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Dear brothers and sisters,
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Father Joseph Kentenich, the prayers and readings of the Mass of the "Sorrows of Mary" were chosen, a liturgical memorial that celebrates the Church every year on September 15. On that day, 50 years ago, Father Kentenich died after the Mass of the Sorrowful Mother of God in the sacristy of the Trinity Church in Schoenstatt. This is how Mary sealed the life of her beloved Son. We too are looking at Mary at this moment.
The just proclaimed gospel has given us a picture that is very close to our hearts: "His mother stood at the cross of Jesus." With these simple words, the evangelist describes the silent presence of Mary beside her dying son. A presence that is not passive and resigned, but full of prayer, inner participation in the suffering
of the Son, the offering for the salvation of the world. In this dramatic and solemn moment as the "hour" of transition to the Father approaches, Jesus, from the Cross, entrusts his "disciple whom he loved" to his mother: "Woman, behold, your son," and the mother to the disciple: "Behold, your mother." The Church tradition has understood since ancient times that these words had no private meaning, they were not a "family affair," not a simple childlike piety towards a mother who was about to remain alone, but they had a profound universal meaning. Neither Mary nor John are named, but only the "woman" and the "disciple" are mentioned. And so, we can appreciate that in John all disciples, who will believe in him and follow him are "loved by the Lord.” While at that moment, Mary embodies in herself that "daughter of Zion," of whom the prophecies spoke, and not only the "scattered children of Israel," she also welcomed "the whole people" who would come to the temple in Jerusalem in search of the "face of God." Mary is the fulfillment of this prophecy! She is now the universal Mother who receives all those who approach Christ, the true temple, the true "face of God," the true Savior of the world. That is one of the reasons why she is called by the solemn name "woman."
And it is significant that Jesus only after this delivery of the disciple to his mother and the mother to the disciples says: "Everything is accomplished." Only after he has entrusted us to Mary does Jesus feel that he has fulfilled his mission! The institution of the universal motherhood of Mary for all believers thus completes the work of salvation. Dear friends, this Marian maternity was for Father Kentenich not a theological truth learned from books, but an experience that lived in his own flesh and blood when, at the age of only eight, he entered the orphanage, his own mother entrusted him to the Mother of God. It was a painful but at the same time god willed episode. From then on, the maternal care of Mary, her protection and her closeness were the solid foundations upon which the whole spiritual life of the young Joseph developed. We can say that Father Kentenich, from an early age, had received the great grace to root his heart in the love of Mary and through her in the love of the Lord. This is the secret of an authentic Christian life: the heart united with God, the mind and the works animated by this union! If the Christian life remains sterile, it is because the opposite often happens: the mind turns to the divine truths, the action strives for effective results, but the heart is far from God.
Father Kentenich, who had rooted his heart in God, was able to encounter through Mary with extraordinary courage, strength, and perseverance the many crosses which life had in store for him: his often-weak health, his imprisonment in the Dachau concentration camp, the bitter incomprehension of the Church and his forced alienation from his homeland and work for 14 long years. In all
these trials, he too, like Mary, "stayed near the cross." He offered his sacrifice together with the sacrifice of Christ for the benefit of souls and was confident that Mary herself would make good use of the painful trials he was experiencing: Mater habebit curam (Mother will take care), so he loved to repeatedly trust. His personal experience also led to his extraordinary educational work. He knew that if they were left at the mercy of meaningless and transient emotions and passions, young people would run the risk of deviating and losing themselves. He understood that the first step for them, too, was to make a "covenant of love" with Mary, which has become the hallmark of Schoenstatt's spirituality. In practice, it is about living "in a covenant" with Mary so that, through her intercession, personal commitment to sanctification and the apostolate in the world may bear fruit.
Father Kentenich was certain from the founding act of the Schoenstatt Movement that before the beginning of any educational work it was necessary to "bind" the heart to a secure foundation in order to prevent it from being exposed to the arbitrary waves of the time. He knew based on his personal experience that when the heart is surrendered to Mary, it is spontaneously directed towards loving God and others in God. And indeed, Father Kentenich was a great educator: his goal was always to build strong and mature personalities, but especially free people. Free from external conditioning, free from social pressure, free from the wrong values of the world, capable of clinging to the Christian faith from the bottom of the heart and not just in appearance. To be able to testify to this belief in every social environment and to take apostolic initiatives independently, courageously and with foresight. Thus, Father Kentenich became a true father to many young people, lay people, seminarians, priests, consecrated women, and groups of families who found in him a safe and wise guide to accompany them with loving- kindness and clear vision of growth in the faith and the full compliance with their vocation. Above all, this man of God was a true son of the church. He loved the Congregation of the Pallottines, in which, according to the plan of providence, his priestly vocation was born and developed. He was generous in the spiritual formation of many priests who came by the thousands to follow his retreats and meetings. He loved the whole great spiritual family, who breathed life into the Schoenstatt Movement, a "tree," as it can be said, from where many "branches" emerged: the Secular Institutes, the Pilgrim Movement, the Apostolic Leagues, and the Apostolic Federations.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, like all founders of new ecclesiastical realities who were inspired by the Holy Spirit for the renewal of the Church, Fr. Kentenich was also an instrument that God chose, and that God enriched with many gifts and special graces. Perhaps it is not possible to reflect all the spiritual richness of his
personality, but you, his spiritual children, can be inspired by some of the characteristics of his charism and his work, which are closer to your nature and which you consider more urgent in the social context, in which we live. For some it will be the pedagogical work of educating youth, for others the acceptance of a serious personal path of sanctification, for others the Christian witness in the work environment or the missionary impulse, or the work of paternity and of spiritual direction, or the apostolate of prayer, the spread of Marian devotion in families, and many others. Remember that church charisms continue to be alive over the years, when they are faithfully received and accepted by generous and upright people and actualized for each new generation to come. May the Virgin Mary, who is especially revered by you as the Mother Thrice Admirable, accompany you and help you on your personal and communal path of sanctification and apostolate. Amen.
(Unauthorized translation of the original Italian version by Sr. M. Danielle Peters, proofread by Kristen Martinez).
“Take this picture of the Blessed Mother and give it a place of honor in your home. Then your home will become a little shrine in which the picture of grace will mediate many graces, create a holy family atmosphere, and form holy family members.”
-Father Joseph Kentenich,
Founder of Schoenstatt