Letter

Letter to Giorgio Mazzanti

Our trans. of: “Lettera a Giorgio Mazzanti.” 30Giorni, 2, 1999

Basle, May 10th, 1976

Dear brother,

You have written me a long letter, but I must confine myself to a few words in reply. Thank you very much for your intelligent criticism and for all your positive remarks.

Regarding the theology of the sexes: All correct – on a supra-sexual level. Adrienne wrote an entire book on this.

As for our relationship, there’s nothing unclear about it. She was perfectly natural, had a strong moral character, and was full of renunciation. And what seems “abstract” to you is due partly to Frau Albrecht’s (rather unfortunate) set of choices and partly to a certain difficulty in expressing the concreteness of what she saw. When I would ask her to explain an unclear statement, she made it all perfectly clear. Let people talk. The critical voices will fall silent when I get a chance to present the public with the full range of her mystical writings, which also make perfectly clear the kind of relation we had. At that point, you will be in a position to recognize her total originality! Adrienne never read anything of mine (like my texts on the Church Fathers). You will also see my diary with the entries about my leaving the Order. But one has to read the whole in context, instead of one book separately from the others, since they all hang together. This will also put paid to the charge that she was my “medium.”

I will be sending you books of hers from time to time.

Yes, of course, the Church must follow the Lord’s path. That is the most normal thing in the world. So why despair? It is difficult being a priest today, but it’s worth the effort. The experience of faith should be enough for you; it is magnificent. Plus, Christian life is conatus; the believer can’t be satisfied with himself. Offer yourself to the Lord (“sume et suscipe”) without lengthy reflection.

My prayer is so rudimentary that I can’t teach you anything new, even about the Mass. Try to be present, but in the midst of other people, with them; it’s not about “practising mercy.”

Now, as for my studies, I read everything that falls into my hands, since there is no Catholic library in Basle.

My modest accommodations aren’t set up for receiving guests (I’m forced to put them up in a hotel; I myself eat with our secular institute). It’s true that I’m kept very busy by multiple activities – editing, writing, etc. – but the idea that I kept Guardini waiting is sheer calumny.

Perhaps we will have a chance to see each other when the International Theological Commission meets in Rome at the end of September. It’s just a suggestion. I would gladly meet you here, but the sad fact is that I wouldn’t be able to give you much time. I’m often absent (the whole month of August I will be in the mountains with Fr. de Lubac. Not to mention numerous talks, exercises, and so forth.).

I would love to see your work on Basil the Great; Gribomont is an outstanding teacher whom I greatly admire. Please send us your work soon! I also happen to be doing a bit of Christology myself.

I have only a few photos of Adrienne. I’m sending you First Glance, where you will find the best of them.

Sincerely yours,

Hans Balthasar