Fall 1989

Hans Urs von Balthasar: A sketch of his life

Peter Henrici

"Balthasar's most important works, at least in his own eyes, are not his writings but his foundations."

According to Pascal, "it is a bad sign when you see a man and immediately think of his books." The danger of focusing on the writer and forgetting the human being is almost unavoidable in the case of someone like Hans Urs von Balthasar, who wrote more books than a normal person can be expected to read in his lifetime. He more than once found it necessary to provide a survey or "statement of account" of his literary work, and constantly emphasized that he regarded his writing as a "sideline." After the death of Adrienne von Speyr, he was increasingly ready to make autobiographical statements, and yet these are too scattered and fragmentary to give a proper picture of Hans Balthasar the man. What follows, therefore, is a preliminary and inadequate attempt to draw a picture of this person as we knew, admired, and loved him.

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