Hans Urs von Balthasar: Biographical Sketch

1905 Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, on August 12.
1917–1923 Gymnasium (secondary school) at the Benedictine boarding school in Engelberg (4 years) and at the Jesuit boarding school Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria (2 1/2 years).
1924 Swiss federal diploma in Zurich (maturité fédérale).
1924–1928 Study of German language and literature in Zurich, Vienna, and Berlin. University degree obtained in 1928.
1927 Ignatian Exercises of election in Wyhlen (near Basel) under the direction of Friedrich Kronseder, SJ.
1928 Ph.D. magna cum laude in German language and literature with the dissertation: ”Geschichte des eschatologischen Problems in der modernen deutschen Literatur” [”History of the Eschatological Problem in Modern German Literature”], privately published in 1930.
1929 Entry into the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Tisis, Austria.
1929–1933 After his religious formation (1929–1931), von Balthasar completes two years of philosophy studies in Pullach (near Munich), where he meets Erich Przywara, SJ.
1933–1937 Theological studies in Fourvière (Lyon). Beginning of his work in Patristics (on Augustine, Maximus the Confessor, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Irenaeus, among others). At Fourvière he makes the acquaintance of Henri de Lubac, SJ. Beginning of his work Apokalypse der deutschen Seele. Eine Studie zur Lehre der letzten Haltungen [Apocalypse of the German Soul: Toward a Theory of Fundamental Attitudes].
1936 Ordination to the priesthood in the St. Michaelskirche in Munich by Cardinal Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich and Freising.
1938–1939 Collaboration on the periodical Stimmen der Zeit in Munich, chiefly as a reviewer. Publication of Apokalypse der deutschen Seele.
1940–1948 Von Balthasar engages in pastoral work among students and within the academic community in Basel and teaches religion for some years in the local public schools. He directs numerous spiritual exercises and holds formation courses for students and other groups.
1940 First encounter with Adrienne von Speyr. See: Erster Blick auf Adrienne von Speyr, Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1968, 1989 (4th ed.) (First Glance at Adrienne von Speyr, San Francisco, 1981) and Unser Auftrag. Bericht und Entwurf, Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1984; Unser Auftrag. Bericht und Weisung, Freiburg: Johannes Verlag Einsiedeln, 2004 (2nd ed.) (Our Task: Report and Plan, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994).
1941 Founding of the Studentische Schulungsgemeinschaft (SG) together with Robert Rast ( 1946) and later of the Akademische Arbeitsgemeinschaft (AAG), which he accompanied until shortly before his death.
1944 In May, commencement of the nearly daily dictations of Adrienne von Speyr. In December, publication of Das Herz der Welt (Heart of the World, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1979, 1983).
1945 The founding of the Community of St. John (women’s branch), together with Adrienne von Speyr.
1947 After unsuccessful attempts to find a publisher for the works of Adrienne von Speyr, von Balthasar, together with his friend Dr. Joseph Fraefel, founds a publishing house in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. The Johannes Verlag was relocated to Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany, in 1987. Following von Balthasar’s death, the Community of St. John continues the publishing venture as he envisioned it.
1950 Departure from the Society of Jesus before his final vows. Holds formation courses and directs spiritual exercises in Switzerland and abroad. By regularly traveling to deliver lectures, von Balthasar is financially able to work intensively on his writings for several weeks at a time. Publication, among other works, of the first version of Theologie der Geschichte, of which the second and definitive edition appears in 1959 (A Theology of History, New York and London, 1963; San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994).
1951 Publication of Karl Barth. Darstellung und Deutung seiner Theologie (Cologne: Hegner Verlag, 1952; Olten: Summa Verlag, 1962; Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1976) (The Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation, San Francisco: Ignatius,1992).
1952–1953 Encounter with Reinhold Schneider and publication of his first book on the latter: Reinhold Schneider. Sein Weg und sein Werk (1953) [Reinhold Schneider, His Work and Path]. A second, revised and expanded edition Nochmals Reinhold Schneider (Tragedy Under Grace: Reinhold Schneider on the Experience of the West, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1997) is published only after von Balthasar’s death.
1954 Publication of his comprehensive study Thomas von Aquin. Besondere Gnadengaben und die zwei Wege menschlichen Lebens. Kommentar zur Summa Theologica II–II, 171–182, vol. 23 of the German-Latin edition of Thomas, F.H. Kerle / A. Pustet, Heidelberg and Graz-Wien-Salzburg, pp. 252–464 [Thomas of Aquinas. Extraordinary Gifts of Grace and the Two Paths of Human Life: Commentary on the Summa Theologica II–II, 171–182]. Reprinted in 1996 in Johannes Verlag Einsiedeln, Freiburg, under the title Thomas und die Charismatik [Thomas and the Charisma].
1955 For his young friends in the SG and AAG, as well as for the Community of St. John that was coming into being, von Balthasar writes Das betrachtende Gebet (Prayer, San Francisco: Ignatius,1986) and Thessalonicher- und Pastoralbriefe für das betrachtende Gebet erschlossen [Epistle to the Thessalonians and Pastoral Epistles Laid Open for Meditation]. Throughout the following years he continues giving and writing many new scriptural meditations.
1956 Incardination on February 2 in the Diocese of Chur, Switzerland by Bishop Christianus Caminada, at the request of von Balthasar’s friends.
1956 On June 2, von Balthasar receives the grand prize for literature from the Foundation for Culture of Central Switzerland, Lucerne.
1957 Publication of numerous works, including Einsame Zwiesprache. Martin Buber und das Christentum, 1993 reprinted by Johannes Verlag Einsiedeln, Freiburg (Martin Buber and Christianty: A Dialogue Between Israel and the Church, London and New York, 1961).
1958–1959 Serious illness from which von Balthasar makes a slow recovery.
1960 Publication of the first two volumes of the Skizzen zur Theologie: I. Verbum Caro (Explorations in Theology I: The Word Made Flesh, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989) and II. Sponsa Verbi (Explorations in Theology II: Spouse of the Word, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1991).
1961 Publication of the first volume of the theological trilogy: I. Herrlichkeit. Eine theologische Aesthetik : Bd. 1: Schau der Gestalt (The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics I: Seeing the Form, Edinburgh, San Francisco, and New York: T. & T. Clark, 1982). The last volume of the trilogy is published in 1987.
Also: Kosmische Liturgie. Das Weltbild Maximus des Bekenners. Second, completely revised edition. (Cosmic Liturgy. The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2003).
1965 On June 28 von Balthasar receives the Golden Cross of Mount Athos from the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church in Switzerland, Damaskinos Papandreou. To commemorate the thousand year jubilee of the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos, this distinction is awarded for contributions to the history and theology of Orthodoxy and to ecumenical dialogue.
1965 On July 8, the occasion of his 60th birthday, von Balthasar is named Doctor of Theology, Honoris Causa by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Doctor of Theology, Honoris Causa, University of Münster in Westfalia, Germany.
1967 September 17: Death of Adrienne von Speyr.
December 17: Doctor of Theology, Honoris causa, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
1968 Von Balthasar moves to Arnold Böcklinstrasse 42, 4051 Basel
1969 Appointment to the International Theological Commission in Rome (member until his death).
1971 May 17: Receives the Romano-Guardini Prize from the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, Germany
1972 Founding of the periodical Communio: International Catholic Review of Theology and Culture., first in its German and Italian versions.
1975 December 20: Receives Gottfried-Keller Prize from the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland.
1980 September 5: Ph.D., Honoris Causa, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
1983 Founding of the priestly branch of the Community of St. John.
1984 June 23: Von Balthasar is awarded the Pope Paul VI International Prize, Rome, Italy.
1985 September 27–29: International Symposium in Rome ”Adrienne von Speyr und ihre kirchliche Sendung.” [Adrienne von Speyr and her Ecclesial Mission]. The acts of the symposium were published under the same title, ed. H.U. von Balthasar, Georges Chantraine, SJ, and Angelo Scola, Freiburg: Johannes Verlag Einsiedeln, 1986.
1987 May 22: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Prize, Innsbruck.
1988 May 28: Named cardinal by Pope John Paul II.
June 26: Von Balthasar dies in his home in Basel.


© Hans Urs von Balthasar-Stiftung