Philosopher of the Christian world view and prolific writer on theological topics; b. Verona, Italy, Feb. 17, 1885; d. Munich, Germany, Oct. 1, 1968. Guardini grew up mostly in Mainz, where his father was Italian consul. His education, however, was German and he decided to stay in Germany as an adult. (His "European" rather than nationalist spirit was recognized in the conferral of the Erasmus Prize on him in 1962.) After trying chemistry and economics at the university he turned to theology and the priesthood (1910). From 1923 to 1939 (when he was turned out by the Nazi regime) he occupied a chair created for him at the University of Berlin as "professor for philosophy of religion and Catholic Weltanschauung. " After the war similar positions were made for him first at Tübingen and then in Munich (1948–63).
Guardini's eminence among leaders and inspirers of Catholic renewal in the years between the two world wars started in 1918 with the publication of The Spirit of the Liturgy. There soon followed The Church and the Catholic (1923), introduced by words for which he has become famous: "A religious process of incalculable importance has begun—the Church is coming to life in the souls of men." He showed himself perceptive in the extreme in thus picking up and nurturing the elements of spirituality which would characterize all that was best in the life of the Catholic Church of the next decades. In German-speaking lands there is no one who deserves more to be called a precursor of Vatican Council II.
His influence was enormous, not only through his university position in Berlin, but above all by reason of the inspiration he gave to the vigorous German Catholic youth movement as chaplain of the Quickborn. His writings include works on meditation, education, literary figures such as Dante and Rilke, art, philosophy, and theology. His life of Christ, The Lord (1937), became his most famous work. Das Wesen des Christentums (1939, untranslated) explained the approach he took in The Lord. The common background of the immense variety of subjects he treated was his philosophical theory of polar opposition (Der Gegensatz, 1925). This proved to be an extraordinarily fruitful starting point from which to bring revelation (Religion und Offenbarung, 1950) and worldly reality (Welt und Person, 1939; The End of the Modern World, 1950; Power and Responsibility, 1951) into a synthesis.
Bibliography: a. babolin, Romano Guardini, Filosofo dell' Alterità (Bologna 1968–69). h. urs von balthasar, Romano Guardini: Reform aus dem Ursprung (Munich 1970). w. dirks in Tendenzen der Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. h. j. schultz (Stuttgart, Olten 1966) 248–252. h. engelmann and f. ferrier, Romano Guardini (Paris 1966). f. henrich, Die Bünde katholischer Jugendbewegung (Munich 1968). k. hoffman, "Portrait of Father Guardini," Commonweal 60 (Sept. 17, 1954) 575–577. j. laubach in Theologians of Our Time, ed. l. reinisch (Notre Dame 1964) 109–126. h. kuhn, Romano Guardini. Der Mensch und das Werk (Munich 1961). b. mondin, I grandi teologi del secolo ventesimo (Turin 1969) 1.89–120. r. a. krieg, Romano Guardini: A Precursor of Vatican II (Notre Dame 1997). Wege zur Wahrheit: Die bleibende Bedeutung von Romano Guardini, ed. j. cardinal ratzinger (Düsseldorf 1985). La Weltanschauung cristiana di Romano Guardini, ed. s. zucal (Trent 1988).