glance At Adrienne von Speyr

What is interesting about Balthasar’s comment is a similar experience Saint Benedict had shortly before he died where, according to Saint Gregory the Great Benedict saw the whole world in a ray of light. Saints beget saints.

Believing in the Word

christ-holding-gospels“The shepherds believe the word. The word sends them from heaven and to earth, and as they proceed along this path, from light to darkness, from the extraordinary to the ordinary, from the solitary experience of God to the realm of ordinary human intercourse, from the splendor above to the poverty below, they are given the confirmation they need: the sign fits. Only now does their fearful joy under heaven’s radiance turn into a completely uninhibited, human and Christian joy. Because it fits. And why does it fit? Because the Lord, the High God, has taken the same path as they have: he has left his glory behind him and gone into the dark world, into the child’s apparent insignificance, into the unfreedom of human restrictions and bonds, into the poverty of the crib. This is the Word in action, and as yet the shepherds do not know, no one knows, how far down into the darkness this Word-in-action will lead. At all events it will descend much deeper than anyone else into what is worldly, apparently insignificant and profane; into what is bound, poor and powerless; so much so that we shall not be able to follow the last stage of his path. A heavy stone will block the way, preventing the others from approaching, while, in utter night, in ultimate loneliness and forsakenness, he descends to his dead human brothers.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar

Raymond Thomas Gawronski meets the Lord

Gawronski Jason crocker Sophia CWeddingA man who followed Christ to the priesthood and to the personal companionship in the spiritual life died recently. Jesuit Father Raymond Thomas Gawronski, 65, died after living with cancer on 14 April 2016. His most recent ministry was to serve as professor of dogmatics at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California.

I knew Father Gawronski as gifted in very many ways due to the natural gifts of his humanity and because of the integration of his intellect and life of prayer. All his friends and associates would say this. Most keenly he was nurtured by the Eastern Christianity and served as a Byzantine (Melkite) priest for the Eparchy of Newton.

In an interview with CNA, seminary rector Father Stevens said what he appreciated about Father Gawronski was the insistence he placed on integration of faith and reason: “we have to do a better job bringing together the intellectual and spiritual life.” He was speaking of the seminarians he was mentoring. Further, “That comes a lot from his work on von Balthasar. This recognition that the life of the mind and the life of the spirit cannot be seen as two separate things to be cultivated: and that was certainly apparent when he put together the spiritually program, but that’s how he approached everything. In his homilies, his spiritual direction, in his class, he just went back and forth between his life of prayer and his scholarship without skipping a beat, and I admire that so much.” Indeed, this is THE ONLY model of Christian living that’s tenable.

If you are inclined to read good theology then I would recommend Father Gawronski’s book, Word and Silence: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Spiritual Encounter Between East and West. There is also: A Closer Walk with Christ: A Personal Ignatian Retreat.

May Father Gawronski’s memory be eternal!

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.

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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