Jeremy was born with a twisted body and a slow mind. At the age of 12 he was still in Year 2, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. One day she called his parents and asked them to come in for a consultation. As the Forresters entered the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five year gap between his age and that of the other students.” Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue, while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.” Doris sat for a long time after they had left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy was a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying? As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family, she thought. Then one day, he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. “I love you, Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’ face burned red. She stammered, “Wh-why that’s very nice, Jeremy. N-now please take your seat.” Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?” “Yes, Miss Miller,” the children responded enthusiastically-all except for Jeremy. He listened intently. His eyes never left her face. The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out. The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that’s new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.” Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom, “My daddy helped me,” he beamed. Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty. Surely it must be Jeremy’s she thought, and of course, he did not understand her instructions. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. Suddenly, Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy, your egg is empty.” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty, too.” Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?” “Oh, yes,” Jeremy said, “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then His Father raised Him up.” The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the schoolyard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away. Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the cemetery were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his coffin… all of them empty.
Sarah-Leah Pimentel. God writes straight on crooked lines. This is our experience of life. Sometimes our perfect plans don’t quite work. Other times we feel that we are on the right path and circumstances turn everything upside down. The newly-born Schoenstatt Movement of 1914 could not ever have imagined the events that shaped the history of its first 100 years. God chose to write on these crooked lines. Time and time again, it seemed that everything was acting against it. Joseph Engling, Max Brunner, Hans Wormer – some of the first sodalists – didn’t even get to see the first five years of Schoenstatt’s life. The first Schoenstatt Sisters sent to South Africa and then the Americas had just barely finished their formation and they found themselves in a kind of exile in foreign lands where they had to figure it out as they went along. And nobody goes into a concentration camp and expects to live. This is hardly the best way to build the foundations of an international spiritual movement. And yet, it was on these crooked lines that God chose to write. So as we conclude this Lenten series let us look again at Fr. Kentenich’s description of the best kind of terrain for growth: “The outward conditions for growth are all sorts and degrees of difficulties, continual inner and outward battles.” (Joseph Kentenich, 1954/55, Kentenich Reader Vol. II, p. 25) And I’ll add the sentence that follows this quotation we have been working with for five weeks: “This is [what is] meant when we say that Schoenstatt is a child of war.”
Sarah-Leah Pimentel. The history of Schoenstatt’s spiritual development is a gradual movement from a personal spirituality to one that is outward focused. A friend of mine once described the covenant of love as the soil that nourishes both the inner and outer journeys of our Schoenstatt life. The Blessed Mother takes the first step by inviting us to enter into a covenant of love with her. We respond by sealing our covenant of love with her, and in so doing, we embark on a journey of self-education – guided by her loving hand – that gradually leads us to grow more deeply into God’s plan of love for our lives. However, the joy of that self-discovery cannot be contained and so, it must necessarily pour itself out for others. This is the focus of our reflection this week, as we return to the passage we first examined during the second week of Lent: “The good earth they need is the natural and supernatural readiness to be generous, but above all, to be chaste and to love.” (Joseph Kentenich, 1954/55, Kentenich Reader Vol. II, p. 25)
Generosity becomes a source of renewal
Generosity is not just about giving of ourselves (natural), but also of passing on the spiritual (or supernatural) gifts that we have received. Reminiscing on the Jubilee celebrations in Schoenstatt my friend reflected that the renewal of the covenant of love on 18 October 2014 was one of many instances in the last 100 years where the Schoenstatt Family has passed on our most precious gift. We see it in our branches every time a new group is started. The elder members are instrumental in passing on their experiences and the wisdom of a life lived in the covenant to the next generation. I had a very real sense of this during the Jubilee celebrations in Schoenstatt, particularly during the vigil on 17 October. The theme for the night was the “Night of the Shrine,” which is an annual celebration of the Schoenstatt Youth. It began in 2005 with the Youth Festival in Schoenstatt, attended by some 3,000 members of the International Boys and Girls Youth prior to the World Youth Day in Cologne. I was blessed to have been a part of the volunteer team that worked for a year to prepare that Youth Festival. And it was with immense emotion and pride that I sat again in the Pilgrim Arena nine years later and watched as a new generation of Schoenstatt Youth took the symbols of that first Night of the Shrine and gave it new life and new meaning. Ten years ago, a large Perspex shrine where the youth have continued to place their petitions and prayers symbolised the desire of the International Youth to make a Covenant of Love for the Youth of the World. On 17 October they — the youth we entered into a covenant of love with — were renewing their own covenant of love with the entire International Schoenstatt Family. The generosity of 3,000 young people to share their covenant with youth who hadn’t even been born yet, multiplied itself in the covenant of love renewed by thousands of people all over the world on 18 October 2014. Generosity, therefore, becomes a source of renewal. But generosity is also a relinquishment. Part of this renewal requires letting go. It was beautiful to be present at the Night of the Shrine last year. But it was also difficult. It brought home for me that I am no longer part of the Schoenstatt Youth. My life journey has taken me to other places. Together with the many others who helped to prepare that Youth Festival in 2005, we provided our small contribution to the Schoenstatt. But now, we need to let go and let a new generation discover the treasures we found and multiply them.
Perhaps Lent this year went well for us, a profound time of confronting weaknesses out of love for the Lord. Or maybe it went rather poorly, and in fact was kind of forgotten in all the busyness of life. Either way, there is still time to take advantage of the opportunity the Church gives us to grow closer to Christ. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which unites the “royal splendour of Christ with the proclamation of his passion,” says the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (No. 138). Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic King, and in his paschal victory.” Lent ends officially with the beginning of the Easter Triduum at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Through the Washing of Feet, we remind ourselves that we are called to love our neighbour and notice their needs. There is all, at the end of Mass, the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, available until 9.00pm — is the best way to end Holy Thursday. The Easter fast that many begin after Holy Thursday Mass is obligatory on Good Friday. “Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fast and abstinence from meat. Mass isn’t offered on Good Friday; but a Communion service and veneration of the cross is. When possible, Catholics take a break from work between the hours of noon and 3 p.m., the time Christ spent on the cross. This is also a prime time to pray privately the Stations of the Cross. Holy Saturday is an silent time of waiting. No Mass is offered, not even a Communion service like Good Friday’s. It isn’t an official fasting day, but many Catholics eat modestly this day as we wait to celebrate the Resurrection. On the Saturday evening, we celebrate the Resurrection with the wonderful Easter Vigil. This is the greatest feast of the Church – as we carry in the Light of Christ and dispel the darkness. Easter Sunday is the great day of victory and new beginning!
Sarah-Leah Pimentel. We have spent the first three weeks of our Lenten journey examining Fr. Kentenich’s metaphor for our spiritual life as a seed and exploring the qualities needed for its growth. So far, our reflections have been on our individual spirituality. But Fr. Kentenich’s words are just as relevant in the context of Schoenstatt’s spirituality, for us as an international family, a gift to the Church and society. Let us begin by exploring the first part of the text we’ve been working with: “Their [the seeds’] inner ability to germinate urges them to bring forth a distinctive spirituality and universal apostolate” (Joseph Kentenich, 1954/55, Kentenich Reader Vol. II, p. 25). In the same way as we have the necessary elements to unfold our spirituality already within us, so too Schoenstatt has already laid the foundations that will allow our spirituality to blossom even more abundantly in Schoenstatt’s second century. The Blessed Mother has prepared the terrain for us by initiating her relationship with us. She set up her home in our shrines – daughter shrines, home shrines, office shrines, heart shrines. Her Covenant of Love with us is the first building block of our Schoenstatt spirituality. When we respond by sealing our covenant with her, we cement that relationship bond.
Our October Day is Sunday October 18th 1.00pm-5.00pm
Our Family Week this year will be at Sneaton Castle, Whitby North Yorkshire from Tuesday 11th August until Monday 17th August 2015.