Year of the Shrine – A Journey…..

We find ourselves on the journey preparing to celebrate the Jubilee of the Covenant of Love in 2014. Each year of preparation is unique. This year we celebrate the year of the Shrine – a central part of our life as a Schoenstatt Family. For this year Fr. Peter Wolf – a diocesan priest and member or the Schoenstatt Institute of Diocesan Priests has collated a book of texts from Fr. Kentenich on the history of teh Shrine and its meaning within our Schoenstatt Family.

Each week we will take a extract from this publication to help us come to know the background and meaningof the Shrine. The full book will shortly be available from the Shrine.

You can download the text (click here)  and print it – or read it below….

Please do comment on the text and let us know what you think

God Bless
Fr. Andrew



The Schoenstatt Movement is preparing for the centenary of its foundation for which the international planning conference in 2008 in Schoenstatt gave out a strong signal. The Schoenstatt Movement all over the world has decided to follow a three-year pilgrimage of preparation. In the first year, the “Year of the Father Current”, the Family gathered around its Father and Founder. Many countries have allowed themselves to be addressed by the travelling Father Symbol. Texts by the Founder on the importance of the Father have gradually been translated into a number of languages, and been taken up by the worldwide Family. According to the suggestion of the international planning conference, and following the invitation of the General Presidium, the second year of the triennium will centre on our attachment to Schoensatt’s shrine.

The Section Mittelrhein of the Josef Kentenich Institut has gladly met the request of the General Presidium and Team 2014, and is placing texts of the Founder at everyone’s disposal. These texts deal with the centrality of the shrine in the life of the Schoenstatt Movement. In this collection of texts we want to show how the Founder’s constant search and interpretation of events resulted in the belief and vision of the importance and mission of the shrine, which has been accepted by the Movement.

When the international Schoenstatt Movement celebrates its centenary on 18 October 2014, it is to be a festival of faith and gratitude. These sentiments are based on the faith and decision of its Founder, Fr Joseph Kentenich, to fundamentally connect and consolidate the start of the Movement with the shrine as a place of grace. Neither the proclamation of a new programme (27 October 1912), nor the decision to found the Marian Sodality (19 April 1914), nor his move into the public domain with the foundation of the Apostolic Federation at Hörde, Germany (20 August 1919), marked for him the start of the new initiative. This is connected with the development of the shrine since 18 October 1914.

In 1912 the young Spiritual Director, Joseph Kentenich was looking for practical ways to form and educate the students at the new Pallottine College in Vallendar Schoenstatt. His first step was to found a Mission Association, and this led to the foundation of a Marian Sodality after the example of the Jesuits. It was then that he came across an article in a newspaper, the “Allgemeine Rundschau”. In its edition of 18 July 1914 Fr Cyprian Fröhlich reported on the social commitment of the Italian lawyer, Bartolo Longo,[1] who had built an orphanage and started a place of pilgrimage in the Valley of Pompeii, not far from Vesuvius.

In the course of July Fr Kentenich asked the Pallottine Provincial, Fr Michael Kolb, to make the Chapel of St Michael in Vallendar available as the home and meeting place for the newly founded Sodality. Fr Kolb offered him other venues, but in the end agreed to his request, and in the weeks that followed had the ancient Chapel of St Michael prepared for its new purpose.

After the return of the students from their holidays, which had been extended for a month following the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Fr Kentenich remarked on their joy at entering the Sodality Chapel. He told the Sodalists about an idea awakened in him by an article in the “Allgemeine Rundschau”, and revealed that it had become his “favourite idea”.

Should it not be possible that through the Blessed Mother something similar could take place as had happened at the Valley of Pompeii? There had been no extraordinary event there, such as a miracle or an apparition, through which other places of pilgrimage had started. In the meantime the Valley of Pompeii has become known far beyond Italy, and until today has attracted half a million pilgrims each year. Pope John Paul II also visited this place of pilgrimage.

According to his own testimony, in the time that followed Fr Kentenich constantly observed the way the young people in the Sodality dealt with the chapel and what he had said. From his window in the “Old House” he was able to keep the chapel in view and he was happy to see how often they visited it. As their Confessor and Spiritual Director he noticed that individuals were gradually transformed and progressed in the spiritual life. He observed their growing apostolic zeal in the Sodality and towards the other students in the house. Such observations were augmented when the first Sodalists were called up into the army. Through his extensive correspondence with them, and through his conversations with them during their leave, Fr Kentenich repeatedly became aware of signs that showed him how a number of them, and in particular Joseph Engling, maintained a deep, inner union with the Blessed Mother in her little chapel while they were in the barracks and at the battlefront. They felt protected and sheltered there. As a result he became increasingly certain that these young people had take up his words and made them their own. They wanted to prevail upon the Blessed Mother to transform the little Chapel of St Michael into a place of pilgrimage. Indeed, the conviction grew that the Blessed Mother had accepted their request.

It isn’t specifically a place of pilgrimage for the sick, yet miracles of grace do take place there. Gradually Fr Kentenich gave expression to what he had observed in the young men: They had received graces of transformation, of feeling at home, and of apostolic fruitfulness. For the Founder and the generation that grew up around him, these are Schoenstatt’s “three graces of pilgrimage”. He often paraphrased what he observed by describing the formative and educational effect that obviously proceeded from the Blessed Mother in the shrine.

From the first there was a unique interaction between heaven and earth, between supernatural and natural commitment. Completely in keeping with Fr Kentenich’s suggestion, the young men grew in the hope and expectation that the Blessed Mother was present and at work in the little chapel. There was the active commitment of the young Sodalists around Fr Kentenich to co-operate in transforming their Sodality chapel into a place of pilgrimage. To achieve this the Sodalists made their contributions in the form of their self-education. These efforts found visible expression in a cardboard box that appeared on the altar in the chapel in the course of 1915. The Sodalists placed slips of paper into it on which they had written down their efforts. In May 1915 Joseph Engling collected his “May Blossoms” in Mary’s honour for the same intention. In the course of the months that followed the young Sodality developed an expression for this process. To start with they were “contributions”, and later “contributions to Mary’s capital of grace”. The background to this way of thinking was the Church’s teaching on its treasury of grace and the spirituality of St Grignion de Montfort, who in his “golden” book on “True Devotion to Mary” guided believers to perfect devotion to Mary, and invited them to place all their merits at her disposal so that she could use them for the salvation of souls.

At this time the chapel, which was originally the cemetery chapel of the medieval cloister at Schoenstatt, was still called the “Chapel of St Michael”. The Provincial Superior, Fr Michael Kolb, had seen to it that a statue of his patron saint was put up in it. Among the Sodalists, however, the question also arose about a picture of Mary for their Sodality chapel, and they tried to obtain one. There were a number of well-documented alternatives on offer, and various initiatives were taken. On 2 April, Good Friday in 1915, the present picture arrived in Schoenstatt, and was put up in the Sodality chapel on 11 April, Low Sunday that year. Since then it has adorned the shrine, and from there it has become known throughout the world as Schoenstatt’s picture of the Blessed Mother.

This was the gift of a teacher who knew about the efforts of his students to obtain a picture of Mary for their Sodality chapel. During the holidays he had found and bought a copy of an Italian picture of Mary in an antique shop in Freiburg. It bore the title “Refuge of Sinners”, and had been painted by the Italian artist, Luigi Crosio, from Turin. Fr Kentenich remembered until the end of his life that the students had not liked the picture. However, the war was raging and there was nothing better to be had. By the end of the war they had become so fond of the picture that no one wanted to give it up again. It had become their picture, and they surrounded it with a light frame from which shone out the trusting words in the tradition of the Marian Sodality: SERVUS MARIAE NUNQUAM PERIBIT – a servant of Mary will never perish (Alphonse Liguori). The wooden light frame, done in fretwork, was a gift from Fritz Esser on the fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Sodality.

Parallel to the search for a picture of Mary the question was asked as to a title for the Blessed Mother. In 1914 Fr Kentenich had read a book by Fr Franz Hattler SJ on Fr Jakob Rem SJ and his Marian Sodality in Ingolstadt. In December of that year he told the students about it. At about the time when the picture of Mary was put up in the Chapel of St Michael, the idea of a parallel between the Ingolstadt Sodality and the Schoenstatt Sodality came alive among the students. The title by which Mary had been honoured in Ingolstadt can be traced back to a mystical experience of Fr Rem while the title “Mater admirabilis” in the Litany of Loreto was being sung. He had always questioned which was Mary’s favourite title. Soon after this experience he told his Sodalists about it and they began to repeat the title “Mater admirabilis” three times as they sang the Litany. Later the invocation was changed to “Mother Thrice Admirable”. This title, by which Mary is invoked as the Mother Thrice Admirable according to the tradition of the Ingolstadt Sodality, spread in southern Germany. The Sodality in Schoenstatt adopted this title in April 1915 in the hope that it would become a similarly graced Sodality as that in Ingolstadt. As a result the title became a programme and has to be understood in connection with the Ingolstadt-Schoenstatt parallel.

In the year of the fifteenth anniversary of the foundation the audacious saying about “the shadow of the shrine” was first uttered. During a conference for Secondary School (Gymnasium) students in Easter Week 1929 Fr Kentenich gave expression to the belief and conviction that had grown within him in the course of the first fifteen years: “In the shadow of the shrine the fate of the Church in the coming years will be decided!” In the same talk, and later on various occasions, he enlarged on and varied this prophetic statement. He pointed out on numerous occasions that this conviction had grown in him through faith in Divine Providence. Unless we take this faith and conviction seriously, it is impossible to understand Schoenstatt’s history and the life of its Founder.

Already a year prior to this – but intensified in the years that followed by the consistent growth of the Movement – there were many and varied initiatives to make the picture of the Mother Thrice Admirable [MTA] of Schoenstatt better known. Wayside shrines were erected in many places, and the MTA picture was put up in chapels and the side chapels of churches. It is remarkable that when Fr Kentenich personally undertook the solemn enthronement of the MTA picture, he did not speak so much about the “picture” as about the “shrine”. It was obviously his view that by this act a new place had been started where the MTA could distribute grace.

The first step towards erecting a replica of the Schoenstatt shrine took place during World War II in Uruguay (18 October 1943). The catalyst and background to this act was the wish of a group of Sisters of Mary working far away from Schoenstatt in Nueva Helvecia, Uruguay, to give the people there the experience of being in the Original Shrine. The Founder was in the concentration camp at Dachau, and was kept informed by the Sisters, who asked for his approval. He later confirmed their actions and spoke about daughter shrines.

After World War II the Tabor Shrine was built in Santa Maria, Brazil, and the Cenacle Shrine in Bellavista, Santiago, Chile. The first daughter shrine in Germany was also built at the initiative of the Sisters of Mary at Maria Rast near Euskirchen on 2 July 1950. Many others were to follow. In his fundamental work, “(WORLD) History of a Shrine”, published in German in 2002 and not yet translated into English, Fr Heinrich Hug listed 168 replica daughter shrines. The list has been up-dated and the Fr Kentenich House on Mount Schoenstatt has documented 190 daughter shrines as exact replicas of the Original Shrine. When we think of this practice of building daughter shrines, we might be reminded of the many Lourdes Grottos that have been erected all over the world. However, in this context I have never come across the expectation that exactly the same things should happen at these grottos as happened in Massabiel, France. Lourdes Grottos are places where Mary is honoured, and where she is thanked for what she works at Lourdes. However, our Founder always connected the daughter shrines with his faith in the reality of the covenant of love and the educational activity of the MTA, and fought to pass on this vision and faith.

We also encounter this way of seeing things in a letter Fr Kentenich wrote to families from Santa Maria, Brazil, in 1948. In this letter he encouraged them to give the Blessed Mother a place of honour in their homes. He trusted completely that Mary would have an educational influence on, and work miracles of grace in, every family that gave her such a place of honour. This trust was based on his experience with what had been called “the Schoenstatt corner” until then.

A further development of the shrine current is located in Milwaukee, USA. During his exile there the Founder had a great deal of contact with married couples and families. For many years he met with couples every Monday evening. The so-called “Monday Evening Talks” bear impressive witness to these meetings. Those who visit Milwaukee today will meet a number of families from this time, who talk about how their home shrine started and how Fr Kentenich visited them to bless it. Fr Jonathan Niehaus has documented this development in his book “The Birth of the Home Shrine”. It developed out of the idea of the “living shrine”. In 1963 the couples began to choose individual items or symbols in the shrine, and parents and children worked spiritually to exemplify their symbol. In effect the symbol was a tangible expression of their personal ideal. This current gave rise to much life.

Fr Kentenich took up this spiritual current and gave a talk on 19 November 1963, which could be taken as the “Founding Document of the Home Shrine”. One is immediately struck by the decisive way in which the Founder applied statements about the Original Shrine in the Founding Document of 18 October 1914 to the home shrines. The idea that Mary is present and active as our educator is central. She is invited into the individual home, and the family expects great help in the education of the children and in passing on their Christian faith.

This strong connection between the home shrine, families and their home, soon gave rise to the question whether the home shrine was limited to families. According to testimonies documented by Fr Jonathan, this question was raised by a seminarian from Ecuador during a visit to the Founder in Milwaukee. Hugo Vasquez later joined the Schoenstatt Institute of Diocesan Priests. The Founder’s answer was the origin of the next step in the development – the “heart shrine”. Looking back on this time, the Founder mentioned the home and heart shrines as the great gift of the exile period. To a certain extent they close the circle of the cosmos of interconnected shrines.  

A powerful testimony to the constant formation of life from the reality of the shrine is the prayed and lived praxis of the Office Hours in “Heavenwards”. The “Schoenstatt Office” originated in the concentration camp at Dachau, and is prayed still today by many Schoenstatters all over the world. In the camp Fr Heinz Dresbach, an assistant priest from Cologne, asked the Founder to create such an Office to make up to some extent for the Breviary to which they had no access in Dachau. He asked two Schoenstatt groups in the camp to make suggestions. Basing himself on these suggestions, Fr Kentenich invited the priests to follow the course of the sun as they came into spiritual contact with various Biblical places, and to discover their reality in the shrine. This created a way of thinking based on salvation history, while being rooted in everyday life and awakening many and varied associations with the shrine. These are all places connected with the life of Christ and Mary, and the Blessed Mother is repeatedly presented as the one who influences the worshipper in the spirit of the Biblical place concerned. This illustrates Mary’s educational task in the shrine, which was so important to the Founder from the first.

The connection of the shrine with Biblical places proved to be a great inspiration in the years that followed, and became visible in the names of many daughter shrines. The mission of a daughter shrine was often expressed in the Biblical name given to it, e.g., the Cenacle Shrine in Bellavista, Chile, or the Bethany Shrine in Karlsruhe, Germany, or the Tabor Shrine of the Brothers of Mary and the Sion Shrine of the Schoenstatt Fathers in Schoenstatt itself.

We can also trace the custom of making a spiritual pilgrimage to the shrine in Schoenstatt to the Dachau period. This found expression in the opening prayer of the Schoenstatt Office in “Heavenwards”. It is assumed by some that this custom arose not least through our Father’s contact with the Polish priests in Dachau, who met spiritually at 9 p.m. around the Black Madonna of Tschenstochau (“Apel Jasnogórski”). Such a custom could help us in the time to come to cultivate union with the shrine. Among Schoenstatt priests there is a well-established custom of blessing everyone who gathers spiritually in the shrine at this time.

This book with texts of the founder for the Year of the Shrine Current is intended as an invitation to discover again the gift and importance of the shrine. For their co-operation in this anthology I want to thank first of all the members of the Section Mittelrhein: Fr Bernd Biberger DD, Fr Oskar Bühler, Dr Gertrud Pollak, Uta Söder, and Professor Joachim Söder. I owe important suggestions to Monsignor Rainer Birkenmaier DD, Sr M. Pia Buesge, Fr Herbert King DD, and Fr Jonathan Niehaus. I should like to mention with particular gratitude the book by Fr Heinrich Hug, “(WORLD)history of a Shrine”, from which I drew much historical information about the shrine.

In addition, my gratitude is due to the General Councils of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, the Schoenstatt Fathers and the Institute of Schoenstatt Families, as well as those responsible for the Schoenstatt-Verlag and Patris-Verlag, for permission to print extracts of their publications. May the selected texts offer our international Family inspiration and help in shaping the Year of the Shrine Current with our Founder as we journey towards 2014, so that we may experience that the shrine is our uniting centre and common source of life.


Schoenstatt, 18 July 2011

Peter Wolf

[1] 1841-1926. Became a satanist priest while a student at the University of Naples. In 1871 returned to his faith, with great devotion to the Rosary. Began to do social work and in 1875 bought a delapidated church in the Valley of Pompeii, putting up a restored painting of Our Lady of the Rosary. Miracles began to be worked and soon this became a place of pilgrimage and grace. Beatified in October 1980.


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