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Friday, December 17, 2010


Robert Miller

"The End of the Modern World" (with its indispensable English language Introduction by my mentor and Triumph magazine co-editor, Frederick D. Wilhelmsen), is the key to Guardini's thought (and probably, in my opinion, to Ratzinger's).

There is a finality inherent in the passage of the "ages". We can't "go back" to classical Antiquity (as the men of the Renaissance hoped to do); we can't go back to the "early Church" (as so many Reformation-influenced thinkers -- Protestant and Catholic -- have hoped to do); we can't go back to the world of bourgeois Liberalism (as many contemporary "conservatives" hope to do). Indeed, Lord Acton ultimately is wrong: Not knowing history does not condemn us to repeating it; not knowing history condemns to the illusion that we can turn it in a "positive" direction. We cannot "repeat" history -- for good or for ill. As Pieper taught us, the world moves to a catastrophic ending in time -- and that, paradoxically, is our hope!

Guardini, in "End of the Modern World", announced, as he averred, "no facile apocalyptic", but he did not shrink from the vision of this time as more final, more inescapably end-time than any of the preceding centuries of the Christian era. (Indeed, the men of the 13th century would have judged our world "paltry", according to Guardini).

The "End of the Modern World" is also the time of Anti-Christ. We have a tendency, I think, to ignore this, in practical matters, and to talk as if the evils of this time were nothing more than what Christians "always" have been up against. In doing so, we do a disservice to Guardini's vision and to our children -- in whom we encourage a "'Catholic' humanism" that ignores the fundamentally anti-Christ orientation of all modern and post-modern enterprises.

And yet, we need to have hope and put our faith into the practice of caritas ... this, as both Guardini and Ratzinger teach us, is the continuing mission of Christians in a world culture informed by Anti-Christ.

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