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!
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.