The Adventure of Evangelisation

The Schoenstatt Movement was originally called the “Apostolic Movement”. In this terminology, since 1919, Schoenstatt’s life and purpose was deliberately expressed. Father Kentenich founded a Missionary Society — called the Marian Congregation — which had as its ultimate aim apostolate or evangelisation – any time, anywhere. When Schoenstatt was founded in 1914, through the establishment of the original shrine, he commented: “We cannot achieve a greater apostolic endeavour”. Schoenstatt then experienced the founding of the “Apostolic Federation”, then the “Apostolic League”.

Historical background

Father Kentenich always understood any apostolate, organised by the Schoenstatt Movement, as a modern-day development of the charism of St Vincent Pallotti, who founded in 1835 the “Catholic Apostolate”. Pallotti’s vision was the full involvement of lay people in the mission of the Church. For Father Kentenich, the basic task of the Church in regard to evangelisation is to “permeate the world”, and to be the very “soul of the world” — nothing more, and nothing less.

The biblical foundation of Evangelisation

The commission of apostolate is founded in the words of Jesus to his disciples, when he asks them to go out into the whole world (Matthew 28:19ff). Christians have the mission to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts of the Apostles 1:8). Father Kentenich often referred to the basis of his mission, founded on the words of St Paul:  “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

At all times, God has sent people with a message for others. He asks them to speak in his name and to act in his name. Jesus himself draws his disciples into his mission (see John 17). St Paul sees himself as the “messenger of the Lord” (Romans 1:5). Paul is called in the Acts of the Apostles “my chosen instrument” (Acts of the Apostles 9:15). In the Gospel of St John, we discover the image of the vine and the branches, as the best way to express the deep unity and bond between Jesus and his disciples.

All Christians, through their Baptism and Confirmation, are drawn into the missionary task of the Church. Father Kentenich, for this reason, often spoke of “an awareness of mission” or to be “passionate for our mission”. In regard to the founding generation, he would often speak of “a passion to be conquerors, that never tires” – this was his way of bringing the “Good News” to everyone.

Love of Mary and self-education

Schoenstatt gives an original character to evangelisation particularly through its Marian devotion and the challenge of self-education. Father Kentenich often used the image of a growing tree to explain his model of how evangelisation works in Schoenstatt:

the roots of the tree are our sources of spiritual life – i.e. for every Christian: The Bible, Sacraments. From Schoenstatt’s spirituality: The Covenant of Love with Mary, the Shrine, our Founder. Also particular sources of life as a married couple, for example: The Sacrament of marriage.

the fruits of the tree are our daily efforts of evangelisation – The witness of authentic Christian lives, through proclamation of the word and through concrete apostolic actions.

the trunk of the tree is our striving for holiness – this is what connects the “roots” to the “fruits” – Daily Spiritual Schedule, living our personal mission, Daily Resolution, Examination of Conscience and receiving regularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

[adapted from “The Tree of Evangelisation”, by Fr Rafael Fernandez SI]

Father Kentenich, often used the words of St Vincent Pallotti: “Mary is the greatest missionary, she will work miracles for us!” Our Lady was the first person to bring Christ to others, and for this reason, she is the Mother who educates us in the spirit of evangelisation. Evangelisation in Schoenstatt grows and develops from the Covenant of Love with Mary. The fruits of our apostolate are directly linked to the Covenant of Love and to our personal connection and bond with the Shrine.

Our striving for holiness and the task of evangelisation belong together. If we strive for holiness, then it should show itself in our desire to be apostolic; and our apostolate should be motivated and driven by a deep desire for holiness. “Schoenstatt for the Church, the Church for the world, and the world for the Blessed Trinity!”

The aims of Evangelisation

The aim of evangelisation, at the end of the day, conforms to the biblical commission, that all people – from every walk of life – should become disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19). Father Kentenich expresses this in his own original and charismatic way by describing the three aims of Schoenstatt:

a new person in a new community who is willing to be apostolic everywhere – any time, any place – i.e. a personality, who is independent of external bonds and security; who lives out of an inner identity and has strong, ethical and moral convictions; who pursues a personal mission; who lives out of the power of love; and who works in solidarity with others to achieve common goals.

To bring Christianity to the whole world – i.e. to live and educate through the greatest possible harmony between nature and grace; to unite morals and religion; faith and life; to integrate modern technology, modern lifestyle and modern thinking with faith; organic thinking, loving and living.

The co-ordination of the different apostolic initiatives in the Church – i.e. we are still too insignificant to being the concrete application of this. However, the vision can and should be vividly in our minds and hearts.

All these three aims have clearly an apostolic dimension.

The method of Evangelisation

Father Kentenich speaks about three areas of evangelisation:

Evangelisation through the witness of an authentic life; 

Evangelisation through proclaiming the Good News, i.e, through our words

and Evangelisation through concrete actions. 

The first is often called “witness without words”. This is the first method of evangelisation and it is the one which is always possible. If we want to evangelise, then we simply give witness of our faith by the way we live — affection, love, support, listening, generosity and sincerity in our lifestyle are all things that can provoke the question in others: “Why do you live like this?” The way we live has an impact on others.

The second: Evangelisation through proclaiming the Good News happens according to the “law of the open door”. When people ask the question of why Christians live like this, or search for truth, then very often “doors” open where the Good News can be discussed, shared and proclaimed.

And thirdly, evangelisation through concrete action is founded on the five pillars of Schoenstatt pedagogy and education:

education through ideals, 

through relationships with people, places and things, 

through the Covenant with God, 

through trust 

and also through movement.

The spirituality of the apostle

In this regard, Father Kentenich developed six elements of a modern-day spirituality that motivates and nourishes evangelisation in the church today. People who want to evangelise should try to realise the following in their own lives:

Detachment from self — this means to stop focusing on ourselves and to strive to give everything we have and everything we are to God; it means to be totally free for God for his work. It’s not what we want, it is all about what God wants.

Personal love for God — this means a complete surrender to God and to his wishes; the relationship should be so deep that we know and believe that we are fully dependent on God and on his strength and grace in our lives. 

A desire to be always available for God’s work — we can truly only be available for God in the real sense of the word if we are willing to “carry our cross”. In this way, we are not dependent on experiences of success or disappointment in our apostolate.

Then we become a reflection of God — this means, that people can see God in us and that we become a manifestation of God for others. Jesus himself has said: “Whoever sees me, sees the Father” (John 14:9). In a very special way, this mystery reveals itself in the life of our Lady and of the saints.

We achieve a deep inner freedom — we become free from our own needs and wants, from our own desires and plans, from our own way of doing things and our own priorities and find our deepest freedom in God in the midst of all that we do and all that we try to achieve.

And we will see the fruits of our labours — if we give God the “space” and if we truly believe that it is his grace and his love working in us, then God will achieve great things in us and the way is open for miracles.

[Taken from the Schoenstatt Lexicon, Page 3 and Page 431, also notes from a presentation by Father Peter Locher SI, January 2007]


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