Thought and Culture: "Why Guardini Matters: The Catholic Worldview and the Unity of Christian Existence"

Dr. David Foote will give the fifth annual Thought and Culture lecture, "Why Guardini Matters," on the work of Monsignor Romano Guardini.

Date & Time:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
7:30 PM - 8:30 PM


Owens Science Hall 150 (3M Auditorium), South Campus

In his essay, “Thoughts on the Relation between Christianity and Culture,” Msgr. Romano Guardini (1885-1968), writes, “The task of Christian culture is twofold: on the one hand, to penetrate and transfigure nature by grace; on the other, to unlock revelation and take possession of it by means of nature.” Such was the task to which Guardini, one of the towering figures in twentieth-century Catholic intellectual life, devoted his academic career. Why does it matter?

Guardini began his academic career in the 1920s, a formative period in the history of European and American universities, marked by the differentiation and formation of academic disciplines as autonomous fields of knowledge. While these developments have produced tremendous advances in knowledge, Guardini saw a perilous side as well. Lacking a transcendent ground, the emerging configuration of academic disciplines fragmented knowledge, both horizontally (assigning to each discipline a discontinuous sector of reality) and vertically (by asserting the autonomy of each discipline against the claims of revelation). As Guardini recognized, mapping the world in this way would only “deepen and solidify the disintegration of modern man.”

To the extent that one imagines the world thusly, Christian belief becomes untenable. In Freedom, Grace, and Destiny, Guardini describes three common, but ultimately unsuccessful, strategies of belief which bear this out. One response seeks to preserve the unity and integrity of faith against the world. “The believer no longer stands with his faith amid the concrete, actual world, and he no longer rediscovers that world in his faith. He has made a grim necessity of this dismemberment by constructing, if we may employ the term, a chemically pure faith …. To save redemption by the Son it has been forced to abandon creation by the Father.”

Others choose to pitch their tent on the seemingly more solid ground of the academic disciplines and, from there, attempt to build a bridge across the chasm back to revelation. Guardini describes this strategy as a “true work of Sisyphus,” inasmuch as it takes for granted a chasm between faith and reason which, in fact, does not exist. The irony: when one tries to build a bridge over a chasm that does not exist, the chasm only seems to grow larger. Finally, as builders of the interminable bridge lose hope, a third strategy emerges; to immanentize and relativize Christianity by dissolving it into a host of nominal Christianities which take their place in the democratic assembly of world religions, philosophies, and ethical systems; in other words, to apply for citizenship in the horizontal plane.

In the midst of all this, Guardini articulated and practiced a different map of the world: a “Catholic Weltanschauung,” or Catholic worldview, whose fundamental premise was the unity of Christian existence. This, he writes, has been “a basic directive for all my work, namely, the attempt to view the pattern of Christian existence as a whole.” How he accomplished this will be the focus of our discussion. 

For further information contact Laura Stierman at or 651-962-5864

This event is sponsored by the Graduate Program in Catholic Studies. CSMA alumni and correct graduate student are invited to attend a pre-lecture dinner with Dr. Foote in the Roggee/Leyden room on the third floor of the Anderson Student Center. There will be a reception in Sitzmann Hall following the lecture.

All programs offered by the University of St. Thomas shall be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. For details, call (651) 962-6315.