Guardini: The Dissolution of the Modern World

05-28-2023Weekly ReflectionFr. Romano Guardini & Fr. John Lankeit

One of the thinkers who had great influence on Pope Benedict XVI was Fr. Romano Guardini. Below is an excerpt about the challenges we face as Christians in this postmodern world.

From Fr. Romano Guardini’s 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 nonChristian 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 Pentecost Sun, May 28 decision. Each and every consequence of the decision bears within it the greatest potentiality and the most extreme danger.

Guest Editorial from Phoenix, Arizona
*Note: This editorial is for general information and instruction and NOT because these abuses occur in our parish.

A Letter from Our Cathedral Rector

Dear Parishioners,

I want to thank all of you who have recently started receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, not to mention those of you who already had been. This subject has generated a lot of buzz over the past few weeks, the vast majority of which has been overwhelmingly positive. While my main objective in encouraging reception on the tongue is to deepen appreciation for the Eucharist, I also have a pastoral responsibility to eliminate abuses common to receiving in the hand. Such abuses are no doubt unintentional. Nevertheless, what I witness troubles me. And I’m not alone. In 2004, responding to the problem of Eucharistic profanation, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament released an official instruction entitled REDEMPTIONIS SACRAMENTUM: On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist.

Regarding Holy Communion, the document states: “[S]pecial care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.” (Paragraph #92). Here are just a few examples of profanation that I see all too frequently:

  • Blessing oneself with the host before consuming it. (The act of blessing with the Eucharist is called “Benediction” and is reserved to clergy).
  • Receiving the host in the palm of the hand, contorting that same hand until the host is controlled by the fingers, then consuming it (resembling a one-handed “watch-the-coin-disappear” magic trick)
  • Popping the host into the mouth like a piece of popcorn.
  • Attempting to receive with only one hand. (emphasis added)
  • Attempting to receive with other items in the hands, like a dirty Kleenex or a Rosary.
  • Receiving the host with dirty hands.
  • Receiving the host, closing the hand around it, then letting the hand fall to the side (as if carrying a suitcase) while walking away and/or blessing oneself with the other hand.
  • Walking away without consuming the host.
  • Giving the host to someone else after receiving…yes, it happens! We would never treat a piece of GOLD with such casualness — especially in this economy!! Yet many treat this Eucharistic “piece” of GOD with casualness at best, indifference and irreverence at worst.

Of course, much abuse is due to ignorance, owing to poor catechesis, which is precisely why I have written about this issue for four consecutive weeks. Yet we have another great incentive…When Holy Communion is received on the tongue…every single one of these abuses is instantly eliminated! The way we treat another person says more about our relationship with that person than any words we might say. This is especially true of our relationship with the Divine Person, Jesus Christ. So let us continually seek to increase our reverence for our Eucharistic Savior, and to eliminate anything that degrades the respect He deserves. The graces we receive will surely be greater than anything we can imagine!

God’s Blessings… my prayers…Very Rev. Fr. John Lankeit, Rector Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral