A Summer Session in
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and he invites us to follow him into the world that he has come to save. Catholic students and young professionals (18-35 years of age) who desire to follow Christ more closely through their professions and disciplines (e.g. law,medicine, architecture, journalism, education, etc.) are invited to come together from July 5 through 10 to reflect on “following Christ into the heart of the world” using the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar as a guide. The session will be directed by Fr. Jacques Servais, S.J., a Jesuit who resides in Rome where he serves as the rector of the Casa Balthasar, a house of discernment for young adults.
For more information and to apply, please visit:
Following Christ into the Heart of the World
The “Following Christ into the Heart of the World” summer session will focus on the theme of how Christ, in his humanity, grounds every Christian commitment in this world. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that every individual may enter, in an unrepeatable way, into the time of Jesus Christ. Participants will have an opportunity to pray, study, and reflect on this theme, so that they might come to a deeper sense of God’s call and the grace that God offers to those who follow him in all walks of life.
Each day of the session will begin with silent meditation using points for prayer taken from Sacred Scripture. Afterwards, Fr. Servais will offer an introductory presentation on the day’s material, and participants will be
given ample time to read over the day’s selected texts from Balthasar. In small group discussions, Jesuits will work with participants to draw out the existential implications of the texts and to see how the texts call one to a more profound following of Christ.
Afternoons will be devoted to cultural excursions and group activities. During this time, Fr. Servais will also be available to meet individually with participants for spiritual direction. Mass will be offered each day in the late afternoon in the chapel of Our Lady of Wisdom.
Participants will have many opportunities to socialize with one another during dinners and post-dinner activities. To close each day, sung Compline (night prayer) will be available in the chapel.
Please note that no prior theological knowledge is required to participate. Parents of young children should inquire with the organizers about the availability of qualified sitters. For those interested, optional single and double occupancy housing is available on the campus of the University of Louisiana at reasonable rates. Participants are also welcome to make their
own arrangements for housing.
Sample Quotations from
Hans Urs von Balthasar
“Miracles happen along this path. Apparently insignificant miracles, noticed by hardly anyone. The very finding of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger—is this not a miracle in itself?
Miracles for Today
Then there is the miracle when a particular mission, hidden in a person’s heart, really reaches its goal, bringing God’s peace and joy where there were nothing but despair and resignation; when someone succeeds in striking a tiny light in the midst of an overpowering darkness. When joy irradiates a heart that no longer dared to believe in it. Now and again we ourselves are assured that the angel’s word we are trying to obey will bring us to the place where God’s Word and Son is already made man. […] Once and for all God has started out on his journey toward us, and nothing, till the world’s end, will stop him from coming to us and abiding in us.”
The Father’s Proposal: A Human Heart for His Son
God created a Heart for himself and placed it at the center of the world. It was a human Heart, and it knew the impulses and yearnings of human hearts, was experienced in all the windings and wandering, changes of weather and drives—in a word, experienced in all the bitter joy and joyful bitterness which any human heart has ever savored. The human heart: most foolish, most obstinate, most fickle of all creatures; the seat of all fidelity and of all treachery; an instrument richer than a full orchestra and poorer than a grasshopper’s empty chirping; in its incomprehensibility a mirror image of God’s own incomprehensibility. This is what he drew from the world’s rib as it slept, and he fashioned it into the organ of his divine love…
But God housed in a heart! How easy he now was to reach! How swiftly he could be hurt! More easily than a man, for a man is not only a heart, but bones and cartilage, tough muscle-fiber and hardened skin: one must really have a grim intention to wound a man. But what a target a heart is! What an enticement! The gun points almost unconsciously in that direction. How exposed God had made himself! What folly he committed! He had himself betrayed the weak spot of his love…
Nor will his unprotected Heart protect him. For a heart has no understanding: it does not know why it is beating. His Heart will not stand by him. It will (every heart is faithless) betray him. For, indeed, it never stands still: it always goes on, it runs. And because love always runs over, his Heart will also run over—over to the enemy as a deserter. (Heart of the World, pp. 44-45, 47-48)
I Created You for Freedom
My child, between midnight and morning frost, when they dragged me to the second trial, I sojourned in your prison. I sat fettered to a tent-peg—lonely, beaten, disgraced—and I thought of you and of the rising day. I have tasted your prison; nothing of its bittersweet smell of decay was spared me. I have wandered through even the deepest chamber of all the prisons of all those who, in despair, have struggled against God’s freedom… Quietly, without your noticing it, I have cleaved you open and thus given you unity….
You would not be my creature if you had not been created open. All love strives to go out of itself into the immeasurable spaces of freedom. It seeks adventure and, in so doing, forgets itself. I do not say that you were able to free yourself, for it was for this that I have come. Nor am I saying that love’s freedom lay contained within yourself, for I have given it to you. The Father has drawn you to me.
You are free. The angel nudged you on the side, the clamps fell from your wrists, the gate flew open on its own, and the two of you floated out past the sleeping guards until you reached freedom. You still think it was a dream. Rub the sleep out of your eyes. You are free to go wherever you please.
But look: many of your brothers are still languishing in prison. Are you going to enjoy your freedom while they suffer? Or do you want to help me loosen their shackles, and together with me to share their prison? (Heart of the World, pp. 142-44)
A Seducer of HeartsIf you have a fire in the house, guard it well in a fire-proof hearth. Cover it up, for if only one spark escapes and you fail to see it, you and everything that is yours will fall prey to the flames. If you have the Lord of the World in you, in your fireproof heart, fence him in well, be careful as you carry him about, lest he begin to make demands and you no longer know whither he pushes you. Hold the reins tightly in your hand. Don’t let go of the rudder. God is dangerous. God is a consuming fire. God intended this for you. Take heed of his words: “Whoever sets his hand to the plough and looks back, is not worthy of me. Whoever does not love me more than father and mother, more than beloved and country, more than even himself, is not worthy of me.”
Watch out: he is a good dissembler. He begins with a small love, a small flame, and before you realize it he has gotten total hold of you and you are caught. If you let yourself be caught you are lost, for heavenwards there are no limits. He is God—accustomed to infinity. He sucks you upwards like a cyclone, whirls you up and away like a waterspout. Look out: man is made for measure and limits, and only in the finite does he find rest and happiness. But this God knows nothing of measure. He is a seducer of hearts. (Heart of the World, 117-18)
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) on Hans Urs von Balthasar:“What Balthasar wanted may well be encapsulated in a single phrase of St. Augustine: ‘Our entire task in this life, dear brothers, consists in healing the eyes of the heart so they may be able to see God.’ That is what mattered to him, healing the eyes of the heart so they would be able to see the essential, the reason and goal of the world and of our lives: God, the living God.”
“What the Pope [St. John Paul II] intended to express by this mark of distinction and of honour [the conferring of the rank of cardinal], remains valid: no longer only private individuals but the Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that he is right in what he teaches of the faith, that he points the way to the sources of living water—a witness to the Word which teaches us Christ and which teaches us how to live.”
For more information on Hans Urs von Balthasar, please see:
Fr. Jacques Servais, S.J.Fr. Jacques Servais, a native of Belgium, entered the Society of Jesus in 1967 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1979. He studied at the universities of Namur, Heidelberg, and Louvain, earning degrees in philosophy and psychology. He made his theological studies in Brussels and Rome and has a doctorate in dogmatic theology. Since 1985, Fr. Servais has resided in Rome where he has taught systematic spiritual theology at the Gregorian University. He is also the administrator of the Casa Balthasar, a school of discernment
and formation for young lay Christians. Fr. Servais is especially known for his expertise in the Spiritual Exercises of
St. Ignatius of Loyola and has directed many young people in these exercises during his time as rector of the Casa Balthasar.
In addition, Fr. Servais is the president of the Lubac-Balthasar-Speyr Association, which was begun in Rome in 1991 by disciples of Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar under the patronage of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). Fr. Servais has published various works and articles on Hans Urs von Balthasar and the spiritual sources of Balthasar’s thought, in particular St. Ignatius of Loyola and Adrienne von Speyr. He has also written on the thought and contributions of Bl. John Henry Newman,
Maurice Blondel, Louis Bouyer, and Ferdinand Ulrich, among others.
“What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.”
–Hans Urs von Balthasar