Lunch with von Balthasar

Sunday lunch conversation in a Legionary community is to expect the unexpected. Hence this commentary on a vigorous little essay by von Balthasar on vocation. Since he is clearly one of the most important theologians of the 20th century and was a good friend of Joseph Ratzinger the essay speaks for itself. Near the end of the text von Balthasar gives three succinct points for reflection. In 2015 language:

1) FOLLOW GOD’S PLAY BOOK. Vocations require human mediation. Von Balthasar cites Andrew reaching out to Peter, and Philip reaching out to Nathaniel. “Only as an exception are vocations unmediated by human beings; normally they are mediated…Vocation is in essence fruitful, in new vocations, but also confers the conscious duty of an apostolate of vocations…” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Vocation,” trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio 37, (Spring 2010): 126.)

2) AVOID THE CULTURE OF THE PROVISIONAL.—A favorite line of Pope Francis. Von Balthasar notes, “Every vocation that comes from God is always pure and transparent; it is not questionable, merely possible, and therefore tormented, but rather, at the moment of the human being’s definitive assent to it, it is ‘one hundred percent,’ and therefore calming and joyful.” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Vocation,” trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio 37, (Spring 2010): 127.) Impediments and objective signs are conditions, and so too is generous self-giving, resulting in joy.

3) LOVE IS IN, SLUGBLUB IS OUT. Von Balthasar gets down to business in examining the nature of the call: some calls can be overpowering, like St. Paul’s; some calls are more of a gentle request building upon man’s understanding; and then some calls are as if God mysteriously opens up the way for those who, in love, seek that path. Written during some of the theological slugblub of the 1960’s, he may have been trying to point the way back to the Gospel.

In the end it is good to know that the vocation is not a quest for a mysterious, tangible experience but a call that is often mediated through others and confirmed in very simple ways. Hats off to Hans.


About Fr Joseph Brickner LC

Fr Joseph was ordained a priest in 2004 in Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore. He holds a B.S. in Education and a license in dogmatic theology. He currently serves as novice instructor in Cheshire, CT.
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