In 1990, shortly after the death of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Card. Joseph Ratzinger, with the approval of Pope John Paul II, asked Fr. Jacques Servais to take care of a house of vocational discernment. So, on 27 September of that year Casa Balthasar opened its doors to a first small group of young North and South Americans.
As Ratzinger himself explained at the International Conference on Henri de Lubac organized at the Gregorian University in November 1996, the aim of this House is “to promote in young people a full integration between intellectual education and spiritual formation, between scientific competence and holiness. As a point of reference, even if not the only one, it had and still has the work and figures of de Lubac, von Balthasar and von Speyr. Indeed, they have been taken as concrete examples and teachers of Christian spiritual life and, at the same time, masters from whom to draw on a truly ecclesial and Catholic doctrine”.
Communicating his approval of Fr. Servais’ collaboration in this initiative, the then Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, wrote to Card. Ratzinger, “I am delighted to be able to participate in this way to the realization of a project to which the Society of Jesus cannot be indifferent, given the Ignatian spirituality that marked the three Authors in such an evident way” The cardinal had explained to him the purpose of this project was the opening of a space where young people from various continents could receive an authentically Christian formation, with solid spiritual and doctrinal foundations. Both as a cardinal and during the years of his pontificate, Joseph Ratzinger personally followed the house’s setting up and development.
He wanted the work to be not just another institution like so many others, but a “network of friends” within the universal Church, a place of passage that offered a distinct service – on the model of the Spiritual Exercises – of vocational discernment and formation for an evangelical life understood in a Marian-Johannine spirit, to be lived in one’s own environment, above all where one faces the challenges of secularization inside and outside the Church.
Even before the death of his master and friend Henri de Lubac, Joseph Ratzinger wanted to establish an association, bearing his name, together with those of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr, the doctor who collaborated with him for many years, with the aim of supporting Casa Balthasar and accompany its growth with its expertise. Thus was born the Lubac-Balthasar-Speyr Association, with six initial members: two Jesuits, Joseph Fessio (U.S.A.) and Jacques Servais (Belgium), two members of the secular institute Johannesgemeinschaft, Mrs. Cornelia Capol (Switzerland) and Dr. Felix Genn (Germany), a Sulpician, Marc Ouellet (Canada) and a Dominican, Christoph Schönborn (Austria).
Together with his collaborators, past and present, as well as with the many young people from all over the world who have passed through Casa Balthasar, Fr. Servais joins the prayer of so many faithful, while thanking Heaven for the constant attention that the cardinal and pope emeritus Joseph Ratzinger has had for the House, certainly not without the discreet support of Pope Francis and the Society of Jesus.
31st december 2022