St. Anselm of Canterbury and Romano Guardini

St. Anselm of Canterbury and Romano Guardini

de Gaál, Ph.D., Father Emery (University of St. Mary of the Lake)

The Saint Anselm Journal 2.1 (Fall 2004)


Well before World War I, Romano Guardini had felt the deleterious impact of the Kantian critique of religion. As a reaction to Kant and the then prevailing Neo-Scholasticism, Guardini turned to the Augustinian tradition. While theologians at the time were attempting to demonstrate the scientific nature and relevance of theology, Guardini here sought to demonstrate the indispensable relevance of revelation and faith for knowledge. His position was cause for much irritation at the university and he was criticized for “unscientific dogmatism.” But for Guardini true knowledge comes about only if the object of investigation is integrated into one’s interiority. The goal of knowledge is not a mere collection or assemblage of information, “but rather the formation of one’s own being… (for) only the person who is holy recognizes the holy God.” Guardini’s interest in the person and thought of St. Anselm of Canterbury is formative for his thought on these issues for he detects similarities between the eleventh century and his own age, the early part of the 20th century. In both ages he sees the promise for a rebirth amid chaos. Guardini wrote two seminal pieces dealing with the theology of St. Anselm. His article, “Das argumentum ex pietate beim hl. Bonaventura und Anselms Dezenzbeweis”(St. Bonaventure’s Argument from Piety and Anselm’s Proof), was published in 1922 and, one year later in 1923, he published in a collection of essays an article entitled “Anselm von Canterbury und das Wesen der Theologie” (Anselm of Canterbury and the Nature of Theology). In these one discovers the key to unlock Guardini’s understanding of the nature and purpose of theology.

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