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Lent | Schoenstatt Family England - Part 2
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Taste and See Family Mass in March


by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 05/03/2016

Welcome to our Taste and See Family Mass on Sunday 13th March starting with Mass at 3.30pm, followed by an input from Brian Stocks for the adults and there will be a programme for children. We will conclude with a shared meal. In this Year of Mercy we are considering the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. This month we look at what it can mean for families to visit the sick and those in prison. Both of these works of mercy are attractive to families because they allow families to show there solidarity, practice there hospitality and generosity in caring for those in need. Please invite a friend, remember to bring a contribution of food or warm cloths for our food bank  and bring something to share for our meal afterwards. Look forward to seeing you there.

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Year of Mercy – The Universal Law of Love


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 26/02/2016

How do we imagine God? If someone asked us to describe God, or describe God’s most basic characteristics, what would we say? Would we, for example, immediately declare that God for each one of us is a Father of love, a Father of mercy. Would we say, for example, that God’s greatest motivation for everything that he does in the world and in our lives has always been, and will always be his unconditional and boundless love for us. The universal law of love is the endless love of God. This is the reason for all reasons. At the end of the day, everything that God does and everything he intends for our lives is based on the power of love. Everything that comes from him, comes because of love, through love and for love.  If this is true, if love is the ultimate motivation for God, then we have to see it as our special mission and our special task to also make this universal law of love into our ultimate motivation – not only in our personal lives, but in our spiritual growth and development. The Church has always believed that God is a merciful Father; the Church has always proclaimed that mercy and the love of God, in one way and another, is God’s most essential attribute. What perhaps is “new” in this Year of Mercy – or better said, what perhaps is revealing itself in a more powerful way – is how unconditional this merciful love is, and how boundless and all-embracing this mercy of God for each one of us is. Perhaps we have believed in God’s love for us up till now, but we’ve also combined it very strongly with the reality of justice. This often brings about the feeling and the personal experience, that if we wish to experience and share the love of God in our own lives, then we have to earn or merit that love. We cannot earn God’s mercy – it is freely given to us even when we don’t deserve it and, if we are honest, we don’t deserve it most of the time. Of course, every day we have to get up and start again and try to realise the will of God for us and try our best to connect ourselves to God for that day. But we have to be careful that we don’t over-emphasise our human contribution in our relationship to God – in other words, if anything is going to happen, it all depends on me. This Year of Mercy, is trying to emphasise how God, our merciful Father, and his merciful love, is active and present in our lives – he makes the biggest contribution. God does not love us because we have been good or because we have got everything right with not one, single mistake; he loves simply because he is our Father – he has always loved us and he will always love us, no matter what. He wants his merciful love to flow unhindered through our lives and our actions; he wants us to accept and say confidently our “yes” to our limitations, our sinfulness and our weaknesses, and to really believe that our inner poverty is not just an obstacle to getting close to God, but our weaknesses and our sinfulness can actually be the “open door” to sharing God’s merciful love more, and being able to receive his merciful love more. It is so important, in our own spirituality and in our daily lives to recognise and to remember and also to rediscover the universal law of love. What is the universal law of love? Everything that God does, everything that he says, everything that he allows to happen in our lives has a motivation and a reason. And if we search for this reason, if we look for this reason – for example, why did he create the world, why is the world a place where he wants to be present, why does he guide us, why does he want to save us? Why did he send Jesus Christ to be your Saviour and die to set us free? All these questions, and many more, all go back to the ultimate reason – the reason for all reasons – and that is because of love. That is God’s ultimate motivation, and that is why he allows certain things to happen in the way that they happen, he does it all out of love. That is, in essence, the universal law of love. It is the answer to the question what is the ultimate motivation of God – what is the reason for God’s actions and activity and presence in this world. And the answer is because he loves us – he’s only motivated by love, and his love inspires everything else that is in God – for example, his mercy, his justice, his wisdom, etc. This applies, not only in the great events  or in the great questions of creation and the world around us. The universal law of love also applies to us personally. Why do we experience what we experience? Why does God allow this to happen in our lives? Why is our family going through this? At the end of the day, God’s motivation in our own personal lives is also the universal law of love. The universal law of love includes God’s endless love to each one of us, but also includes our response of love to God. These are the two essential sides of the universal law of love. It includes God’s Divine love and also includes our human love. God says to each one of us: “Everything because of love, everything through love, and everything for love”. And each one of us should also say in response to God: “I will try every day to do everything because of love, everything through love, and everything for love”. This has deep consequences would each one of us. This has implications for our spiritual life and our daily living. It basically means, that we too should try every day to do everything out of love. We are also called, through our Baptism and through the fact that we are sons and daughters of God, that we apply the universal law of love in our own lives. And when we do this the powerful stream of love that comes from God originally and flows through the hearts of every single human person and our world, will flow even more and will flow unhindered. That’s why we can speak about the massive stream of life and love that comes from God and then flows through every human heart, uniting as altogether and bringing us all in communion with each other – and then ultimately returning to its source, to God, our merciful Father.

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Taste and See Family Mass in February


by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 09/02/2016

You are invited at the beginning of the Lenten Season to join us for the Family Mass at the Shrine on Sunday 14th February at 3.30pm. Our theme for this Mass is two of the Corporal works of Mercy: Clothe the Naked & Shelter the Homeless. We will start at 3.30pm with holy Mass and afterward share supper with one another. Please also remember to bring donations for our foodbank. Look forward to seeing you. On the one hand it is Valentine’s Day and we hope that you have the chance to share signs of love for one and other in your family. It is the First Sunday in Lent and each of us is invited to join in the Lenten Pilgrimage to Easter.  “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph 2:4f)

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The Empty Egg


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 31/03/2015

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.

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Lent: The Journey of the Seed – Part 6


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 31/03/2015

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.”

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Lent: The Journey of the Seed – Part 5


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 31/03/2015

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.

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Making The Most Of The Holy Week


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 23/03/2015

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!

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