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Chapter Two: The Message and Mission

Many places of pilgrimage (like Lourdes or Fatima) are distinguished by their message. Although Schoenstatt is not characterized by apparitions or extraordinary outward signs, Fr. Kentenich was convinced that God gives a special message through Schoenstatt that can be characterized as

1. The message of the covenant of love,

2. The message of practical faith in Divine Providence,

3. The message of mission consciousness.

This is what is sometimes called the “threefold message of Schoenstatt.”

The message of the covenant of love is the message of how God expresses his love in specific relationships which open to us his saving power. These are called “covenants,” culminating with God’s covenant with man. This covenant reality has taken special hold in Schoenstatt in the covenant of love with Mary, providing a vibrant expression, safeguard and means to cultivate the covenant of love with God.

The message of the covenant of love bridges nature and supernature. It seeks to permeate all of life, helping foster all aspects of the organism of attachments (è 22), including our relationship toward family and friends, work and vocation, created things and earthly belongings, even all of creation. It forms a genuine covenant spirituality (see Chapter 4).


{slider=22 What is the “organism of attachments”?}

At the heart of Schoenstatt’s covenant message is the importance of healthy attachments. Fr. Kentenich considered them crucial to the formation of the whole person. He therefore did not see attachments in isolation, but as a network or spectrum which he called the “organism of attachments.” His use of the word organism was deliberate: he wished to convey how attachments – to places, persons, things, ideas and values – interrelate and form a reality that lives and grows, or weakens and dies, and whose parts are dependent on each other for the whole person to be sound.

Each person and community not only has an organism (or network) of attachments, but is also formed by it. Especially important is the way that one’s natural and supernatural attachments interrelate. One needs to cultivate attachments to persons, places, etc. on the natural level, attachments to God, saints, etc. and to the truths and rituals that bind us to the supernatural level. If healthy, these two great realms mutually permeate each other and make the whole person fruitful – physically, emotionally, intellectually, morally, spiritually. Personality and faith formation can be greatly helped by a pedagogy of attachments (è 100).

In Schoenstatt’s covenant of love, the general importance of attachments is anchored in one that is very specifically cultivated – the attachment of love to Mary in the Schoenstatt Shrine. It is specific because it is anchored in a concrete place (the Shrine) and time (the moment of one’s covenant of love) and involves a concrete history with persons, events, symbols, etc. In other words, many kinds of attachments flow together into the living and mutual relationship with the Mother Thrice Admirable. This frequently leads to a positive and healthy rebirth of other parts of one’s organism of attachments, perhaps paving the way to the healing of a broken human relationship or to an unexpected new vitality in the relationship with God and faith. Because the parts of an organism are interconnected, the revitalization of one part will lead to the revitalization of many other parts.

See CCC 302-314, 1884.

Practical faith in Divine Providence is a faith in God and His loving care that has been made part of practical everyday life. In Schoenstatt it has the form of a message of trust in God’s care, of a constant dialogue with the God of life and of actively seeking God’s will.

This faith is “practical” (as opposed to merely theoretical) because it takes the doctrine of Divine Providence and applies it to daily life. It sees all things in the light of faith and tries to discern and obey God’s voice in the times, in our soul and in the order of being (see below), finding the right application in every circumstance. Other “laws” which help discern the voice of God include the “law of the open door” (è 109), the “law of the creative resultant” (è 110), and the “law of opposition” (è 111). Moreover, one seeks to live the covenant with God in an ongoing dialogue of prayer and actions. This can be cultivated through a method of meditation which is centered on savoring God’s action in our lives (è 92).

This faith is also “active,” in that we do not merely wait for God’s plan to unfold, but His will in daily life and events, trying to respond to Him faithfully and effectively. It is also permeated by the desire to conform totally to God’s will (see Blank Check, è 76).

See CCC 302; Gaudium et spes 4, 11 (the signs of the times).

In the “voice of the times,” God expresses His will through everything that happens, both in one’s personal life and in world events. Our Lord admonished the Pharisees, “You know how to read the appearance of the sky; why can you not read the signs of the times?” (Mt 16,3). God speaks to us and guides us on the paths of His kingdom through such things as the people I meet or the books I read, the particular concerns and trends of a given time, a sudden crisis or blessing, a cross He sends or an evil He permits, or the doors that He opens, or closes, to us. God can be found in the “signs of the times,” working to win us over to his love. As St. Paul teaches, “For those who love God, all things work together unto good” (Rom 8,28).

Discerning God’s voice in the times involves:

1. Having a deep attitude of faith in everyday life (“Nothing is mere coincidence – everything comes from God’s Providence!”).

2. Being attentive to the events around us, both on the large scale (Church and world) and on the small scale (personal and family life). One way of doing this is Schoenstatt’s method of meditation (è 92).

3. Discerning God’s will. Here Fr. Kentenich’s four-step process for observing and reflecting on life can help (è 106).

The “voice of the soul” is God’s way of speaking to me through the tendencies and stirrings of my soul and those of other people around me. God creates each soul with certain sensitivities and a certain mission, and its response to events and circumstances is a way God uses to reveal His plan. The voice of the soul can be discerned from such things as spontaneous reactions, aspirations, longings, ideals, fears and intuitions. It includes the voice of conscience and the certitude of one’s vocation. It is influenced by temperament and approaches to problem-solving. An enlightened voice of the soul will seek to be attentive to the promptings of grace and strive for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Because of the voice of the soul is the most subjective of the three voices, it is the most vulnerable to the deceptions of self-centeredness, fear, rivalry, pride, lust or laziness. One must therefore always take care to listen to this voice in conjunction with the other two voices, especially voice of the order of being. Nonetheless, this voice is irreplaceable when it comes to discerning God’s will, for it connects us most deeply with who we are. One can become more attuned to the authentic voice of the soul by fostering a deep covenant spirituality and practical faith in Divine Providence. Obedience in accordance with our state in life and the Blank Check and Inscriptio can also help us to overcome the arbitrary and self-centered side of this voice.

In the “voice of the order of being” God speaks to us through the objective reality, both natural and supernatural. This includes both through natural and positive law, that is, the laws of nature and the laws of society and the commandments and teachings of the Church. He also speaks to us through the objective facts about who I am as a person and the characteristics and history of my family or community. Certain realities such as my temperament and talents or past use of my free will (choice of vocation, consequences of my actions) cannot be ignored in discerning God’s will. For instance, once I have chosen my vocation, I am obliged to live it and bear my responsibilities toward those entrusted to my care.

Fr. Kentenich based this voice on the insight: Ordo essendi est ordo agendi, that is, the order of being is the norm for the order of action. This indicates that the ordering of the universe and of our concrete self establishes certain norms – both negative (the objective limits beyond which one’s actions are not moral or inconsistent with my mission) and positive (the challenges and tasks which are implied by the goods which God has entrusted to me).

Schoenstatt’s message of mission consciousness (or awareness) is that the presence of a place of grace like Schoenstatt should not leave us neutral, but engage us in a unique way as part of God’s plan from Schoenstatt.

Being “mission conscious” means: clearly recognizing that God has given Schoenstatt a mission and special task in the world today, the conviction of faith that Mary has called me/us to help her realize this important mission, and actively cooperating in the realization of this plan.

The foundations of this mission consciousness lie in each person’s human dignity, each Christian’s baptism and (for a Schoenstatt member) the call to Schoenstatt. Our dignity as human persons is rooted in our being created in the image and likeness of God, giving us the power to love and be loved and share in the work of forming the world. The dignity bestowed in baptism qualifies one to share in the mission of Christ as “priest, prophet and king” (words of the anointing with chrism at baptism) and to help build up the Church in the apostolate. Finally, the call to Schoenstatt gives this consciousness the specific mission to which the person is called.

Schoenstatt’s mission can be formulated this way:

“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.”

This description of Schoenstatt’s mission (already used in the 1920s) indicates both source and aim: Its source is the covenant of love with the MTA, where she has entrusted her work and instruments with a specific task. Its aim is to transform the world in Christ through Mary.

Over the years Fr. Kentenich defined the aim of Schoenstatt’s mission more closely. In fact he discerned no less than three great aims or goals. These aims are vast and global. They are intrinsically Christian: forming the individual and community in Christ, the permeating of the whole world with the work of salvation, the task of evangelization. Fr. Kentenich determined their particular form for Schoenstatt by observing God’s hand in Schoenstatt’s history. He said that Schoenstatt’s three aims 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.

The first aim of Schoenstatt’s mission is to form the new man (new person) in the new community. Evidence of this aim is already found in the Pre-founding Document of 1912 (è 166) with its program of self-education: “under the protection of Mary we want to learn to educate ourselves to become firm, free, priestly personalities.”

Taking up the challenge of self-education was only the first step. As Schoenstatt developed, its accent on forming “modern saints” inspired it to find ways to form the modern person who is, in many ways, dramatically different from the persons of previous eras. Features include a heightened sensitivity for freedom and self-determination, creativity and mobility, human rights and the human ability to shape the world.

At the same time, the modern person seeks a new relationship to community. Schoenstatt’s has therefore placed an accent on forming a “new community” that corresponds to the “new man” and overcomes the dangers of individualism and community as mere convenience or special interest group. It is based on the covenant with God, with such typical features as: the centrality of the family, emphasis on quality relationships, partnership (co-responsibility) and participation in family and society, solidarity, personal affirmation, communication, openness and dialogue.

See Gaudium et spes 22 (new man); AA 5-22 (universal apostolic character).

Fr. Kentenich defined the new man this way:

“The new man is the autonomous and animated personality who does not shy away from decisions, who takes charge of his own life, and whose freedom is rooted within. The new person avoids both rigid enslavement to outward forms and just drifting with life. He grasps that his autonomy is not absolute, but dependent on God. The Triune God is his compass, letting the being of the Trinity guide every step of his development.” (1959, What is My Philosophy of Education?).

The biblical foundation for the new man is St. Paul’s discussion of how we become new creatures in Christ (see Rom 6,6-17; 1 Cor 15,22. 44-49; 2 Cor 5,17; Gal 6,15; Eph 2, 15; 4,24). The unique flavor which Schoenstatt brings to the question is how the modern person and our modern times can be led to the complete transformation in Christ.

Keys which Schoenstatt has found to this total transformation in Christ are: the covenant of love with Mary as a powerful school for becoming more Christlike and childlike, practical faith in Divine Providence as a dialogue with God in keeping with the constant change and challenges of modern life, and involvement in an apostolate devoted to the “religious and moral renewal of the world.” Especially this latter point indicates how the new person has a heightened interest and capacity for the work of the Church, laying the foundation for a broad lay apostolate and a movement such as Schoenstatt’s with “universal apostolic character.”

The pitfalls which the new man must face are the false images of man found in our time. Fr. Kentenich described them as “collectivism” (the “mass man”) and “naturalism” (only attuned to the natural world; blindness to the supernatural reality), or again as the “vitalistic, materialistic and collectivistic” images of the human person. He once said:

“Vitalism views man as no more than a bundle of drives or a machine reacting to stimuli or, perhaps, a more cultivated species of animal. Materialism views him as an aggregate of matter – unique, yes, but only material. Collectivism calls him a replaceable part in a machine.” (What is My Philosophy of Education?)

Given such widespread fallacies about the nature of man, cultivating the new person is an essential contribution to healing the ills of our time.

See CCC 2204-2213, 1620; Lumen gentium 37.

The “new community” is the social dimension needed for the “new person” to thrive. St. Paul’s teaching of the Mystical Body of Christ (see Rom 12, 1 Cor 12) sheds light on this interaction of individual and community, where the charisms of all are vital to the prospering of the entire body.

In this spirit Fr. Kentenich spoke of the new community being made up of “pronounced personalities,” that is, the well-being of modern community depends on the formation of the unique strengths and ideal of each member, even if this adds to the complexity of leading such a community. In the end nothing is gained from a community of “yes-men” who simply go along with the crowd.

On the other hand, the community is also new because of its increased awareness that each must look after the needs of the other. This distinct spirit of solidarity and “interwovenness of fates” (è 179) cannot simply be mandated by legal structures to succeed, but must be motivated from within, both through the generosity of the members and the initiative of groups and “free communities” (è 150). Fr. Kentenich described this as an “in-, with- and for-one-anotherness of souls,” namely a community of shared love, life and responsibility.

Essential to the realization of the new community is the renewal of all the vocations (married, priestly, consecrated, celibate single) in their community dimension and in their way of relating to and supporting one another. The renewal of the family is of utmost importance for modern society as the place where heartfelt relationship and the “new community” is first experienced and learned.

Fr. Kentenich often added a third element to the first aim, speaking of the formation of “the new man in the new community with universal apostolic character” (see New Vision and Life, p. 18). This refers to two things:

1. The new person is completely imbued with the character of an apostle. Modern men and women who are totally committed to Christ and the Church will see every part of their lives – including family life, work and use of modern advances – as apostolic and seek to make everything they do fruitful for extending the Kingdom of God.

2. The new person sees the whole world as a potential field of apostolate. The modern tendency is therefore to expand the possibilities of the Church and open up every imaginable field of apostolate, linking them together in an effective apostolic confederation (è 36). Such fields include all areas of personality formation, formation of a genuine Christian culture (è 136), all questions of social justice, bioethics and civil rights, and the advance of science, economics and politics in a God-willed manner.

The aim to form the new man in the new community connects very directly to Schoenstatt’s effort from its earliest years to form “modern canonizable saints,” that is, saints who correspond to the challenges of living the faith in our present day and age. Hence even the “program” set forth by Fr. Kentenich is framed in the question of how to advance along the route of sanctity (“acceleration of our self-sanctification as a means of transforming our chapel into a place of pilgrimage”).

Yes, Schoenstatt has already had its first beatifications. The first was Karl Leisner (1915-45), member of the Schoenstatt diocesan priests and prisoner of the Nazis. He was the only priest ordained in a Nazi concentration camp. He was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

Other causes are already in process as well (in order of opening):

• Joseph Engling (1898-1918), member of the founding generation, killed in World War I; cause opened in Trier, Germany in 1952; cause advanced to Rome in 1964.

• Fr. Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968), founder of Schoenstatt; cause opened in Trier in 1975.

• Gertraud von Bullion (1891-1930), first woman member of Schoenstatt; cause opened in Augsburg, Germany in 1991.

• John Pozzobon (1904-1985), founder of the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign; cause opened in Santa Maria, Brazil in 1994.

• Mario Hiriart (1931-1964), first Schoenstatt Brother from Chile; cause opened in Santiago, Chile in 1998.

• Sr. Emilie Engel (1893-1955), member of the founding generation of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary; cause opened in Trier in 1999; cause advanced to Rome in 2002.

All of these are outstanding examples of the new person in the new community as shaped by Schoenstatt and its spirituality. There are others for whom a formal beatification process has not yet been opened, such as Fr. Franz Reinisch (1903-1942, beheaded by the Nazis for refusing to swear the military oath to Hitler), Gilbert Schimmel (1906-1959, worker and married man who helped found the Schoenstatt Couples League in Milwaukee), and Barbara Kast (1950-1968), member of the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth from Chile.

See Lumen gentium 36; John Paul II: speeches on May 17 and June 5, 1991 (Christianity and Europe); Veritatis Splendor, 4, 38-39 (right autonomy of man).

Schoenstatt’s second aim is to save the salvific mission of the Western World. “Salvific mission” refers to Western Christianity’s mission in God’s plan of salvation. “Western World” (or the Christian Occident) means the culture rooted in the tradition and mentality centered in the Western European assimilation of the Christian faith. While this culture is primarily home in Western Europe, Australia and the Americas, it also heavily influences all of world culture in the areas of fashion, finance, medicine, technology, democracy, etc.

In the past centuries the foundations of this powerful motor for Christian evangelization and values (such as the dignity of the human person, freedom, respect for life, etc.) have weakened significantly. God and faith have been separated from daily life (secularism) and the autonomy of secondary causes (such as man’s freedom to determine his own life) has been declared absolute and free from God’s law. This deprives the Church of one of its foremost tools of transforming the world into its God-willed forms, namely a culture which embodies the full force and dignity of the Christian message.

Reflecting on the unique graces worked by the Blessed Mother in Schoenstatt, itself created by God in the heart of the Western World, Fr. Kentenich concluded that Schoenstatt’s unique spirituality and impact on life is a powerful blueprint for renewing and restoring the Christian mission of Western culture. This rests, in part, in Mary’s ability and mission from the Shrine to overcome the separation of faith and life, and to create a new harmony of the natural and supernatural, of nature and grace in a modern context. It further rests in the ability of Schoenstatt to form the new person in the covenant of love – a covenant person whose autonomy is not absolute and in rebellion against God, but submits to God’s plan in a way that upholds the unique contribution of man in forming a new culture and spreading the Gospel.

In the West, Christian thought developed a particularly organic vision of reality, which is to say it highlighted the harmony between the supernatural and the natural and allowed for an integration of Christian values in the culture of each country.

In articulating this mission, Fr. Kentenich contrasted three steps of growth in the integration of Christianity and culture: Augustine as the representative of the integration of the Christian theology of God, Thomas Aquinas as the representative of the integration of a Christian philosophy and theology of “secondary causes” (how created persons and things also participate in the work of salvation, è 188), and Schoenstatt as the representative of a “psychology of secondary causes” (how one can make best use of created persons and things for the purposes of salvation).

In no way does this aim exclude the integration of other cultures and their richness in the work of salvation. Schoenstatt also considers it the mission of its covenant of love to bring together the best of all nations and cultures. Nonetheless, because the West has attained the longest and most complete integration of faith and culture, its mission deserves particular attention because, strategically speaking, it offers the greatest likelihood of propelling the Gospel of Christ to all nations in the swiftest and most organic manner.

See Lumen gentium 13; Gaudium et spes 92; CCC 814. 

Schoenstatt’s third aim is to help establish the “Apostolic World Confederation.” This refers to the confederation of all apostolic forces in the Church. The concept has its origins in St. Vincent Pallotti, who wished to overcome the petty rivalries between the many orders and congregations and replace them with a spirit of cooperation and mutual support. Fr. Kentenich integrated this concept into Schoenstatt’s mission in 1916 (“supplemental founding act,” è 170). 

The proposed apostolic world confederation is conceived of as an organization which would foster a greater coordination and spirit of cooperation between the many apostolic initiatives within the Church. It would not compete with the official coordination proper to the hierarchical structure of the Church, but rather support it with the promotion of lifestreams, the coordination of efforts, and forums in which the distinct charisms at work can interact and become more fruitful. In a sense, the confederation would have many of the features of a movement – less concerned with juridical power than with free initiative and generous involvement of talents and charisms. Its organization would be confederative, that is, its membership would be voluntary and not infringe on the autonomy of member communities, movements and apostolic endeavors.

Anticipated tasks of such an organization could be to help overcome tensions and rivalries between apostolic groups, to provide a framework in which lay initiative can be more rapidly mobilized, to facilitate practical initiatives that take the doctrine of the Church and put it into practice, to maximize the potential of the charisms of individuals, communities, nations and continents – thereby enhancing the unity in diversity of the Church. With its deliberate accent on freedom, the confederation could also give the Church a new way to respond to the challenges of swiftly changing times. Ultimately, such a style of cooperation and inspiration could help the Church become more effective as the promoter of true peace and harmony among all nations, respecting the uniqueness of each person and nation in God’s plan.

Fr. Kentenich had no illusions about the difficulties of forming such a confederation, calling it a “mammoth work.” Still, he saw Schoenstatt and its confederative style of organization as a model for and means to attaining the coming confederation. He considered Schoenstatt’s covenant of love and the Shrine as crucial to the success of the confederation, since the charisms behind them correspond exactly to its aims and make available a concrete stream of life and grace needed for such a diverse undertaking to succeed. In this sense, he foresaw that a crucial role of leadership in the confederation would fall to Schoenstatt, also in the shaping of its pars motrix et centralis – its central coordinating body.

St. Vincent Pallotti (1795-1850), priest from Rome and founder of the “Catholic Apostolate,” is perhaps best known as the founder of the Society of Catholic Apostolate (SAC) otherwise known as the Pallottines.

His “Catholic Apostolate” (founded in 1835) was inspired by the desire to involve all Catholics, including the laity, in the promotion of the faith. He wished to help bind together and facilitate the apostolate of the Church on a worldwide scale through an organization with both laity and clergy, coordinated by a pars centralis et motrix (central and motivating core group). It would aim to make the Church’s apostolate more effective through both improved channels of cooperation and a vigorous spiritual component.

His Catholic Apostolate began with some success but soon met with opposition from high Church authorities. As a result, its universal ambitions were already greatly restricted in Pallotti’s lifetime, and after his death his work was reduced to a mere shell – namely the Pallottine Society. It was not until the 20th Century that a Pallottine revival sought to recapture the original mission, largely carried by the impulses coming from Schoenstatt.

Vincent Pallotti was beatified in 1950 and canonized on January 20, 1963. He is often cited as the “promoter of lay apostolate.” Fr. Kentenich also considered him a founder for Schoenstatt with regard to Schoenstatt’s mission to help form the Apostolic World Confederation.

Fr. Kentenich belonged to the Pallottines for some 60 years. He joined the Pallottine novitiate in Limburg, Germany in 1904, made his first profession in 1906, and was ordained a Pallottine in 1910. After Schoenstatt was founded in 1914, he reflected on Pallotti’s mission and felt that it was also meant to be part of what had begun in Schoenstatt. In the light of Divine Providence, he believed for many years that the priestly responsibility for the Schoenstatt Movement should rest with the Pallottines, even proposing that the entire Pallottine Society was called to adopt Schoenstatt as an integral supplement to its spirituality.

By 1956 there were growing indications that Schoenstatt and the Pallottines were going separate ways. In 1964 Pope Paul VI authorized the separation of Schoenstatt from the Pallottines, leading to the founding of a separate institute (the Schoenstatt Fathers, 1965) to take over the priestly direction and inspiration of the movement, and Fr. Kentenich’s transfer from the Pallottines to the diocese of Münster, Germany, which gave him full freedom to work for Schoenstatt. To the end, however, Fr. Kentenich saw himself as a loyal son of St. Vincent Pallotti and his mission.



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