Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: The Essential Guardini --- & Blessings

The reason for the double Subject line is simply because I am too lazy to post more than once a day, but should there be anyone who needs order in things, let’s just say that the book is the first of the blessings I shall write about this day
If you went over to Amazon you’d see that this book has over 1700 reviews, quite a bit of reading in itself, if you are so inclined.  It says the average rating is 4.5 stars, and I suppose if I graded that way, that’d be my rating also.  Suffice it to say, this book will be on my Christmas list this year to give to friends.
The subtitle of the book is “An Anthology of the Writings of Roman Guardini”, and this book is gleaned from a variety of his writings, including (as I found) some no longer available in English.  Surprisingly, only 18 pages are taken from his classic, The Lord, which is on my personal top-25 list of books to read.   So much of this book was new to me, and (also as part of my own rating system) I found much to underline.
The book is divided into four major parts:  Our World, Jesus Christ, The Church, and Liturgy and Worship (which I found the least interesting).  The first part is excerpts from Guardini’s writings of the early 1950’s, looking at the lessons of the world wars and new dangers facing the world.  Considering the problems we are facing today, his words were very prophetic.  Wouldst that our own leaders could see things so clearly today as he did sixty years ago. 
The section on Jesus Christ is largely from The Lord – much good reading here, and the section on The Church is also one which directly applies to today’s perceived problems.  His words on Pentecost and its consequences, and what love is and implies are most satisfying and thought-provoking.  And his chapter titled “We Are The Church” raises questions which, well as you may know, I’ve written about here in the past.  Only whereas the “We Are Church” crowd today implies a diminishing of the authority and value of the Church hierarchy, Guardini explains the true meaning of those words.  All in all, this was a very satisfying read, one of my morning meditation books which stayed with me for many days, as I slowly read a small section each morning and meditated on its meaning and implications in my life.  I highly recommend this book for the serious student of faith.
But of course, my review would not be complete without a few quotes:
One of the most universal and most disturbing symptoms of the shift in the human condition that we have: the matter-of-factness of the new man … modern man’s will and ability to concentrate on the task at hand regardless of personal feelings … his unwillingness to display emotions of any kind, a growing inability to see, a progressive cooling of the heart, an indifference to the people and things of existence.  A common substitute for genuine feeling is sensation, that superficial ersatz emotional excitement, which, though momentarily strong, is neither fruitful nor lasting.    A type of man is evolving who lives only in the present, who is “replaceable” to a terrifying degree, and who all too easily falls victim to power. … When we examine the development as a whole, we cannot escape the impression that nature as well as man himself is becoming ever more vulnerable to the dominion – economic, technical, political, organizational – of power.
The Crisis of Ethical Norms:  In the long run, dominion requires not only the passive consent, but also the will to be dominated, a will eager to drop personal responsibility and personal effort.  … Modern man cuts himself off not only from the community and from tradition, but also from his religious connections.
People today hold power over things, but we can assert confidently that they do not yet have power over their own power.
Values:  All life that is determined by spiritual factors has one essential postulate, namely, a submission to truth, the will to do justice to the nature of things.  (But), modern autonomy theories argue that notions like sovereignty over the world, providence, the judgment of good and evil and the establishment of moral values were formerly accepted as prerogatives of the Supreme Being, but pass now to man, this world and this earth.  “God” was once necessary because man was not yet mature, (but) man has now grown up and become adult, and “God” is simply the obstacle on the path to complete self-realization. … but what again if this be more illusion and presumption?  
The real antonym of community is not the individual and his individualism, but the egoist and his selfishness. It is this that must first be overcome … by mastering the mind and the will.

·         Saturday Afternoon Television:  Rocky and Bullwinkle, clean cartoon fun and witty humor, followed by a classic movie, The Lone Ranger.  “High Ho, Silver, and away!”  Then a flip of channel to the 9th inning of the Yankees and Tigers baseball game:  A dismal top of the ninth, where two walks and two hit-batsmen yielded a tying run without hit for the Yankees (and mom yells: “Hit the ball already,” rooting for the wrong team).  Then in the bottom of the ninth the Tiger rookie catcher, playing in his first major-league game, who had made an error in each of the eighth and ninth innings and was being booed without pity, came up to bat.  And he drove in the winning run, and was doused by his teammates in water and hugs --- what a wonderful thing for him.  And then a flip of channel to a movie and a park scene:  beautiful flowers, soft music, and then a dog rounds the corner and someone yells out: “Brinkley!!”  It is the final scene from the movie  “You’ve Got Mail” and the boy meets the girl, they hug and kiss, and everyone lives happily ever after.  A fun Saturday afternoon of television; what a blessing.

·         The End of a Day:  Mom goes to bed and remembers to say “You know I love you,” and then a visit to the chapel for a rosary and evening prayers, some time alone with God.  And then the short ride home and ---- wait!  What’s that in the sky??  A gigantic full moon, with a whisper of clouds around it, like a silky scarf, and nothing else in the totally clear night sky.  A thing of peaceful beauty, a gift of God, a blessing of beauty, and perhaps the man in the moon is smiling?  I did.

·         The Beginning of a Day:  A refreshing shower, a pleasant few words with the regulars in the 7-11 store, a cup of coffee, and a Northerly drive towards church and morning mass.  And then a sudden glare off to the right catches my attention:  the sun peeks over the clouds on the horizon and the morning clouds are ablaze with reds and purples and yellows and oranges.  God in all His glory awakens the day, showing forth His beauty in His creation.  How could you not smile at the glory of it all?  What a great blessing!

Blessings are all around us, if we but look.  

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