On Schoenstatt’s Growth and Charism

Interview With Postulator of Founder’s Cause for Beatification

ROME, FEB. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Schoenstatt apostolic movement already has built 180 replicas of the German chapel where it was founded.

Father Angel Lorenzo Strada, vice superior-general of the community of Schoenstatt priests and postulator of the cause of beatification of its founder, spoke with ZENIT about this movement and others growing in the Church.

Q: What was the idea that moved Father Josef Kentenich [1885-1968] to found the Schoenstatt Movement?

Father Strada: Ever since he was very young, Father Kentenich perceived that the Christian faith is faced with new and great challenges, posed by the development of science and technology, modernity, growing pluralism and secularization.

Ordained a priest in 1910, two years later he proposed to youths entrusted to his spiritual direction to educate themselves, so that freely and of their own initiative they would develop their originality and integrate themselves actively in building a community.

A few months after the start of World War I, on October 18, 1914, he invited youths to ask the Most Holy Virgin to establish herself in the small chapel where they were gathered, and from there teach them and dispense her graces.

They committed themselves to cooperate with Mary through an intense life of prayer and the sanctification of daily life. This was Schoenstatt’s founding event.

Years later this would be called a Covenant of Love with Mary; it is the center of the movement’s spirituality.

Until the end of his life in September 1968, Father Kentenich remained faithful to his pledge to live “with his hand on the pulse of time and his ear on God’s heart.”

He dedicated all his strength to the formation of “a new type of person and a new type of community,” capable of incarnating and proclaiming the good news of the Gospel in the midst of this formidable time of change that the Church and world are living.

Q: In what phase is his process of canonization?

Father Strada: The process was started in the diocese of Treveris, Germany, in February 1975.

A great quantity of testimonies to his reputation for holiness have been gathered. Thousands of people, living in 87 countries in all the continents, have certified that they take recourse to Father Kentenich’s intercession and are guided by his example of life.

Around 150 witnesses have made statements before the ecclesiastical tribunal. The numerous published writings have already been examined. Documentation was requested from more than 110 civil and ecclesiastical archives.

A commission of specialists in Church history and archives has been in charge of collecting, cataloguing and evaluating the unpublished writings which add up to about 25,000 pieces.

Once this commission elaborates its final report, foreseen for the coming months, only a few transactions will be left to finalize the diocesan stage of the cause of beatification.

Afterward, the defining stage will follow in Rome. It is impossible to predict when it will end — among other things because a miracle is required for the beatification, and no one can plan a miracle; it can only be implored.

Q: Why are replicas of the original chapel of Schoenstatt being built wherever the movement is present? Isn’t this a practice that is contrary to inculturation of the faith in each particular culture?

Father Strada: The first replica of the original chapel was built in October 1943, in New Helvetia, a small city in the interior of Uruguay.

At the time, Father Kentenich was a prisoner in the concentration camp of Dachau and he was told later. Both he, in his contact with prisoners of other nations who were interested in Schoenstatt, as well as those who took the initiative for the construction in Uruguay had asked themselves the same thing: If the chapel is the source of graces and the spiritual center of the movement, how can people of different nations be connected to a place that exists only on German soil?

The multiplication of the chapels seemed to be an inescapable necessity. That the architecture of the chapel was maintained was something spontaneous and Father Kentenich interpreted it as the will of God.

Today around 180 Schoenstatt chapels enrich the Catholic Church’s “geography of faith” on the various continents.

In reality, all movements or groups need and create clear signs of their identity. Schoenstatt requires them more due to the plurality of its members and the type of membership.

And because, though it is an international movement, it does not have a centralized direction. This gives it more possibilities of inculturation.

Q: The Schoenstatt movement is very linked to Mary. Why do you think the new movements give special attention to the Virgin?

Father Strada: Given the variety of charisms and spiritualities of the new ecclesial movements, one is impressed by the fact that Mary is a kind of common denominator.

In the service these movements wish to offer to the evangelization of the new millennium, the Virgin represents a whole program.

It would seem that in the 20th century the Holy Spirit gave men and women founders a similar intuition: She cannot be absent in a Church called to be more of a family and a welcoming home for people, a promoter of women and of women’s contribution to the culture of nations, a defender of life and of the dignity of each person, an advocate of the poor and the neediest.

If in the fullness of time the Redeemer became flesh through Mary, in these new times of humanity we ask that she again give us the “God-with-us.”

This reality illuminated the life and teaching of Pope John Paul II. The same is true for Pope Benedict XVI.

Of course the special attention to the Virgin cannot be reduced to pious practices, particular devotions or extraordinary phenomena.

An authentic Marian spirituality, in Father Kentenich’s conviction, must lead to a profound Christological and Trinitarian spirituality, to a serious aspiration to holiness and to a generous commitment to the evangelizing mission of the Church.

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