Matthias Joseph Scheeben

Matthias Joseph Scheeben

Matthias Joseph Scheeben (Meckenheim, Bonn, 1 March 1835 Cologne, 21 July 1888) was a German Catholic theological writer and mystic.


Scheeben studied at the Gregorian University at Rome under Carlo Passaglia and Giovanni Perrone from 1852 to 1859 and lived in Collegium Germanicum. He was ordained to the priesthood on 18 December 1858. He taught dogmatic theology at the diocesan seminary of Cologne from 1860 to 1875.[1]


In Scheeben's own words, the practical aim of his theology was "to make the Christian feel happy about his faith. Because the beauty and eminence of our faith consist in this: that through the mysteries of grace it raises our nature to an immeasurably high plane and presents to us an inexpressibly intimate union with God."[2]


Scheeben's mind reveled in speculating on Divine grace, the hypostatic union, the beatific vision, the all-pervading presence of God; he was a firm believer in visions granted to himself and others, and his piety was all-absorbing. Very few minds were attuned to his. His pupils were allegedly overawed by the steady flow of his long abstruse sentences which brought scanty light to their intellects; his colleagues and his friends but rarely disturbed the peace of the workroom where his spirit brooded over a chaos of literary matters.[1]


The list of Scheeben's works opens with three treatises dealing with grace:

  1. Natur und Gnade. Versuch einer systematischen, wissenschaftlichen Darstellung der natürlichen und übernatürlichen Lebensordnung im Menschen. Mainz: 1861. (Nature and Grace. Trans. Cyril Vollert, SJ. St. Louis: Herder, 1954.)
  2. A new edition of Quid est homo by Antonius Casini, SJ (d. 1755), with introduction and notes. Scheeben's purpose was "To supply a patristic foundation for Nature and Grace" ..." (Vollert, "Foreword" to Scheeben's Nature and Grace x)
  3. Die Herrlichkeiten der göttlichen gnade. Freiburg: 1863. 8th ed. by A.M. Weiss, 1908. "... the work is popular in scope and became enormously successful. An English translation, The Glories of Divine Grace, appeared during Scheeben’s lifetime ..." (Vollert x)
  4. Mysterien des Christenthums. Freiburg: 1865–97. Trans. The Mysteries of Christianity. This is "... Scheeben's most famous book ... There is no other work quite like it in the vast history of Christian literature." (Vollert xi)
  5. Five pamphlets in defence of the Vatican Council, directed against Ignaz von Döllinger, Johann Friedrich von Schulte, and other Old Catholics.
  6. Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik. 7 parts. Freiburg: 1873–87.

The author did not finish this last; he died whilst working on "Grace". The missing treatises were supplied in German by Dr. Leonhard Atzberger (Freiburg, 1898). In English the missing treatises were supplied by Wilhelm and Scannel, who whilst strictly adhering to Scheeben's thought, reduced the bulky work to two handy volumes entitled: A Manual of Catholic Theology based on Scheeben's Dogmatik (3rd ed., 1906).

Scheeben also wrote a two-volume work "Mariology," later translated into English.

He founded and edited (1867–88) the Kölner Pastoralblatt and edited for thirteen years Das ökumenische Concil vom Jahre 1869, later (after 1872) entitled Periodische Blätter zu wissenschaftlichen Besprechung der grossen religiösen Fragen der Gegenwart.


  1. 1 2 "Matthias Joseph Scheeben". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
  2. Scheeben, Herrlichkeiten der Göttlichen Gnade (Magnificence of Divine Grace). Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, p. 3; as quoted in Scheeben, The Holy Spirit, compiled by Friedrich Fuchs, SVD, translated by Leon Jungblut, SVD. Allahabad, India: St Paul Publications, 1974, pp. 152–3.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Matthias Joseph Scheeben". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

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