Schoenstatt: Renewing the World for Christ

The following is a five-page essay written for my communications class. I would be honored if you would read it, but please do not let its length scare you away from my blog. 🙂 May God bless and our Mother keep you!

Lisa

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When asked what Schoenstatt is and why I love it so much, I feel as though I have been asked to explain the universe in the space of a moment. Words are inadequate to communicate Schoenstatt’s greatness; in order to truly appreciate it, you must live its principles. It would be impossible to explain the sun, the world, or our souls without having an experience of them. In the same way, I am only able to use a few feeble words that cannot convey the fullness of Schoenstatt’s reality. Nevertheless, I have come to realize that if God has graced you with the knowledge of something great, He desires that you communicate it to others. In this essay I will do my best to give a glimpse into the essence of the Schoenstatt Movement.

In our world today, we are experiencing the tragedy of an attempt to poison and redefine love. Many souls wander, seeking worldly pleasures. They turn away from God and deny the gift of true life. Truth is thrown on the wayside, and without truth there is no trust. Human relationships become deformed because of the rejection of dependence and complementarity. We claim to assert our individuality yet refuse to acknowledge the desire in the depths of every human heart to love and be loved. The mechanistic mentality of our culture has caused a loss of recognition of the dignity of persons, and we often feel as though we are only part of a machine. This has led to a gaping emptiness in our lives and relationships.

The Blessed Mother longs to bring us back to God. In Schoenstatt we respond by making a covenant of love with her, offering ourselves to be her instruments. In turn she promises to dwell among us and form us so that we can go into the world as Christ’s witnesses. In a world where the creature is separated from the creator, the body from the soul, the mind from the heart, love from the family, Schoenstatt strives to again bring about God-willed unity and order.

Schoenstatt is a movement of the Catholic Church with a powerful mission: “As a chosen work and instrument in the hand of Mary, we wish to work totally and untiringly for the Marian transformation of the world in Christ from Schoenstatt.” (200 Questions about Schoenstatt, #28) Schoenstatt is an international movement present on all continents and in more than eighty countries. The many branches and communities of Schoenstatt provide a place for all people in all walks of life. It is a place where men and women, families and youth, consecrated and lay people all unite to work towards the Holy Springtime of the Church. The three aims of Schoenstatt are:

1. Forming the new man (or person) in the new community,

2. Saving the salvific mission of the Western World,

3. The Apostolic World Confederation. (200 Questions about Schoenstatt, #28)

The second and third aims are beyond the scope of this essay; it will suffice to say that we share in Christ’s thirst for souls and work for the salvation of the entire world.

On October 18, 1914, the first covenant of love was made with the Blessed Mother in the original shrine in Germany. Under the guidance of Father Joseph Kentenich, the founding generation of boys consecrated themselves to Mary. The boys promised their best efforts for sanctity and asked Mary to use each of them as instruments to reach into the world. Although Schoenstatt did not become an official apostolic movement until 1919-1920, we recognize the essentiality of the covenant to the movement and so consider October eighteenth our founding day. Throughout the life of our founder the movement developed into the form that we know today.

The covenant of love is a Marian consecration recognized by the Church. It is a complete gift of self to our Blessed Mother, and through it we desire to grow in our ability to live our commitment to Christ and the Church. The covenant is a personal consecration, but also unites us in the original covenant and binds us to each other for the enrichment of the whole community.

A priest once described Schoenstatt in the terms of a triangle. The three points are our founder, the Blessed Mother, and the shrine; the enclosed area is the dynamic life of the covenant of love. In order to understand Schoenstatt, it is necessary to understand our three contact points.

Father Joseph Kentenich was born on November 18, 1885 in Gymnich, Germany. When he was nine years old, his mother was no longer able to care for him. Before she took him to an orphanage, she consecrated him to the Blessed Mother; this impressed him very deeply, and he developed a strong devotion to Mary. At a young age he recognized a desire to become a priest. On July 8, 1910 he was ordained to the priesthood in the Society of the Pallottines. In 1912, he became the spiritual director of the Pallottine Minor Seminary in Schoenstatt, Germany. His work with the seminarians led to the founding of the Schoenstatt Movement, and in 1919 he was allowed to focus on his work with the movement.

During the time that Hitler controlled Germany, Schoenstatt was persecuted by the Nazis. Father Kentenich was imprisoned for three and a half years; more than three of those years were spent in the concentration camp in Dachau. Even amidst the great deprivations and trials of the camp, Father always remained joyful and selfless in his service to others.

In the years following the Second World War, Schoenstatt began to grow internationally. The quickly expanding movement came under the scrutiny of the Church, which led to a separation of Father Kentenich from his work in Europe. In 1951 he was sent to the provincial house of the Pallottine Fathers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was appointed as the pastor of a German parish community. Father Kentenich’s Marian teaching and fatherly guidance led to the development of a Schoenstatt community in Milwaukee. Although it was a heavy cross to be exiled, he proved his love for the Church by accepting her authority and trusting in God’s providence. After fourteen years, he was allowed to return and spent the last three years of his life guiding the large international community.

The heart of Schoenstatt is the Blessed Mother. In our covenant of love with her as Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt we bring all our efforts and ask her to help us on our way to sanctity. Our daily consecration prayer says

…I consecrate to you this day
My eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart
My entire self without reserve….

Not only do we give our actions—we consecrate our entire being to her, so that we are able to more perfectly bring Christ into the world and fulfill His mission for us.

A deep love for Mary forms our personality. When we love someone, we seek to please them and think about them often throughout our daily duties. Our love for Mary is no different. In Schoenstatt, we strive to remain pure as she was. By seeking to make our eyes, ears, mouth, and heart more pleasing to our Mother, we open ourselves to her grace and slowly become little Immaculatas for the world.

Throughout history, God has chosen certain places to dwell and distribute His graces; often through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the saints. By giving us tangible places of pilgrimage, God uses our senses to bring our entire person closer to Him. In Schoenstatt, the Blessed Mother distributes three pilgrimage graces from the shrine: the grace of finding a home, the grace of inner transformation, and the grace of apostolic fruitfulness.

The Schoenstatt shrine is a little chapel, and the very coziness of the building gives it a homey feeling. Yet every person will acknowledge that a home is not defined by the physical structure; there is something more that makes a building into a home. The Schoenstatt shrine is a familiar place where we encounter Mary and her Blessed Son. It is a place where our heart can rest, and the loving atmosphere gives us a place of refuge from worldly cares. When we open our heart to receive the grace of a home in the shrine, we allow ourselves to become attached to the Blessed Mother in a deeper way and she gives us a place in her heart. No matter where we go, we will always have the security of a home that is more real than that of a physical shelter.

Every path toward sanctity is one of transformation. In the shrine, the Blessed Mother forms us into disciples of Christ. We bring her our strivings, and in turn we receive strength to withstand the pressures of the modern world. Through the grace of inner transformation, we become firm personalities committed to living each moment for Christ.

When we have found a home in the heart of the Blessed Mother and are interiorly transformed, we can no longer be still. Apostolic fruitfulness (zeal) is the culmination of our transformation. Love turns into action, and we become more effective instruments in our service to God and neighbor. We are convicted for Christ, and work with heroic love to bring souls to Him.

One of the fundamental aspects of Schoenstatt is our participation in following the will of God in our everyday life. The Blessed Mother is the perfect example of following the will of God, so we strive to imitate her. God has given all people a free will and desires that we use it to participate in His plan of love. He already has a plan for our life; we only need to discover it and give our “fiat”. We understand that God controls everything and He will not allow anything to happen that is not for our greatest good. There is great joy in knowing that the King of Creation has a perfect plan for our lives; and as long as we do our best to follow that plan, He will bless us by drawing us closer to Him.

With the gift of free will comes the obligation to choose right. God calls us all to holiness, but will not save us without our permission or participation. It is necessary to not only ask for the graces to sanctify our lives, but to spend all of our efforts towards that end. Because of this, Schoenstatt’s spirituality puts great focus on self education.

Self education requires knowing oneself. We must know the talents that God has given us, as well as our weaknesses and sins. Refusing to acknowledge our talents will cripple our ability to serve God and our community; refusing to acknowledge our weaknesses claims undue pride for ourselves and moves us further away from God. Every person has a unique personality, and it is of utmost importance to know who you are so that you may discover who God wants you to be.

Everyone is called to sanctity. Not just an abstract piousness, but holiness that is integrated into everyday life. Father Kentenich said, “Everyday sanctity is the God-pleasing harmony between wholehearted attachment to God, work and fellow-man in every circumstance of life.” Our goal is to achieve this sanctity both as an individual and as a community.

The particular examination is one of the tools that we use to direct our personal growth. It is a resolution specifically chosen to work towards the correction of a fault or the development of a virtue. The particular examination is often part of the Spiritual Daily Order, which is a list of practices that enables a person to live their faith to the fullest extent in their state in life. Written control is very important; it is a concrete way to keep track of our efforts, and is very effective in guiding our spiritual progress. Every resolution should be specific enough that it is clear at the end of the day if it has been kept or not. Seeking holiness is a difficult, life long task and requires many sacrifices; but in order to share in the Resurrection of Christ, we must share in His cross.

Man is a social being, and so it is necessary to grow spiritually not only as an individual but also as part of a community. Working toward common ideals stimulates growth in personal holiness as well as impacting the holiness of everyone around you. The first example of this is evident in our families. Then, as we go through life, our choices decide the community we become a part of. Our actions determine whether we uplift or degrade those around us. Recognizing the interdependence of free persons, Schoenstatt seeks to build a community that shares responsibility, life, and love.

To summarize, the human person is under attack. There is widespread loss of identity, which has caused the decline of society. Schoenstatt is a movement of renewal, a place of grace, and a unique spirituality; by receiving and living for the fulfillment of this great gift, we can help bring the world to its heavenly goal. God wishes to draw us to Himself, but requests our participation in His plan. In recognizing the dignity that God has given each person, we realize our obligation to joyfully respond to His call. The reality of Schoenstatt is necessary for our time; through commitment to the mission of the Blessed Mother in the shrine, our world will be renewed for Christ.

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Musings

Writing is an art…the ability to write enables beauty to be expressed and preserved. What would the world be like without the written word? Writing gives thoughts clarity, even in the midst of overwhelming emotions. The simple flow of thoughts making their way onto paper has a soothing effect on my soul. Although I love to write, I have a crippling case of perfectionism. I am finding writing increasingly difficult, especially on assigned essays for school. I am a slow writer—not averagely slow, but extremely slow. I have yet to sit down and write an essay (about one page long) for school in less than 6 hours, and often it takes me even longer. It is very frustrating to like and hate something at the same time.

Music and song is another way that I can find clarity in my thoughts. Both the joys and sorrows of my heart have found expression in song. When I was little, we often listened to tapes and records on the stereo system. There were also many sing alongs with Dad playing the guitar. My siblings and I would dance around the living room, singing as loud as we could. When the song did not say what we wanted it to, we just changed the words! Perhaps that gave me the ability to think in musical notes…to pray in melodies that I make up as I go along.

I wish I could be calm and peaceful, be confident and caught up with my homework, and have lots of time to spend with people. I keep waiting for the day to come that all my priorities are in place and I have abundant time to serve. Many days I feel selfish because they are primarily spent doing homework or other activities with the school, and I don’t have enough time or resources to commit to most service. It just doesn’t seem that a smile and prayers are enough.

On a happier note: there is a baby to hold here! With 60 students around that like to give him attention, it is hard to get him for very long. I have managed it, though, and am remembering how much I love cuddling and playing with babies. Soft hair, chubby cheeks, and drool…such sweetness. 😀

Too much time has passed, and I must pray and write some more before I fall asleep. If you have a few more minutes to read, look at this: Ephesians 6. May God bless and Mary keep you all.

Thank you…keep praying.

Thank you all for your prayers. Life is slowly returning to normal today…our area is no longer in danger of fire. Stores are reopening, the air is breathable, and you can see further into the horizon. Classes will resume tomorrow, but we were able to go to the classroom facilities today for confession and Holy Mass. Something in particular that has made me love JPCU is prayer. When we are happy, we pray. When there are difficulties, we pray. When there is danger, we pray. Prayer is intermingled with life. 😀 Monday morning we gathered in St. Jude’s (a common room) to pray the rosary and Divine Mercy together, and then some of the guys made breakfast for everyone. The past few days have been filled with talking, visiting, watching movies, pretending to do homework, etc. Even through the concern, we all managed to laugh and talk and have a good time. We have been so blessed; although it was a stressful few days, the school has been more closely knit into a family.

Do not stop praying, though. The fires are still burning, even though they are not in our immediate area. There are so many people that have lost their homes, many who are still evacuated, many who still are uncertain of whether they will come home to ruins or not. There is a massive extent of damage, and will take a long time for everyone to recover. Give thanks to God for protecting our school, and pray that the difficulties caused by the fire only bring people closer to Him. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Please pray

Please pray for all the people affected by the Southern California fires. As of right now, we are fine where we are…thank God that we are safe here! 🙂 However, there are many evacuations close to here, including families of students and faculty–and classes have been canceled for today. We have been able to see smoke since yesterday, and the air has gotten progressively worse. Right now we are just sitting tight in our apartment.

Thinking about the fires have given me a new appreciation for the power of fire; I have been thinking a lot about “setting the world ablaze” with love for Christ, and what that really means. To be so consumed by love that nothing can stop us, and that the devil feels helpless in our path. :-p

Everything is so dry. I don’t think I have ever experienced 5% humidity before…I can’t say that it is very pleasant. Dry, gusty winds mixed with flames are quite frightening. Jesus, I trust in You

Thoughts of blessings

Although I should be doing homework right now, I feel the need to let some random thoughts flow out of my fingers. So…where to start? Life is crazily busy and somewhat stressful, but is more blessed than anything.

There are some changes going on with the school, so my mind is constantly occupied not only with the present, but also with the future. Sometimes it is difficult to see what God wants of us; but even when we know, it is difficult to accept it. It is a constant struggle to trust, especially when it is needed the most–when we do not see the way. This morning I was praying, and opened my Bible. The first chapter that my eyes fell upon was Psalms 121.

1. I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From whence does my help come?
2. My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

I need to remember to take a break and just breathe. To take time to let go of all my concerns, placing them in God’s hands again. To just sit back and marvel at how good God is to me, and be happy in being His little girl. It is so hard to keep up with everything, and I have found it quite easy to occupy myself for all the hours of a day…I am falling into the habit of just having appointments during the day with God, rather than inviting Him to walk with me all throughout the day. I seek the company and approval of others, rather than remembering to love God with my whole soul, mind and strength.

Here at JPCU I am discovering that no matter where I go, I will be the same old me. I will always find happiness in God and the people who surround me, compare myself and never be satisfied, and find the greatest joy and strength in my Faith and Schoenstatt. I will always be tied to my family and friends, and feel sorrow because I can’t keep up correspondence with everyone…I am very thankful for prayer, that I can always seek to be closer in Christ through such friendships.

Since I am very tired and I feel like I am getting less coherent by the minute, I will say goodbye. Please say a prayer that I get a job soon, that I can keep up with my schoolwork, and that all the students here may recognize the abundant blessings in their life. May God bless and Mary keep you all!

The Finding in the Temple

Like many Bible stories, the finding of Jesus in the temple is familiar to my ears. It is most particularly called to mind whenever I pray the rosary. However, as I begin to study Scripture in more depth, I find myself with the awe of a child. As I reread and hear the stories contained in Scripture, they become real and form my life. God speaks through His written word, using it to communicate with us and give us His guidance.

Luke 2:41-45 gives an account of the setting of the finding of Jesus. We learn that it was a custom of the time to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover and find the Holy Family making the journey. Through the journey and celebration we recognize the vitality and presence of Jewish culture in their everyday life. When the feast was ended, Mary and Joseph sought Jesus among the company of the travelers; when they could not find Him, they returned to the Holy City.

On our journey of life, we must take into account the culture that we are a part of. Creation is unfolded through the development of culture, and the celebrations and customs are part of the expression of God’s plan. At times, though, in the midst of the celebrations we lose sight of Christ. We move on our way, searching among our “fellow travelers”; yet it is often necessary to turn back to find Him.

Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, “…sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46-47) In this I find a strong correlation to the public life of Jesus. He taught by asking questions rather than giving dissertations on what was right. Engaging the reason of those who asked for His wisdom, He guided their conclusion. In Jesus’ presence in the temple among the teachers we find a brief glimpse of His perfect guidance and respect; by asking questions He draws the freedom of each person to choose right from wrong. This example shines through all His work and gives a precedent for teaching all through the ages.

Jesus remained in Jerusalem for three days. Just as He would be hidden for three days in the tomb, He is hidden for three days from the sight of Mary and Joseph. When we lose Christ in our lives, we are allowed to taste a bit of the anxiety of His parents; but we will always find Him in the Eucharist as the temple that was raised up in three days (cf. John 2:19, 21).

Mary and Joseph did not understand when Jesus asked them “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Yet even though He was the Son of God, He went back to Nazareth and submitted to their authority. It is amazing to really think that the Son of God Himself would obey the authority of human parents; it gives us a model for obedience that should form our very being.

There are many lessons that can be learned through meditation on the simple stories of Christ’s life. In the story of the finding in the temple, we find both a model of teaching and obedience as well as a glimpse into the mystery of salvation. In each passage of Scripture, God speaks to us to give us guidance for everyday life. Many times it is just a whisper in our heart, reminding us of the little virtues; sometimes it is a voice that tells us to glance towards the larger picture of life. In all things, Scripture leads us to Christ—the living Word who dwells among us and brings us to the fulfillment of life.

The most influential people in my life

There have been a vast number of lives that have touched mine. Many different people have shared a piece of their soul in my formation; it is impossible to pinpoint a single person who was the most influential. However, I have come to the conclusion that no one has given as much as my parents; in all the highs and lows of family life I have observed them. I was home schooled all through school and so my life revolved around home and family for my most formative years. As a result, I have acquired many of Mom and Dad’s strengths as well as assimilating some of their weaknesses.

Dad was the fifth of eight children, and grew up on a dairy farm. He has a passive personality, yet is very opinionated. One thing in which I particularly feel his influence is my love of books and learning. In our home, there have always been many books. When my siblings and I were little, Dad would read us a story every night—it was a highlight of our day. I remember listening to Rootabaga Stories, stories of Uncle Wiggly and the Littletails, the Little House on the Prairie series, and many other such books. As I grew older, there were fewer story times; but they have been replaced with frequent conversations with Dad about what I have read.

My Mom came from a small family with only one brother, so the exuberant and rambunctious behavior of my siblings and I often exasperated her. Mom was my first teacher. From her I learned how to get dressed, brush my hair, get dishes clean, sweep floors, do laundry, change a diaper, and care for toddlers, as well as all my elementary school subjects. Because Mom has given us all her strong will, there have been some conflicts; but a great part of the everyday guidance in my life has come from her.

There have been many special moments that I have shared with my parents. In high school, I enjoyed one-on-one time with Dad in the drive to and from Confirmation and drivers education classes. As we worked at companies that were about a block from each other, I also drove to work with him a couple of days a week for more than a year. It was a blessed opportunity to talk about literature, faith, culture, and a variety of current issues. Late nights have been my time with Mom. Sometimes we shared a cup of chai tea, sometimes a near-midnight snack, but many times were just spent in conversation and laughter.

My parents gave me life not only in the natural sense, but also spiritually. At my Baptism, they took on the responsibility to educate me in my Faith, and I received my first “taste” of faith through them. When I was about six years old, we began praying the rosary together as a family. Attending Holy Mass has always been a priority. Although it has not been possible to attend daily Mass, my parents have always made sure that we attended on Sundays. While growing up, I had both the example of my parents to show me what was right and their prayers to help me remain faithful.

There are many little instances of how I have been influenced as my personality has developed. It is an awesome fact that even the mere presence of a person can touch you in such a way that it forms the innermost parts of your soul. My parents have been such influences; always there, always touching my life, continuously contributing in silence to the person I am today.