schoenstatt

schoenstatt main

Chapter Eight: About Schoenstatt's History

See CCC 27.

Christian history cultivates the relationship with God by keeping alive the moments of his special intervention and activity in our personal lives and human history. It is therefore attuned to the “inbreak of the divine” as God unfolds his covenant with the Church.

To grasp this truth, one need only recall the covenant history of the Old Testament (e.g. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David) and of the New Testament established in Christ (recalled each year in the great liturgical feasts of the Church). It shows the concrete path of divine invitation and human response in the past and gives orientation in the search for God’s will in the present and future. Schoenstatt’s covenant spirituality (è 86) is attentive to the concrete history of the covenant of love with the MTA as a school that helps us grow in the covenant with God.

Moreover, this history is seen in the light of a practical faith in Divine Providence. Hence, this history’s most central defining moments shed light on Schoenstatt’s identity and mission. Recalling and reliving them helps secure this identity and mission in changing times, and helps guarantee Schoenstatt’s authentic contribution to the renewal of our times. As founder, Fr. Kentenich reflected on Schoenstatt’s history and identified certain documents and events as central and defining. He called them the “Founding Documents” (è 70) and “four milestones” (è 18), which this chapter will consider along with other important moments.

Founding documents: è 166, 168, 177, 184

Milestones: è 168, 179, 187, 193

“Old Schoenstatt” refers to the history of Schoenstatt’s founding place in the centuries before it was purchased by the Pallottines in 1901. During the lifetime of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Bernard’s good friend Bishop of Albero of Trier, established an Augustinian convent as part of a new effort to evangelize western Germany. This convent was founded, according to an official document of the Bishop, on October 24, 1143 in “eyne schoene statt” (“a beautiful place”), the present Schoenstatt near Vallendar.

It took some eighty years to finish construction of the “Cloister of Our Lady of Schoenstatt” (patron saints: Our Lady, St. John the Baptist, later St. Barbara) and it soon was filled with many vocations. This vigorous life continued for over 100 years. By the 1300s, in a time of general decline in the religious life set in, and the abbey lost so many sisters that it had to be dissolved in 1436. A second founding followed in 1487, but the trying times of the Reformation led to a new depopulation of religious houses and the abbey was closed for good in 1567.

Except for the two west towers, the ancient church and abbey was completely destroyed by the Swedes during the Thirty Years' War (16181648), and what was left lay mostly forgotten and little tended until a certain Mr. Dorsenmagen became its owner in the late 1800s. It was from him that the Pallottine Fathers bought the property in 1901.

The convent cemetery is known to have had a St. Michael’s chapel from at least 1319. It is likely that it was also destroyed by the Swedes in 1633. The chapel was rebuilt in 1681 on the ancient foundations. It too passed into Pallottine ownership in 1901, becoming the Schoenstatt Shrine in 1914.

The beginning of “new Schoenstatt” was in 1901 when the Pallottines acquired the old convent and grounds. They returned it to religious use by making it the boarding school for high school seminary.

Key developments of Schoenstatt’s “pre-history” are connected with the life of its Founder, Father Joseph Kentenich.

  • November 18, 1885: the birth of Fr. Kentenich in Gymnich, near Cologne, Germany.
  • April 12, 1894: unable to take care of her son, Fr. Kentenich’s mother leaves him at an orphanage in Oberhausen, Germany. In her distress, she entrusts her 8-year-old son to Mary, who takes this dedication totally to heart. This laid an important foundation for the later covenant of love.
  • September 24, 1904: Joseph enters the novitiate of the Pallottines. His 6 years of formation are marked by a difficult interior crisis that further prepares him for his mission to understand the interior crises of the modern soul.
  • July 8, 1910: Fr. Kentenich is ordained a priest with the Pallottine Fathers in Limburg, Germany.
  • October 25, 1912: Fr. Kentenich was appointed spiritual director of the Pallottine Minor Seminary in Schoenstatt. Two days later he introduces himself to the students with a talk now known as the “Pre-founding Document.”

The “Pre-founding Document” is the talk which Fr. Kentenich gave on October 27, 1912 as he began his work as spiritual director in Schoenstatt. His task was to win over the students who were in a state of rebellion over the heavy-handedness of the house rules. Fr. Kentenich first offered his service:

“I now place myself entirely at your disposal with all that I am and have—my knowledge and ignorance, my ability and inability, but above all, my heart.”

He then took up the challenge posed by the students’ search for freedom by proposing a program to engage the initiative of the young men:

“What is our aim then? (....)

Under the protection of Mary

we want to learn to educate ourselves

to become firm, free, priestly personalities.”

The boys made this plan their own. Little by little they grew toward more overtly religious aims, but the accent on self-education and the formation of a community of “firm, free, priestly personalities” is, until today, an essential part of Schoenstatt. Because this event initiated the series of events leading to Schoenstatt’s founding, and because the talk captures so much of what Schoenstatt aims to do, it has come to be known as the “Pre-founding Document.”

As Fr. Kentenich’s work as spiritual director progressed, he looked for a way to engage the students in a community that would not merely focus on ethical or social aims, but on genuinely religious ones. At the same time, he sought a community that would promote a maximum of personal initiative on the part of the boys, including in their striving for sanctity. When Fr. Kentenich became familiar with the Marian Sodality in 1913, he immediately felt it was the right organization for accomplishing the aims that would best help his boys progress both naturally and supernaturally.

After careful preparations designed to make sure that the decision was truly a free one on the part of the boys, the students petitioned their Pallottine community for permission to form a Marian Sodality. The founding took place on April 19, 1914, when the candidates from the upper classes made the Sodality consecration to Mary.

The impact of the Marian Sodality on Schoenstatt can still be seen in a number of forms which already became dear to the first generation, like the prayer “My Queen, My Mother,” known in Sodality tradition as the “Little Consecration” and the Sodality greeting Nos cum prole pia / benedicat Virgo Maria (Mother with your Blessed Son / bless us each and every one). In fact, Schoenstatt was organized as a Sodality all through World War I until specific forms were established for the Apostolic Federation (1919) and League (1920).

Event. October 18, 1914 is the founding day of Schoenstatt. On that day Fr. Kentenich and the founding generation of boys gathered in the old St. Michael’s chapel in Schoenstatt, Germany and made a covenant of love with Mary, the Mother of God (è 49, 67). The purpose of this covenant was to offer their efforts of self-sanctification while asking Mary to make the chapel a place of grace and their “cradle of sanctity.” The talk which Fr. Kentenich gave on that day, proposing this undertaking, is now known as the “First Founding Document” (è 48, 70, 71).

Importance for Schoenstatt. As its founding day, October 18 is considered the “first milestone” of the history of Schoenstatt. Fr. Kentenich characterized its inner meaning as “standing in divine light” or an act of heroic faith. The heroic faith he alludes to is that of faith in the invitation of Divine Providence to make this covenant of love and invite Mary to take up her abode in the Shrine (è 47). As a result, Schoenstatt has always been a movement strongly focused on faith and the renewal of the religious and moral foundations needed for faith to prosper.

Central to the charism of Schoenstatt is the means chosen on October 18: the establishment of a covenant of love with Mary, Mother of God. This covenant is not just another means to an end, but the soul of everything Schoenstatt is and does. Hence, one’s membership in Schoenstatt begins when one makes the covenant of love (i.e. makes the covenant of love of October 18 one’s own). Communities are constituted in the same way. Local Schoenstatt centers revolve around daughter shrines, home shrines or wayside shrines (è 59-65). Schoenstatt’s entire mission, spirituality, organization, and pedagogy is likewise a fruit of this historically unique covenant of love (è 69).

Importance for Catholic life and faith. For those who make the first milestone a part of their life through the covenant of love, there are definite benefits for the growth of Catholic life and faith:

• The covenant of love opens up a new and vibrant way to grow in the covenant which God began in the Old Testament, completed in the New Testament, and made us a part of in baptism.

• As a free, personal decision, this covenant gives a new opportunity for the faithful to consciously decide for faith in Christ and the Church and accept it as a personal commitment.

• Like all Marian consecrations (è 17, 67) it helps one grow into a deeper relationship with Mary. This love of Mary leads in turn to a deeper and more fruitful relationship with Christ and the entire Trinity.

• The accent on striving for sanctity according to one’s vocation and state in life helps us to more concretely realize the universal call to holiness which Christ makes of all his disciples. The incentive to self-education also helps give this universal call concrete shape in one’s everyday life (è 128)

• Based on an act of heroic faith, it gives us access to a charism and family in the Church which cultivates a stronger practical faith, especially faith in Divine Providence (è 23).

• Schoenstatt’s founding covenant is not just an individual act, but one with a strong community dimension, and those who make the covenant are drawn into the unique community of the Schoenstatt Family. This offers direct benefits for one’s growth into the community dimension of the faith as belonging to the people of God.

• The concrete local attachment to the Shrine as a place of grace helps give greater firmness and flexibility to faith in unsettled times, and the experience of attachment to concrete places, persons, dates and ideas helps one set down deeper roots in faith, hope and love.

In 1595, Jesuit Father Jacob Rem (1546-1618) established a Catholic youth organization called the “Colloquium Marianum” (Marian Colloquium). The purpose of the Colloquium was to encourage the most motivated members of the Marian Sodality in the Jesuit school in Ingolstadt, Germany to a great love of Mary, special works of apostolate and sustained self-education for sanctity. It flourished to such an extent that many of the future Church and secular leaders of Central Europe went through its ranks. As a result, whole regions that might have turned Protestant came under the leadership of a new generation of committed Catholic priests and laity.

Fr. Kentenich came upon a book about Fr. Rem and the Colloquium in 1915 and shared its contents with the entire Schoenstatt Sodality (è 13). Here the founding generation of Schoenstatt found what they wanted to accomplish in a living example. They began to express their mission and desire to conquer the world for Christ through Mary the “Ingolstadt-Schoenstatt Parallel.” Fr. Kentenich put it this way in a talk to the boys on May 30, 1915: “What would happen if the Ingolstadt of the past were to become the Vallendar of modern times? (...) Vallendar should truly become a second Ingolstadt (...) Our Shrine must be, in the image of Ingolstadt, the starting point.”

Two enduring legacies of the parallel are 1) the choice of the title of Mary as Mother Thrice Admirable (the title used in Ingolstadt) (è 13) and 2) the small panels at the bottom of the light frame around the MTA picture in the Original Shrine. These panels read: “Ingolstadt 1914, Schoenstatt 1919” and refer to the fact that in Schoenstatt’s first years the best public way they found to express their great aspirations was the historical model of Ingolstadt. After that Schoenstatt became a movement in its own right (è 173) and could openly speak of its mission of Marian transformation of the world in Christ.

Other central events of the founding era include:

• 1915: The gift of the picture of Mary that was placed in the Shrine and given the title “Mother Thrice Admirable” (è 13).

• 1916: the “supplemental founding act” in which Fr. Kentenich concluded that it was also God’s desire that Schoenstatt integrate into its mission the mission of St. Vincent Pallotti (è 37). As he saw it, the essence of this mission was to pursue the “Apostolic World Confederation” envisioned by Pallotti (è 36)

• 1916: the founding of the “External Organization” for members who had been drafted into the military. This step also permitted the extension of Schoenstatt to students who did not belong to the Schoenstatt Minor Seminary. The External Organization prepared the way for the definitive founding of Schoenstatt as a Movement in 1919.

• 1918: The death of Joseph Engling on the front near Cambrai on October 4. His death, coupled with the total offering of his life to the MTA for her mission on May 31, 1918, gave the young movement its first outstanding witness and candidate for canonization. As the movement developed, his biography and diary entries helped successive generations express and understand what they found was so new and life-giving in Schoenstatt.

The founding generation consists of all those who belonged to Schoenstatt before it formally became a movement in 1919. Most were students from the Pallottine school in Schoenstatt, but as World War I progressed, the membership expanded more and more into non-Pallottine circles.

At least 180 young men have been identified as having belonged to the Schoenstatt Sodality and the External Organization in these years. Of these, 16 died in battle (the so-called “Hero-Sodalists,” including Joseph Engling, Hans Wormer, Max Brunner), 43 later became Pallottine Fathers and 11 became diocesan priests. Some, including Fritz Esser, who carved the original “Servus Mariae nunquam peribit” for the Shrine (è 54, 58), died in their early 20s from health complications of the war years. Several became pioneers of Schoenstatt in such foreign countries as South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the United States.

The term “Black crosses” is sometimes used to indicate those Schoenstatt members who died in battle during WWI and who heroically offered their life for Schoenstatt. They are also known as the “Hero Sodalists”. The expression “black cross” comes from the typical black crosses used by the German army to mark the grave sites of those who died during WWI and which were used to mark the graves of Max Brunner and Hans Wormer after their bodies were recovered and laid to rest behind the Original Shrine in 1934.

After five years in the form of a Marian Sodality, Schoenstatt officially became a movement with its own structure in 1919. On July 18, 1919 the Pallottines assigned Fr. Kentenich to work full-time with the new movement. And on August 19-20, 1919, the first organizational step was taken in a leaders’ meeting in Hoerde (near Dortmund). This meeting culminated in the creation of the Apostolic Federation and the codification of the first organizational principles.

A second important step came one year later with the founding of the Apostolic League on August 20, 1920. The purpose of the League was to open up membership to as many Catholics as possible from all walks of life. The structures of the League (è 143-145), including its subdivision into associate members and members, were already laid down in 1920. When the League was founded, the term “Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt” was also formally introduced to designate all of those belonging to Schoenstatt.

The first woman to join Schoenstatt was Gertraud von Bullion(1891-1930), a Red Cross nurse who got to know about Schoenstatt through some of the Schoenstatt members serving as soldiers in World War I.

Through her insistence, Fr. Kentenich consented to the founding of the first women’s branch of Schoenstatt on December 8, 1920: the Women’s Federation. Von Bullion and Marie Christmann were the first two members, making their consecration to the MTA on that day in the Original Shrine.

The 1920s and 1930s saw Schoenstatt grow in depth and numbers all over Germany. Some of the most important developments included:

• 1921 (Feb. 2): Pallottine General Superior Cardi approves the Apostolic Movement as a part of the work of Vincent Pallotti

• 1922: Bishop Hennemann, a Pallottine, informs Pope Pius XI about the new Schoenstatt Movement. The Holy Father gives Schoenstatt its first apostolic blessing.

• 1926 (Oct. 1): Founding of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, destined to become the first of Schoenstatt’s six secular institutes.

• 1929: Fr. Kentenich describes Schoenstatt’s importance to Church and world with these words: “In the shadow of this Shrine, the destiny of Church and world will be essentially co-determined for centuries to come” (è 44).

• 1933: Adolf Hitler and the Nazis assume to power in Germany. The Schoenstatt Family prepares to face great difficulties.

• 1933: The saying “Nothing without you, MTA, nothing without us” becomes a summary of Schoenstatt’s spirituality.

• 1933: Departure of the first Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary sent to the foreign missions. The first go to South Africa, in the next 7 years many others are sent to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

• 1934: The present altar and woodworking is placed in the Shrine.

• 1934: Peoples’ and Pilgrim Movement established as a Schoenstatt counter-offensive against the growing influence of the Nazis. In the next years, hundreds of MTA chapels and wayside shrines are erected all over Germany.

• 1934: Students from the Pallottine seminary in Schoenstatt, calling themselves the “Generation of the Black Crosses” (è 172), go in search of the mortal remains of the “Hero-sodalists” who died in WWI. The bodies of Max Brunner and Hans Wormer are found and reburied behind the Original Shrine. The “return of the heroes” on August 20-21 is the highlight of the 15th anniversary of Hoerde. With 4000 members present in an impressive display of prayer and faith in the mission of the MTA, it was the largest gathering in Schoenstatt to date, and a statement of faith in the power of the MTA to overcome the Nazi oppression.

The 1930s fell more and more under the shadow of the Nazi persecution. But the same persecution led to an accelerated growth in terms of the depth of the covenant of love. Here are some of the highlights:

• 1935: Fr. Kentenich celebrates his Silver Jubilee, states his personal gratitude to each Schoenstatt member for their part in his priesthood.

• 1937: Publication of Everyday Sanctity (by Sr. M. Annette Nailis) the first major book on Schoenstatt’s spirituality.

• 1939 (April): the Gestapo confiscates the Pallottine Seminary in Schoenstatt to train Nazi teachers. Since the school looks directly down on the Original Shrine, the movement must fear that the Shrine could be closed at any time.

• 1939 (May 31): in response to the threat to the Shrine, the Indivisa course of the Schoenstatt Sisters forms a human chain around the Shrine at night and offers to defend it, even with their lives.

• 1939 (Sept. 1): World War II begins.

• 1939 (Oct. 18): On Schoenstatt’s 25th anniversary, the Movement makes the first “Blank Check” dedication (è 76) in the realization that the victory over diabolical powers can only come through a more total gift of self to the MTA. Fr. Kentenich, in Switzerland, sends a message now known as the “Second Founding Document” (è 177).

• 1939 (Dec. 10): The Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary crown the MTA in the Original Shrine, with Fr. Kentenich doing the formal crowning act. It gives visual expression to the Blank Check of October 18 and the confidence that Mary will use her power to overcome the dark forces at work in the times. It is the beginning of what would later become the crowning stream in Schoenstatt.

Because of commitments in Switzerland, Fr. Kentenich was unable to be present for Schoenstatt’s Silver Jubilee celebration on October 18, 1939. Instead, he sent a lengthy message entitled “Words Befitting the Hour” to reaffirm the Schoenstatt Family in the spirit and mission of October 18, 1914. The resulting compendium of Schoenstatt spirit was of such great importance that it came to be known as the Second Founding Document.

This document is both a text of thanksgiving to the MTA and of renewal to Schoenstatt’s commitment to her made on October 18, 1914. In a stirring litany of blessings (No. 5-18) he recounts the many ways Mary has shown her love and power in 25 years of history, concluding with:

“Everything which the Founding Document hoped and prayed for has literally come true: Our Blessed Mother has erected her throne of grace here in a special manner, and she has revealed her glories to the world in many ways. She has become our Mother and Queen...” (No. 18).

The document then calls on the Schoenstatt Family to remain faithful to the sources upon which it was built, evoking the memory of Joseph Engling as a radiant example of Schoenstatt’s genuine spirit. He outlines three imperatives for Schoenstatt in the battles of the times (No. 50):

1. to cultivate the awareness of being instruments of God,

2. to maintain Schoenstatt’s decidedly Marian character,

3. to place new emphasis on the contributions to the capital of grace of the Mother Thrice Admirable.

In much of the rest of the document he then underscores the importance of the Blank Check dedication, which the Schoenstatt Family offered to the MTA on that day (è 76).

After the recommitment of Schoenstatt to its deepest sources of strength in 1939, events moved swiftly into the darkest years of the Nazi era, including the imprisonment and death of many Schoenstatt members. Not even the founder was spared, spending 1941-45 in prison.

• 1941 (Feb.): beginning of the Inscriptio lifestream when Fr. Kentenich uses St. Augustine’s phrase inscriptio cordis in cor in a talk for the Sisters. By October the Sisters become the first Schoenstatt community to make the Inscriptio consecration (è 77)

• 1941 (Sept. 20): Fr. Kentenich is arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Koblenz.

• 1941 (Christmas): beginning of the Mariengarten (è 180)

• 1942 (Jan. 20): Fr. Kentenich opts not to make use of an opportunity to be declared “unfit for the concentration camp”; this comes to be seen as Schoenstatt’s second milestone (è 179)

• 1942 (March 13): After a two-day transport from Koblenz, Fr. Kentenich arrives in the concentration camp in Dachau (near Munich).

• 1942 (July 16): Founding of the Family Work and the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary in Dachau.

• 1943 (Oct. 18): Dedication of the first replica daughter shrine in Nueva Helvetia, Uruguay (è 60)

• 1944 (Sept. 24, Oct. 18, Dec. 8): Fr. Kentenich gives talks in Dachau that come to be seen as the “Third Founding Document” (è184)

• 1944 (Oct. 18): Founding of “Schoenstatt International”

• 1945 (Apr. 6): Fr. Kentenich released from Dachau

• 1945 (May 20): Fr. Kentenich returns to Schoenstatt, the day becomes one of heartfelt gratitude to the MTA

Event. “January 20” is an important event that took place on January 20, 1942. This was the day that Fr. Kentenich, a prisoner of the Nazis in the Gestapo prison in Koblenz, Germany, freely chose not to use a legitimate opportunity to avoid transport to the concentration camp. That opportunity (arranged with great difficulty by his followers) was to request a reexamination of his health. A doctor had been arranged who knew that Fr. Kentenich lacked the use of one lung, meaning he could be easily declared “unfit for the camp.” After much soul-searching, however, Fr. Kentenich concluded that God’s will for him and Schoenstatt was to turn down the offer and freely embrace the concentration camp.

The reasons for this momentous decision were several:

1. He sensed a crucial “interwovenness of fates” between himself and his family. His choice was not just about his personal fate, but directly impact Schoenstatt’s future: externally (especially if Fr. Kentenich would die in a concentration camp) and internally (whether it would be so rooted in God as to always choose the ways of heroic sanctity). Given this reality, he could choose nothing less than the way that best served his family.

2. In particular, he felt the urgent need to secure the “inner freedom of the family” so that it would prosper even in times of extreme fear and distress. By not choosing the way of exterior freedom, he was clearly showing his family the high value of interior freedom, anchored in “the reality of the supernatural.”

3. In the concrete moment of the family’s history he also saw the urgent need to challenge his followers to trust even more radically in God’s power over human power; he therefore combined his decision with the declaration of his belief that his freedom would depend on the family committing to the Blank Check and the Inscriptio. This expressed the “interwovenness of fates” in the other direction – that his well-being would be determined by his family.

Fr. Kentenich was able to write a few short letters on January 20 that were smuggled out of the prison. A few lines from these letters capture the spirit of his decision:

“The answer came ... to me during the consecration [at Mass]. Our priests should take the Inscriptio and Blank Check seriously, especially some of the older ones. I will then regain my freedom. Please understand my decision on the basis of faith in the reality of the supernatural and in the interwovenness of fates of the members of our Family.”

“Please fulfill one request for me: See to it that the Family takes the Blank Check and Inscriptio seriously... Then I will be free.”

Importance for Schoenstatt. This heroic decision would have a deep and irreversible impact on Schoenstatt and its spirituality. The covenant of love of October 18, 1914 was raised to a new and decisive level of heroic maturity – expressed in the Blank Check (total conformity to God’s will, è 76) and Inscriptio (love of the cross, è 77). Because January 20 was not a hidden act, but one that placed the whole Movement in a life-and-death situation, it also placed this level of covenant heroism at the center of the Family’s awareness.

Fr. Kentenich characterized the inner meaning of January 20 as “standing in divine confidence” or an act of heroic hope or trust. He spent much of the rest of his life actively challenging the members and communities of his movement to “get up onto the stage of January 20” and make this milestone their own so as to reach the interior freedom and so needed for our times.

The profound effect of this milestone can be seen in Fr. Kentenich’s characterization of January 20 as “the axis of the entire history of the family.” The importance of inner freedom, total self-giving and radical trust in God, always important to Schoenstatt, were now sealed in a way that made them inseparable from Schoenstatt’s identity. The role of Fr. Kentenich also began a new phase of development: whereas he was previously more in the background of the public awareness of the movement, he was now thrust more into the foreground because of a heightened public appreciation for his role as founder. Moreover, January 20 marked a new stage of growth for Schoenstatt’s experience as a family. The realization of the “interwovenness of fates” of founder and followers enhanced the sense of belonging together. A new and unique expression of this was the Mariengarten or Garden of Mary (è 180).

Importance for Catholic life and faith. January 20 intersects with decisive realities in the Catholic faith. Especially when one thinks of Fr. Kentenich’s heroic act, it provides:

• A concrete application of Jesus’ injunction, “Unless you take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my true disciple” (Lk 14,27), in a way that connects it to the challenges of the modern Church.

• A new way to appreciate and grow closer to Christ in his total acceptance of the will of the Father, including his death: “Before he was given up to death, a death he freely accepted...” (Eucharistic Prayer II).

• Motivation to seek the heroic spirit of the virtues, that is, to go beyond the “first conversion” (turning away from sin and turning to God for my sake) and grow toward a “second conversion” (total surrender of self to God for his sake).

• This heroism of trust in God’s power is especially suited to making us better able to face the life’s crosses and suffering, to overcome deep-seated fears that keep us from totally serving God, to be more totally attuned to the plans of Divine Providence.

• Spiritual foundations for the spirit of martyrdom and, if it is God’s call, the ability to die a martyr’s death.

• The community dimension of January 20 helps us grow as the “communion of saints” – with solidarity for one another and coresponsibilty for the well-being of the Church. It can also help us find sound footing for a Christian approach to social justice issues.

• Growing into January 20 ordinarily creates a more solid basis for the total integration of the human person and hence aids the receptivity for the graces of salvation as they affect one’s commitments to self, family, vocation, Church and God.

The “Mariengarten” or “Garden of Mary” is an important lifestream within the Schoenstatt Family rooted in a historical event of Christmas 1941. Although the event took place before January 20, 1942, it is considered a concrete realization and unique embodiment of the spirit of the second milestone.

In the context of the first Christmas after Fr. Kentenich’s arrest (1941), one of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary living at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Koblenz wrote a Christmas letter to the Christ Child, expressing her desire that Fr. Kentenich be freed. She then left it for her superior to do with as she pleased. The superior was so impressed by the letter that she smuggled it into Fr. Kentenich in prison. Fr. Kentenich, sensing the genuine spirit of faith behind this request, replied and was able to smuggle out a “letter from the Christ Child” to Sr. Mariengard. In it he alluded to the name of the young Sister and its meaning: Mariengarten, that is, Garden of Mary:

“My dear little Mariengard,

“I shall grant your wish when your heart and the heart of our entire Family has become a blossoming Garden of Mary. Thus, the fulfillment of your request for the ‘miracle of the Holy Night’ is placed in your hands and in the hands of all Schoenstatt children.”

That Christmas the letter became the central Christmas message for the entire Sisters’ community in Koblenz. They immediately set out to create this “Garden of Mary” through their strivings, so that Fr. Kentenich would soon be free. It was the beginning of a lifestream that eventually encompassed the entire Sisters’ community and finally spread into the entire Schoenstatt Family.

Until today this lifestream plays an important role, especially in the women’s communities. Groups and communities prepare by working on spiritual strivings and choosing an appropriate symbol for themselves to be “implanted” in the Mariengarten. The act is done with the MTA in special connection to the person and mission of Fr. Kentenich.

Starting with the letter of Sister Mariengard to the Christ Child and Fr. Kentenich’s response (Christmas 1941, è 180), the Schoenstatt Family began to express the striving for Fr. Kentenich’s freedom from prison in terms of the “miracle of the Holy Night.” In the childlike language of the Mariengarten (“Garden of Mary”), if only Schoenstatt would become a flourishing garden, the miracle promised on the “Holy Night” (the German way to speak of Christmas Eve and Christmas Night) would come true.

When Fr. Kentenich returned safely to Schoenstatt on May 20, 1945, it was immediately considered the fulfillment of this promise and seen as the realization of the “Miracle of the Holy Night.”

When Fr. Kentenich was sent into exile (è 189-190) and a new wave of striving began for his freedom, many circles saw this in the light of the Garden of Mary and prayed for a “second miracle of the Holy Night.” In a beautiful gift of Divine Providence, the actual day of Fr. Kentenich’s return from the exile years to Schoenstatt, Germany, took place on December 24, 1965 – indeed, the Holy Night!

The “Candlemas vision” refers to an inner certitude which Fr. Kentenich received two weeks after January 20, 1942. The conviction grew within him that God would grant him his freedom and ensure a richly blessed future for his Movement because he had freely decided to go to the concentration camp. The day this happened was February 2, 1942, known traditionally as the feast of “Candlemas” (Presentation of the Lord), hence the title “Candlemas vision.”

The term “vision” does not refer to any kind of apparition or other unusual phenomenon, but to a conviction inspired by grace. Because the resulting conviction included the fact that Schoenstatt would survive to thrive and be a blessing for the Church, the term “Candlemas vision” also came to be used to describe the prayer that the pope and bishops also come to this same conviction about Schoenstatt as a genuine work of God and as a source of ongoing blessing for the Church.

Examples of faith. Fr. Kentenich spent 3 years in the Dachau concentration camp (1942-45) and many other Schoenstatt members were also arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis. Prominent among these were Bl. Karl Leisner (ordained in Dachau, died in 1945, beatified in 1996), Fr. Franz Reinisch (beheaded in 1942 for refusing to swear the oath of allegiance to Hitler) and Fr. Albert Eise (died in Dachau in 1942). The courageous witness of these and many other Schoenstatt members, including of the Ver sacrum (Holy Springtime) generation of seminarians and priests, would inspire new fervor in the generations to come.

Growth in depth and numbers. In contrast to the intended objectives of the Nazis, Schoenstatt did not whither and die during the Dachau years, but was able to grow in depth and numbers, both inside and outside of Dachau. The primary growth in depth was the solidification of the spirit of the Blank Check and the Inscriptio. The growth in numbers was visible in the founding of the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary and the Family Work by Fr. Kentenich in Dachau on July 16, 1942, and the proclamation of “Schoenstatt International” in Dachau on October 18, 1944. The latter was a direct fruit of the growth of Schoenstatt among many non-German priests in the concentration camp. An expression of this overall growth was the “Third Founding Document” (è 184).

Important literary works. Also contrary to all expectations, Fr. Kentenich was able to compose important literary works in the adverse conditions of Dachau. These have since become important parts of the Schoenstatt library. Most prominent are the study Marian Instrument Piety and the prayers which were assembled after the war into the now standard prayer book Heavenwards (è 185).

The first daughter shrine. The Dachau years, with the overseas stations being cut off from Germany, also led to the construction of the first replica daughter shrine in Nueva Helvetia, Uruguay (è 60).

In the fall of 1944, the many Schoenstatt groups in Dachau were coming to a certain maturity, especially in the two leaders’ circles known as the “Instrument Circles.” Their interaction with Fr. Kentenich led to a series of three talks which were of such great importance that they were later called the “Third Founding Document.”

These three talks were held in the camp streets of Dachau under adverse conditions. The main themes can be summarized as follows:

• September 24: the four basic attitudes of Schoenstatt International – community spirit, founder spirit, the spirit of leadership and the spirit of instrumentality.

• October 18: the formal proclamation of Schoenstatt International and the mutual commitment of Schoenstatt and Pallottines to their respective aims.

•December 8: the four dimensions of the covenant of love (è 75) as it embraces the entire person and attains its perfection. The broadest horizons of the covenant of love with the MTA are set forth in the work of God’s instruments to extend his plan of redemption to the whole universe.

Heavenwards is the name of Schoenstatt’s most famous prayer book. It consists of prayers written by Fr. Kentenich during his imprisonment in Koblenz and Dachau.

Fr. Kentenich edited the collection of prayers immediately after World War II and they were published in late 1945. With the publication of this book he hoped to share something of the heroic spirit of faith and love that allowed Schoenstatt to not only survive but continue to grow in the adverse conditions of Dachau. As the title indicates, the spirit of these prayers is to inspire those who pray them to be constantly turned to God the Father, that is, “heavenwards.”

The years immediately after World War II were decisive ones. Schoenstatt grew internationally. Fr. Kentenich spent long stretches of times overseas. The movement was maturing in its organization and spirituality. Key events include:

• 1945: reorganization of the Schoenstatt diocesan priests into League and Institute; later leads to a new founding of the Priests Federation.

• 1945: the first October Week in Schoenstatt.

• 1946 (Oct. 18): Crowning of the MTA as Queen of the World in direct connection with the crowning of the MTA in Dachau in 1944.

• 1946 (Feb. 2): Ladies of Schoenstatt is formally founded, becomes a Schoenstatt secular institute for single professional women.

• 1947 (Feb. 2): Pope Pius XII promulgates the apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, creating secular institutes in the Church. A few weeks later, Fr. Kentenich is received in private audience by Pope Pius XII. Fr. Kentenich promises that Schoenstatt will work to make the secular institutes a fruitful part of the Church (è 194).

• 1947 (March 15-Oct. 11): Fr. Kentenich’s first major overseas tour – visits Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.

• 1947 (July 18): Fr. Joseph Barton, working in original Schoenstatt with German refugees from Eastern Europe, begins the tradition of celebrating the 18th of each month as “Covenant Day.” His work also helps start the tradition of signing the “Covenant Book” when someone makes the covenant of love.

• 1947-50 (Dec. 29, 1947 to Feb. 28, 1950) Fr. Kentenich conducts his second overseas tour and is absent from Germany for over 2 years. He visits South Africa (Dec. 31, 1947 to Apr. 4, 1948) and the U.S. (June 5-Sept. 6, 1948), but spends most of his time in South America.

• 1948 (May 20): Canonical erection of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary as a secular institute; Fr. Kentenich sees this as a significant step toward the recognition of Schoenstatt by the Church.

• 1949 (February): The diocese of Trier conducts an episcopal visitation of the Schoenstatt Movement. This begins the chain of events leading to May 31, 1949 (è 187).

Event. May 31, or the “31st of May,” was an important historical moment that took place on May 31, 1949. Fr. Kentenich returned from Dachau in 1945 with the deep conviction that the way Schoenstatt had prospered in the persecution was a sign of Divine Providence that Schoenstatt was to be a crucial answer to the grave challenges facing the Church in the upheaval of the post-war era. He therefore worked tirelessly to expand Schoenstatt overseas and to draw the attention of the Church authorities to the spiritual treasures God was offering the Church in Schoenstatt. The effort to engage Church authorities in a discussion about Schoenstatt was only moderately successful. Some bishops worried about Schoenstatt becoming a competition to the dioceses and parishes. In the end an episcopal visitation was ordered by the Diocese of Trier so that the German bishops could more exactly understand Schoenstatt and its spirituality. The visitation, conducted by Auxiliary Bishop Stein (a bishop who was generally favorable to Schoenstatt), took place in February 1949.

In the meantime, Fr. Kentenich’s concern was growing about the state of the Church. Signs of a highly destructive mentality that undermined sound faith, hope and love – something he called “mechanistic thinking” (è 103) – became alarmingly acute, not only in Germany, but elsewhere. He especially wanted to make this danger clear to the German bishops. When he received the concluding report of the visitation, he could not help but feel that Divine Providence was insisting that he use the opportunity to reply to the report in a way that clearly portrayed the danger. To do this he would have to take a very hazardous route: he would have to risk looking ungrateful to the bishops by not focusing on the positive results of the visitation, but by focusing on elements they respectfully asked to be limited. But these were exactly the elements which he felt were crucial bulwarks against the mechanistic danger. He would specifically risk offending Bishop Stein, whose positive evaluation of Schoenstatt in the visitator’s report was contrary to other powerful voices among the German bishops.

The result was the composition of a lengthy answer to the visitator’s report. Fr. Kentenich called it the Epistola perlonga, that is, the “very long letter.” Written over the span of 3 months, it encompassed some 200 type-written pages. On May 31, 1949, when the first part was done, he took it to the little Schoenstatt Shrine in Bellavista, Santiago, Chile. There he placed it on the altar and, joined in prayer by some 20 Schoenstatt Sisters, offered it to the MTA. In a talk which he gave in that crucial hour, he stated his awareness of the risks involved, including to Schoenstatt, but that the danger to Church and world left no choice but to act. He said:

“Whoever has a mission must fulfill it, even if it leads into the darkest and deepest abyss, even when it requires one death leap after another. A prophet’s mission always includes a prophet’s fate.”

The sending of this letter initiated a chain of events that led to his exile by the Church and nearly led to the dissolving of Schoenstatt. But it also initiated a new lifestream in Schoenstatt that took up the commitment to overcome the grave dangers facing the Church in our times, especially mechanistic thinking.

Importance for Schoenstatt. May 31 is so important that it is known as the “third milestone” of Schoenstatt’s history. It radically altered the external course of history by embroiling the movement in a struggle with the Church at a time when many other Catholic works were able to expand and freely develop. Instead of being able to work freely in the 1950s and early 1960s, Schoenstatt had to labor “under the shadow” of sanctions by the Holy Office. Much of its energy had to be used to defend itself and ward off accusations, and the exiling of the founder (1951-65, è 190) put the movement’s most charismatic leader on the sidelines. Even after Fr. Kentenich was reinstated in 1965, the shadow over Schoenstatt was difficult to dispel, especially in Germany, until many years had passed.

On the other hand, May 31 also led to extremely important growth for Schoenstatt in terms of its inner identity, family spirit and mission for the Church. Parts of the Schoenstatt Family (especially in Chile) explicitly took up the cause of May 31 as a “crusade of organic thinking, loving and living” (è 104) to counteract the mechanistic peril. Other parts (especially in Germany) wrestled with the teaching of “secondary causes” (è 188) and, because of the adversity, more deeply embraced key realities of Schoenstatt and its identity: the relationship with Mary, the importance of the Shrine and the essential place of Fr. Kentenich as father and founder. This wrestling later proved to be a blessing when Schoenstatt was able to maintain its mission and identity as clearly as it did in the years of turmoil after Vatican Council II.

Moreover, May 31 ushered in an era in which the whole Schoenstatt Family was forced more decentralized (greater emphasis on the places outside of original Schoenstatt, especially the centers outside of Germany), even while gaining a more consolidated hold of its spirituality. Because of May 31 and its consequences, Schoenstatt also became more conscious of its calling to help build an organic Church, culture and society, where the natural and supernatural, faith and life, culture and religion, etc. are not separated but integrated.

Fr. Kentenich characterized the inner meaning of May 31 as “standing in divine power” or an act of heroic love. In this sense, the third milestone is an important reminder that the entire vigor of heroic faith shown in January 20 (è 179) is not disconnected from a mission and a responsibility for the Church. That Fr. Kentenich was willing to risk everything for the well-being of the Church signals to his followers that they must love the Church, even heroically. The content of May 31 further indicates that Schoenstatt’s mission for the Church includes helping open to her the world of secondary causes and organic thinking, loving and living.

Importance for Catholic life and faith. The spirit of May 31 also connects with central realities of Catholic faith and life. They include:

• Like January 20 it urges the faithful to grow in heroic faith, hope and love, including a love for the Church which is willing to give up all things if the well-being of the Church demands it.

• Personal spirituality avoids closing in on itself because May 31 puts spirituality at the service of the mission that goes with it. This sense of mission also reinforces the community dimension of the Church, for one’s mission is always seen in the context of the broader Church.

• At the same time, one’s personal mission as a follower of Christ (by way of analogy with Schoenstatt’s mission) is cultivated and seen as valuable to the building up of the Church.

• The specific shape of the mission of May 31 turns our attention to the importance of organic thinking, loving and living and of secondary causes for sound Catholic life, as well as of the need for the Church to foster a sound pedagogy and psychology of secondary causes.

• May 31 also turns our attention to the Church’s mission to shape not only the spiritual reality but the entire world we live in, including science, medicine, the arts, politics, society and culture.

• May 31 gives specific impetus to the missionary work of the Church as it struggles to overcome the fundamental crisis of faith (inability to believe and shape his life according to faith), hope (inability to trust what he cannot see) and love (lack of deep-seated experiences of being loved and able to love, first with secondary causes and then with God).

• May 31 also gives the Church and its followers a concrete lifestream to help overcome the disintegration of relationships, values and morals and the inability to commit to God which plague our world today.

See CCC 306-308.

Secondary causes are all created persons, things and forces of nature, referred to as “causes” because they help shape the world and history. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

“God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ cooperation. (....) God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan (No. 306).

These causes are “secondary” because they have been created by God, the Primary Cause, but this does not detract from the genuine freedom which God grants to certain of his creatures, including man.

The mission of the 31st of May puts into sharp focus the importance of respecting and defending the role of secondary causes in God’s plan. This importance becomes especially clear in the positions of Mary, the Shrine, Fr. Kentenich and ourselves as instruments of God.

• Mary is an instrument of God whose unique ability to draw us to Christ adds warmth and depth to the Christian experience. Part of the mission of May 31 is to defend her contribution from many attacks, even within the Church, from those who feel she obstructs the way to Christ, when exactly the opposite is true.

• The Shrine is an instrument of God helping the soul set down roots in the reality of His covenant through a physical place filled with what it means to have and live a vibrant covenant relationship with a heavenly partner, in this case Mary. This local attachment is defended by May 31 as an important bridge between nature and grace.

• Fr. Kentenich grew to be an instrument through whom many people began to experience the real and personal love of God the Father. The effect this had in changing lives was sometimes so astonishing that it caused his opponents to denounce it as “suggestion” or “personality cult.” This was a central aspect of the controversy around May 31 and led to his testing by the Church. The testing showed that his role as instrument of God was not tainted by suggestion or self-seeking but by a genuine ability to be a transparency of God’s fatherly concern.

• Ourselves. We, too, are called to be transparencies of God. By the way we live our lives as God’s instruments, we can manifest the presence of Christ, Mary and God the Father to the world around us. In fact, this is an important feature of Schoenstatt’s instrument spirituality (è 87).

The central events of the years after May 31, 1949 were the thorough testing of Schoenstatt and Fr. Kentenich by the Church, including Fr. Kentenich’s exile from 1951 to 1965 (è 190). Here are some highlights:

• 1950: John Pozzobon begins his apostolate of visiting families with the Pilgrim MTA (è 66).

• 1951: The Holy Office in Rome initiates an apostolic visitation of the Schoenstatt Movement. After some months of review, the Holy Office decides to remove Fr. Kentenich from all positions of authority and to reassign him indefinitely to the United States.

• 1952 (June 21): Fr. Kentenich arrives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; he lives at the Holy Cross provincial center of the Pallottines until 1965.

• 1953 (June 20): Dedication of the Schoenstatt Shrine in Madison, the oldest Schoenstatt Shrine in the United States.

• 1953 (August): The apostolic visitation is concluded and Pope Pius XII gives Schoenstatt the nihil obstat (it is approved as a work of the Church). The founder, however, must remain separated from his work.

• 1954: Special Marian Year declared by Pope Pius XII. October 18, Schoenstatt’s 40th anniversary, is also the day a new Schoenstatt Shrine is dedicated on the Holy Cross parish grounds in Milwaukee.

• 1959 (Easter): Fr. Kentenich accepts a weekly commitment to say Mass and hear confessions for the German Catholics of Milwaukee, for this his center of activity is St. Michael’s Church.

• 1959 (Oct. 18): Dedication of the Schoenstatt Shrine in Lamar, Texas (on the Gulf Coast near Rockport).

• 1960 (July 8): Fr. Kentenich celebrates the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood.

• 1960 (Christmas): The Unity Cross is presented to the MTA in the Shrine in Bellavista, Chile (è 192).

• 1962-63: Beginning of the home shrine lifestream (è 62)

• 1964 (Oct. 17): Dedication of the Schoenstatt Shrine at the new International Center in Waukesha (west of Milwaukee), it is dedicated on the eve of Schoenstatt’s 50th anniversary.

• 1964 (Oct. 18): Schoenstatt’s Golden Jubilee. It is announced at the celebration in Schoenstatt, Germany, that Pope Paul VI has decreed the separation of Schoenstatt from the Pallottine Fathers. This makes necessary the formation of a new Schoenstatt Fathers community (done in 1965).

• 1965 (July): Beginning of the heart shrine lifestream (è 64).

• 1965 (Sept. 13): Fr. Kentenich called to Rome.

Fr. Kentenich’s decision of May 31, 1949 (è 187) led to a chain of events culminating with the Church’s decision to initiate an examination of his work by the Holy Office (today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). This took the form of an apostolic visitation conducted by Dutch Jesuit Father Sebastian Tromp.

It was the conclusion of Fr. Tromp that Fr. Kentenich was too influential in the movement and that the attachment of his followers to him was exaggerated. He decided that Fr. Kentenich was to be removed from his offices and separated from his work. The Holy Office confirmed this in a series of decrees issued in 1951, culminating in an “administrative” (as opposed to a punitive) transfer to the United States, without permission to return to Europe. This time is generally referred to as the “exile.”

The precise place of his exile was the provincial house of the Pallottine Fathers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He arrived on June 21, 1952 and spent the next years of his life writing, corresponding, counseling families, receiving visitors, and serving as chaplain to Milwaukee area German Catholics. He celebrated significant Jubilees of his life in Milwaukee: the Golden Jubilee of his profession as a Pallottine (1956), the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood (1960), the Golden Jubilee of the founding of Schoenstatt (1964).

The opening of Vatican Council II (October 11, 1962) led to a decisive change of perspective in Rome. The presence of the bishops from all over the world and the council debates put pressure on the Holy Office to resolve cases like those involving Fr. Kentenich. The issues involving Schoenstatt were reexamined in a new visitation (1963-64) and led to Pope Paul VI’s decision to separate Schoenstatt from the Pallottines (1964). As a consequence, a separate Schoenstatt Fathers community was founded in 1965. Finally, Fr. Kentenich was called to Rome where, after a final round of difficulties, the cardinals and Pope Paul VI agreed to transfer his case to the Congregation for Religious, effectively dropping all decrees. After 14 years of exile, Fr. Kentenich was reinstated in his duties as founder of Schoenstatt and received the blessing of Pope Paul VI (è 193).

In spite of the difficulties caused by the separation from its founder, Schoenstatt continued to grow and mature. It remained spiritually vibrant and creative. Its aims and spirituality became clearer and parts of its organization came into their final form. And something of a positive “exile legacy” could be discerned for generations to come.

Spiritual life. In these years Schoenstatt endured much suffering, but was able to direct it into the form of a stream of prayer and sacrifice. Many grew in the generosity of their contributions to the capital of grace. Others dared to reach for the heights of the Blank Check and Inscriptio while still others even offered their lives in the spirit of the Joseph Engling Act (è 78). Much of the striving was offered for the eventual freedom of the founder and for the victory of the MTA in this great difficulty. But there were also other lifestreams which took up specific points of Schoenstatt’s mission, like the “crusade of organic thinking, loving and living” based on May 31, 1949 (è 187).

Aims and spirituality. These were also years in which Schoenstatt’s aims came into clearer focus. The formulation of the three aims (è 28) reached its present form, especially as the mission for the salvific mission of the Western World (è 35) became more explicit. What sources were essential to Schoenstatt’s identity and life also became clearer in the teaching of the three “contact points”( è 9). The Shrine continued to gain in importance, with no fewer than 33 new daughter shrines being built in those years, consolidating the presence of Schoenstatt all over the world. Add to this the development of the home and heart shrine (è 62, 64) and one notices how fruitful these years were for the spiritual maturity of the Family.

Organization. The exile years also saw Schoenstatt’s total organization grow in depth, diversity and numbers. The Schoenstatt diocesan priests began a process that led to a fruitful restructuring of the priests’ branches in the years 1964-66. The Family Work, already growing on the League and Federation level, finally developed the core needed to establish the Family Institute in a process that began in 1962 and came arrived at a formal founding in 1968 (è 149). Finally, the separation of Schoenstatt from the oversight of the Pallottines in 1964 led to the creation of a secular institute of priests totally dedicated to the care of Schoenstatt – the Schoenstatt Fathers, founded in 1965.

Specific features of the exile legacy. Finally, these years had certain qualities which showed signs of becoming a permanent legacy for the Schoenstatt Family. These points are sometimes called the “exile legacy” and are generally summed up as:

• Dilexit Ecclesiam – Fr. Kentenich’s love for the Church in even these years of testing stand as a constant call to Schoenstatt that it must always love the Church.

• The home and heart shrines – these additions to the “organism of shrines” provide Schoenstatt with important means to fulfill its mission in a world becoming more fractured, depersonalized and pluralistic.

• The new image of father, child and community – Fr. Kentenich especially stressed this point: that the exile years had given Schoenstatt an unmistakable experience of how everything depends on God’s personal love and mercy (“new image of the father”), our response as his children (“new image of the child”) and how this shapes the kind of community which the Church will need on the new shore of the times (“new image of community”).

The Unity Cross is a well-known work of religious art that originated in Schoenstatt. It depicts Mary at the side of the crucified Christ, holding the chalice to collect the redeeming blood. It shows Mary’s cooperative role in the work of redemption and the “two-in-oneness” of Christ and Mary in the Father’s plan of salvation.

The cross was created by the first generation of Chilean Schoenstatt seminarians who studied in Brazil and Switzerland. During their studies (at the end of the 1950s) Schoenstatt in Chile went through a great crisis of unity. When the first of their number was ordained a priest and ready to return to Chile, they wished to give a gift to the MTA that would both give thanks for their formation and help work the miracle of unity.

The Unity Cross was crafted by one of the seminarians (the future Fr. Angel Vicente Cerró). Finished in 1960, it was brought to the Schoenstatt Shrine in Bellavista (Santiago), Chile in the Holy Night of Christmas 1960. To the grateful astonishment of all, the arrival of the Unity Cross did usher in a new era of reconciliation and unity. Just five years later, when Fr. Kentenich celebrated his 80th birthday (Rome, 1965), the Chilean Schoenstatt Family gave it to him as their gift. He gave it to the Ladies of Schoenstatt in Stuttgart, Germany. The original of the Unity Cross is still found in the Schoenstatt Shrine in Stuttgart today.

Today the Unity Cross is a familiar feature of many Shrines and home shrines around the world. It has even found their way into other circles, including the communities founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, after Mother Teresa took a great liking to this design.

Event. The “fourth milestone” refers to the important historical events of 1965 that resulted in Fr. Kentenich’s reinstatement and return to his work in Germany. The primary dates are:

• October 22: Pope Paul VI signs the decision of the consistory of cardinals that effectively drops all decrees against Fr. Kentenich (this day was exactly 14 years after Fr. Kentenich left Germany in 1951).

• December 22: Pope Paul VI receives Fr. Kentenich in a private audience. Fr. Kentenich promises that Schoenstatt will do all it can to help realize the mission of the Church in the post-Vatican-II era.

• December 24: Fr. Kentenich returns to Schoenstatt, Germany and celebrates his Midnight Christmas Mass in the Original Shrine. The return to German is sometimes referred to as the “second miracle of the Holy Night” (è 181).

The fourth milestone also coincides with the solemn closing of Vatican Council II (December 8, 1965). Fr. Kentenich, who was in Rome at the time, symbolically blessed the cornerstone for the future Schoenstatt Shrine in Rome and spoke of Schoenstatt’s part in realizing the mission of the Council.

Importance for Schoenstatt. Fr. Kentenich characterized the inner meaning of the fourth milestone as “standing in divine victoriousness” or the “ultimate victory of dwelling in the supernatural world.” To him his freedom and the end of the exile were outward features reflecting a deeper reality that had been growing in Schoenstatt during the years of testing: a deep and unshakable trust and confidence in God’s power to win the victory.

Given its coincidence with the end of Vatican II, the fourth milestone is also connected with the mission of the Church “on the newest shores of the times” (è 198). In this light, Schoenstatt not only has a mission for the Church (è May 31, 187), but also a mission with the Church as she works to accomplish the work entrusted to her by Christ. This cooperation, including with the official structures and hierarchical leadership of the Church, took concrete form when Fr. Kentenich made definite promises to authorities of the Church (è 194).

This milestone looks forward. While the victory of God’s kingdom can only be partially accomplished this side of eternity, if one is totally anchored in the supernatural, something of divine victoriousness will shine through again and again. God can then use us as instruments to impress his features on the Church and world in the concrete places and era of history in which we live.

Importance for Catholic life and faith. The fourth milestone touches on some of the deepest teachings of the Church. The eschatological dimension of our faith (looking to Christ’s second coming) meets the soteriological one (the concrete work of redemption in our time). Through a greater experience of God’s victorious power, we become more able to do the works of God in spite of all opposition. We contribute total trust in God and availability to do his works; God contributes his power and willingness to use us as his instruments. The fourth milestone can also increase our appreciation for the Church, bringing into focus not only what I can do for the Church, but also how my part is complemented by working together with all others for the one great goal of building up the kingdom of God.

John Paul II: Audience with the Schoenstatt Movement 1985, 4; Lumen gentium 28, 37 (bishops, clergy, laity in the family of God).

There were three moments in Fr. Kentenich’s life when he made solemn promises to high Church officials connecting his work with that of the Church. Two were made to reigning Popes, one to a bishop.

1. The mission of the secular institutes. On March 14, 1947 Fr. Kentenich had an audience with Pope Pius XII in Rome. Just 6 weeks before, Pius XII had promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia. It was a historic document, creating an entirely new form of the consecrated life in the Church – the secular institutes (consecrated lay people working in the world). This fit Fr. Kentenich’s own new kind of community in Schoenstatt and he thanked Pius XII for the new legislation. He promised Pope Pius XII that Schoenstatt would help see to it that this new form of community would contribute to healing the Christian social order in our times.

2. The Church as a family of God. On November 16, 1965 in Rome, at the celebration of his 80th birthday, Fr. Kentenich directed a second promise to Bishop Joseph Höffner of Münster, Germany. On this occasion, Bishop Höffner formally accepted Fr. Kentenich into his diocese as part of the founder’s reinstatement at the end of the exile. Fr. Kentenich used the occasion to promise not only his obedience to his new bishop, but also that Schoenstatt would make every effort to create a family-like spirit in which individuals and dioceses, priests and laity form the Church as a true family of God. A central part of this promise is to assist the bishop in being a genuine father to his flock, in the entire richness of what fatherhood means in Schoenstatt. Behind this promise is a vision of the Church built not merely on external structures of authority, but on a spirit and cohesion that comes from love and solidarity with the mission of the Church.

3. The mission of the Church in the post-Vatican-II era. On December 22, 1965, Fr. Kentenich was received by Pope Paul VI in a brief private audience. Paul VI had prepared a text in which he personally expressed his thanks to Fr. Kentenich and confirmed his rehabilitation. At this point Fr. Kentenich made the following promise in return: “In the name of the Schoenstatt Family, I heartily thank you for the good works you have lavished on Schoenstatt to an extraordinary degree, but also for my personal rehabilitation. In gratitude for everything which Your Holiness has done, we want to work to diligently work to help realize the unique mission of the post-conciliar Church for our modern times. And all of this under the patronage of the Mother of the Church.” As Fr. Kentenich stressed a few days later when he had returned to Germany, it was Schoenstatt’s role to actively contribute to the realization of what the mission the Church had undertaken at Vatican Council II.

195 What were the central events of the years 1965 to 1968?

The years 1965 to 1968 were marked by a final period of intense work by Fr. Kentenich to consolidate his work and set it on its course into the post-Vatican II era. Some of the highlights include:

• 1966 (June 2): On behalf of the Schoenstatt Family, Fr. Kentenich officially gives the MTA the title “Victress” (“Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt”)

• 1967 (July 16): Fr. Kentenich makes his only visit to Dachau after his release in 1945 (25th Jubilee of the founding of the Brothers of Mary and the Family Work)

• 1968 (Jan. 7): Completion of the founding of the Family Institute

• 1968 (June 9): Bishop Stein of Trier dedicates the Adoration Church on Mt. Schoenstatt (later becomes Fr. Kentenich’s final resting place)

• 1968 (Sept. 15): Death of Fr. Kentenich (è196).

The spirit of this era is best captured in the motto which Fr. Kentenich gave to the German Schoenstatt Family on the occasion of the Congress of the Catholic Church in Germany on September 7, 1968:

“With joyful hope and confident of the victory we go with Mary into the newest times!”

Fr. Kentenich died suddenly on September 15, 1968 at the age of nearly 83. It was a Sunday and the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. He had just celebrated his first Mass in the new Adoration Church in Schoenstatt, Germany and was unvesting in the sacristy when he died of heart failure.

In the following days representatives of the Schoenstatt Family gathered from around the world to pay their final respects. He was laid to rest at the very spot where he died, and so the sacristy in the Adoration Church was transformed into his place of burial. He was placed there on September 20, 1968. The stone sarcophagus was inscribed with the epitaph he had chosen for himself while in Milwaukee:

Dilexit Ecclesiam

He loved the Church.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have visited and prayed at his tomb, also called the “founder chapel.”

The years after Fr. Kentenich’s death were marked by the challenges of moving ahead without the earthly guidance of the founder. Still, it became clear that his presence took on a new form from eternity and that he continued to inspire his movement. The organizational leadership passed into other hands following the confederative model he had planned, new ways of doing things were developed and Schoenstatt began a new and creative time in its history. Here are a few highlights:

• 1969-70: The Father Symbol for the Original Shrine goes on worldwide pilgrimage to the Shrines around the world (Fr. Kentenich had planned a world trip for about this time and the Father Symbol went “in his place,” helping unite the Schoenstatt Family after his death).

• 1974 (Oct. 20): Victress Crowning of the MTA picture in the Adoration Church for Schoenstatt’s 60th anniversary; it is accompanied by an international crowning lifestream and many new initiatives in the international Schoenstatt Family.

• 1975 (Feb. 10): Opening of the process of canonization for Fr. Kentenich.

• 1984: Beginning of the international spread of the work of Deacon John Pozzobon of Brazil as the “Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign” (è 66). In the first year alone, Pilgrim MTAs reached Argentina, South Africa, Chile, Zimbabwe, USA, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

• 1985: Celebration of Fr. Kentenich’s 100th birthday culminates with “Festival Week” in Schoenstatt, Germany (13,000 attend final Mass) and pilgrimage to Rome, including Schoenstatt audience with Pope John Paul II (è 199). At the Papal audience, the Schoenstatt Family solemnly renewed Fr. Kentenich’s promises to the Church (è 194).

• 1991: Pope John Paul II becomes the first Pope to dedicate and visit a Schoenstatt Shrine when he does so in Koszalin (northwest Poland).

• 1996: Beatification of Karl Leisner (è 34) by Pope John Paul II in Berlin, first Schoenstatt member to be declared “Blessed”

• 1999: Celebration of 50th anniversary of May 31, 1949 culminates with a major international gathering of the Schoenstatt Family in Bellavista (Santiago), Chile.

• 2000 (Dec. 29): In the final days of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Pope John Paul II pays a private visit to the Schoenstatt Shrine in Rome.

In his final years, Fr. Kentenich liked to speak of the “Church on the new shore” or “the Church on the newest shores of the times.” This alluded to the totally new era and set of challenges faced by the Church in her work to bring the Gospel to the world of the today.

In saying this, Fr. Kentenich was also making his followers aware of their responsibility to help lead the Church to the “new shore” of the times through a dynamic and personal (as opposed to static and impersonal) apostolate, spirituality, pedagogy and community especially attuned to the new challenges of the times. This became especially acute in the years of Vatican Council II and thereafter, when the entire Church was seeking a renewed and vibrant way of proclaiming and living the Gospel in a new era of history. In this vision of Church, the Church has the task to be the “soul of the world” (Fr. Kentenich on the closing day of Vatican II, December 8, 1965) that breathes life into all culture and human activity by bringing it in organic contact with grace and the work of salvation (è 35, 36).

Pope John Paul II has spoken on several occasions about Schoenstatt. The most important of these was on the occasion of a special audience of the Schoenstatt Family in Rome for Fr. Kentenich’s 100th birthday on September 20, 1985. At that time he said:

With this pilgrimage to the center of Catholic Christianity and to the house of the common Father, you seek to allow the celebration of the 100th birthday of your founder, Father Kentenich. (....)

You have come here from many different countries to give thanks for that gift which God has given you in the person of Father Kentenich. Through the living memory of his person and his message, you desire to renew your spirit, in order to continue and proclaim his spiritual legacy; namely, to become more and more a spiritual family, which lives on by virtue of its founding charism, in order to fulfill its mission in the service of the Church and world. (....)

You are called to participate in that grace which your founder has received, and subsequently to offer the same grace to the entire Church. Then, the charism of the founder proves to be an experience inspired by the Spirit which has been passed on to their own followers, so that they may live, protect, deepen and develop it further. This is realized in the community of the Church, who only lives and grows out of the ever new loyalty to our Divine Founder.

Within this Spiritinspired experience out of which your movement came into existence, the covenant of love which the founder and the first generation sealed with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Schoenstatt shrine on October 18,1914, occupies a central position. If you live this covenant loyally and generously, you will be brought to the fullness of your Christian vocation. (....)

An authentic Marian spirituality leads to a deep love for the Church. With his own life, your founder bore witness to this truth. It is precisely the same love for the Church which has brought you to this meeting today with the successor of Peter, in order to renew the promises which the Founder made to my predecessor Pius XII and Paul VI. In this way you express your intention to fulfill, through everyday sanctity, the challenges of the Gospel. You commit yourselves to collaborate in the formation of a new order of society, which mirrors the spirit of Christ. You express your readiness – each in his own sphere of life – to contribute to the realization of the Second Vatican Council. And finally, you want to help as much as possible so that every authority in the Church, established by God, may be recognized and valued as a spiritual fatherhood.

With joy and gratitude I accept the renewal of these promises and I ask you further: use all your strength that these great aims become reality! Together with your own prayers, I too pray so that you may receive the necessary grace. (....)

United with all the apostolic strength of the Church and faithfully integrated in the local Churches, you have to see to it that you yourselves become these individuals and communities who represent and transmit the spirit of the Second Vatican Council!

The loyalty to the spirit of the Council draws our attention to the vast task of evangelizing the world of culture. We find ourselves in a time of change and at the beginning of a new phase in history. (....) I encourage you, therefore, to intensify your efforts so that you may be wherever Providence has foreseen – instruments of God in the evangelization, not only of today's culture, but also of the future culture of your various different peoples. Realization of this task requires from you the perseverance in your daily striving to embody the new man, and the effort to live always in childlike dialogue with the God of history, understanding the signs of the times, as you have implored in your preparation for the jubilee celebration.

You can help realize Schoenstatt’s mission by becoming part of its stream of life and graces, be that in an informal way through the desire to take on the mission and ideals of Schoenstatt or in a more formal way by making the covenant of love with the MTA and joining the movement in one of its many branches.

In the end the key is the covenant of love with the MTA in the Schoenstatt Shrine. Those who make this covenant of love their own, including its dimensions of apostolate, self-education, love for the Church, faith in Divine Providence, everyday sanctity, etc. are on the best way to directly help the Mother Thrice Admirable accomplish the aims she wishes to fulfill on behalf of her Son Jesus from the Shrine.

Visit Us

17071 Low Rd. at Scenic Loop Rd.
Helotes, TX 78023 | View Map

The Shrine:
Open 9am - 5:30 pm Daily

Hope Religious Store:
Open 10 am - 5 pm Daily

Support Schoenstatt

Shop on AmazonSmile and they will donate a portion to us.


Donations in all amounts are greatly appreciated and help us continue our mission.

Stay In Contact

The following buttons only work in IE: