by Fr. Andrew Pastore on 15/11/2011 -
we cannot perform a greater apostolic deed,
or leave behind a more precious legacy
to our successors,
than to prevail upon our Queen and Sovereign
to set up her throne here
in a special way,
distribute her treasures
and work miracles of grace.
You can guess what I am aiming at:
I want to make this place
a place of pilgrimage, a place of grace,
for our house,
for the whole German Province,
perhaps even beyond.
Joseph Kentenich, 18 October 1914The following testimony is an extract from a letter written by Fr Kentenich in 1954 to one of his former students, later his confidante, Fr Alex Menningen. Although Fr Menningen was not present on 18 October 1914, he joined the Sodality soon afterwards. This letter shows how our Founder became increasingly convinced that the Blessed Mother was at work as an educator. In keeping with his profound way of believing in Divine Providence, the young priest, Fr Joseph Kentenich, understood his appointment as Spiritual Director as a fundamental commission to educate. This was to set its stamp on his life as a priest in the time that followed. From this time onward he was constantly searching and questioning how he could best carry out this commission. Everything he read or experienced was integrated into this conviction, and he allowed himself to be guided by it. In the formative influence of the Blessed Mother, to whom the Sodalists opened themselves with such great trust, he sought and found the decisive help he needed to carry out his task towards them. At the same time the little chapel in the valley increasingly became the place where he clearly noticed how the Blessed Mother influenced his charges.
Convinced of Mary’s Educational Work in the Shrine
In order to understand this I have to remind you that in 1912, as a genuine child of Providence, I regarded my appointment as Spiritual Director as a divine indication of my educational task for the whole of my life. You can find clear traces of this attitude in the Pre-Founding Document. You can read there, “Now comes my appointment as Spiritual Director – wholly and completely without my instigation. So it must be God’s will. I accept it and am determined to carry out my duties towards you all, and to each one of you, as perfectly as possible. I now place myself at your disposal with all that I have and am: with what I know and what I don’t know, with what I can do and can’t do, but above all with my heart.”
As a result my future path through life as an educator had been characterised and determined. Everything without exception was subordinated and sacrificed to this divine calling and vocation. My soul was so strongly filled with this awareness that when I first became conscious of the idea, an inner connection was immediately set up with the place of grace God had presumably planned. You can conclude how much the vocation of an educator motivated me inwardly from the programme laid down in the Pre-Founding Document, which simply became the programme from my life and educational work. It contained as in a seed all that later became a reality in Schoenstatt’s history. Not even the organisational subdivision of the whole Movement is excluded. That is why it is stated at the end: “According to your Statutes we should cultivate devotion to Mary as a community. The outward signs are already there in the splendid banner and the medal. However, the main thing is still missing: an inner organisation adapted to your circumstances in the style of Sodalities, which, as you know, exist in various secondary schools and universities. We want to create this organisation. We, not I, because I will do absolutely nothing in this regard without your full agreement. We are not dealing here with a momentary work, but with an institution that all future generations can use. Your successors should, therefore, draw on your zeal, your knowledge of souls and your wisdom. I am convinced that we will bring something useful into existence if we all join in.”
In keeping with this fundamental attitude, what was more obvious than that this third source, which had been opened up by Divine Providence through the law of the open door, should unite with the two others and form a common riverbed? This is how the great idea arose: The Blessed Mother should simply descend here to this shrine as our educator. We want to educate ourselves, but not just under her protection, as the Pre-Founding Document stated. Instead we wanted her to dwell in our midst and from here take control of our education and that of all who give themselves to her. She is the one who from here always sets our self-education going, and wants to call into existence, lead and render fruitful a comprehensive, fully organised movement of renewal and education. In order to move her to do this, we offer her our merits in the form of contributions to her capital of grace, right up to the Blank Cheque, Inscriptio and Engling consecration. Ultimately we give her ourselves with all that we have and are. In return we expect her to show that from here she is in fact the great educator, who leads us to the heights of holiness and a fruitful apostolic life. According to the [Founding] Document she has agreed to this form of covenant of love. … She states: “Work hard to bring me contributions to the capital of grace … Then I will gladly descend to you and distribute gifts and graces in rich measure; then in future I will draw youthful hearts to myself from here, and educate them to become useful instruments in my hand.” That is the simple fundamental and original form of the Schoenstatt covenant of love, which later expanded according to the law of the open door and creative resultants to become Schoenstatt’s vision of the future.
From: Joseph Kentenich, Letter to Fr Alex Menningen for 20 August 1954
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