Thanksgiving Novena for the 30th Anniversary of Casa Balthasar

September 19-27, 2020


Dear friends,

        On September 27th it will be thirty years since the Casa Balthasar was opened in Rome, two years after the death of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

     Founded with the support of the then Card. Joseph Ratzinger, this house of discernment and formation for Christians aspiring to a life of consecration to the Lord was born thanks to the initiative of a group of friends, witnesses of various traditions in the Church: Joseph Fessio S.J. (San Francisco), Felix Genn (today Bishop in Münster), Marc Ouellet P.S.S. (today Cardinal in Rome), Christoph Schönborn O.P. (today Cardinal in Vienna), the late Cornelia Capol (Basel) and myself. We wanted to share our experience with others: that, together with that of Henri de Lubac and Adrienne von Speyr, Balthasar's work puts us in contact with a living Christ, who leads to make a radical evangelical choice.

      In the meantime, in addition to the many young people from all over the world who have passed through the House, an informal network of fraternal communion has developed, confirming the intuition of Pope John Paul II: these three authors are true spiritual guides for our time.

     To thank Heaven for his gifts, a Novena was prepared, centered on the spiritual experience of St. Ignatius, which will begin on September 19. If you wish to participate in our prayer, I ask you to send me by this date a sign of adhesion, also indicating your preferred language (Italian, English or French). Those who wish to offer an economic contribution on that occasion will find useful bank details on our website:

            With cordial greetings in the Lord,

                                                                                                                Jacques Servais S.J.

0Ignatius’ graces and trials according to the Autobiography

Since I knew also that the holy Fathers, founders of monastic institutes,

had a tradition of leaving to their posterity, by way of a testament, such advice as they trusted would be helpful towards their perfection in virtue,

I awaited an opportunity when I might conveniently request the same from Father Ignatius. It came in 1551 when we were together and Father Ignatius said: “Now I was higher than heaven”—having experienced, I conjecture, some ecstasy of mind or rapture, as he was frequently wont. Full of respect I ask: “What was it, Father?” He changed the conversation. Judging this to be an appropriate occasion, I request and beg the Father to tell us how God guided him from the beginning of his conversion, so that his account might be for us

a sort of testament and paternal instruction.

(Jerome Nadal’s Foreword to Ignatius’ Autobiography, #2)


In the year ’53, […] God had greatly enlightened him as to his duty to do [us this favor]. [Therefore] he was fully decided on this:

to narrate all that occurred in his soul until now.

(Da Câmara’s Preface, #2)


      The Father wants to give his children a little insight into his inner life [by showing] his religious development, the long development of his founding plans, his state of mind, his motives and especially his difficulties. […]

     Throughout his development he was lonely and had to seek his special mission in uncertainty for a long time. He also had to organize too much externally, to implement it by force; instead he would have preferred to give more of his spirit to the Society.

    A first difficulty with which he had to struggle was his studies: he studied arduously, retained poorly, was slow to grasp. It always took him a lot to get a mental overview of a subject. He profited very little from Parisian philosophy and theology. Paris was for the companions, they should be trained, and he knew nothing better for it than Paris. He himself was an extremely bad student. And yet he had to acquire a certain amount of education to be able to demand it from others.

      At least by his studies in theology the second difficulty was somewhat dampened. In order to defend his Spiritual Exercises and push them though, in order to express clearly the basic concepts of being a Jesuit, he would have always needed a theological support. But for a long time he lacked such a support. Hence he did not know to what extent the new things he brought were presentable and offered a certain guarantee to serve as basis and food for the new Society. It should stand out from the previous theology, and for that one had to know it. He possessed an inner security for his way, but in addition he would have needed an explicit confirmation. In Alcalá and Salamanca he defended his cause more or less well, because he knew that this was required, but not exactly how. He also experienced much rejection from people who did not want to allow themselves to undergo the Exercises, since only those who made them really understood his thought and were won over. (NB XI, 43)