It was about 1955 that Theologian Romano Guardini wrote his THIN volume entitled, The End of the Modern World. He was born in Verona in 1885, grew up in Mainz and became a Catholic priest and monsignor. He taught theology at the universities of Berlin, Tubingen and Munich. He was a brilliant teacher, wrote many books outside the classroom and was regarded to be a master of intuitive psychology and a deep thinker who nonetheless managed an extraordinary clarity of expression.
Most, though perhaps not all of his books have been translated for the English-speaking world.
Writing in and around the mid-fifties, he expressed fears that our culture would one day come to idolize technology, all the while doubting or outright dismissing the truth-claims of religion and, especially, of Revelation. He observed powerful forces in contemporary life working to de-Christianize society and cast doubt on all fundamental supernatural beliefs that had guided us and much of the planet, especially Europe and the West, for centuries.
“As an absolute standard claiming the right to measure the direction and conduct of human life, Revelation was enduring more and more vicious attacks,” he wrote of the temper of the times in the first half of the 20th Century. “The new culture taking shape in Europe bred an outlook which thrust into prominence the increasing opposition to the Church.”
This prophetic, somewhat chilling diagnosis — at least from the point of view of believers — gets fully fleshed out in The End of the Modern World.
But it is also given a peculiar and paradoxical twist.
Guardini writes (and I’ve compressed)….We know now that the modern world is coming to an end….at the same time, the unbeliever will emerge from the fogs of secularism. He will cease to reap benefit from values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies…Loneliness in faith will be terrible. Love will disappear from the face of the public world, but the more precious will be that love which flows from one lonely person to another…the world to come will be filled with animosity and danger, but it will be a world open and clean.
Dangerous, lonely — yet open and clean. How strange. Is it perhaps true of this moment in the 21st Century? Is Guardini’s “world to come” upon us? Was he right?
He was writing this around 1955. He died at 70 in the darkly eventful year of 1968.