I first learned of the Schoenstatt Movement through articles written by my friend and fellow contributor Rachel. After reading excerpts of Fr. Joseph Kentenich’s book, “Everyday Sanctity”, I’ve gained a greater understanding of the rationality behind the movement.
Schoenstatt was named after a place in Germany of the same name, meaning “beautiful place”, and the founder, Fr. Kentenich, led a rather extraordinary life. Since the guiding principles tend to be the heart and soul of a movement, it is there that I wish to focus this introduction. I’m always on the lookout for practical applications of Catholicism, which is why this Marian movement of lay people particularly interests me. (Not currently a member, I provide the perspective of a revering outsider.)
Mary Mother of God has been recognized by the Church since the beginning as the greatest intercessor to Jesus and the most direct path to His graces. The Schoenstatt movement deems her “Mother Thrice Admirable” as the advocate of this movement. “Thrice” can be meditated upon in many different ways (mother of God, Christ, and humanity, mother of faith, hope, and charity, etc.). She is primarily recognized in the context of the movement as educator of the human race and the means of accelerated self-sanctification.
As mentioned, Schoenstatt is a practical movement. It focuses on three dimensions: covenant spirituality, instrument piety, and everyday sanctity. One should “do the ordinary things extraordinarily well”, fulfilling one’s duties as perfectly as possible out of love for God. Through the infusion of faith in one’s life, balance is found in the “God-pleasing harmony between wholehearted attachment to God, work, and fellow man in every circumstance of life”.
I have a tendency to judge people and organizations in part by how accurately they assess the obstacles to their missions or the problems to be solved. Fr. Kentenich excels here. “One of the most dangerous errors of our age is the separation of morality from religion.” He astutely identifies the two primary spiritual dangers of our age: naturalism and collectivism. Naturalism focuses on the material world, regarding the spiritual world as superfluous and irrelevant. Collectivism sacrifices individual personal identity to an ideologically driven vision of mass society. Against these two errors the Christian humanism of the Schoenstatt Movement is set.
Attachment to God is the first part of the remedy, an attachment that pervades every aspect of one’s life. One who ardently loves God will not only keep His commands, but will also lovingly seek out and follow His counsels and wishes.
Fr. Kentenich provides many ways to develop this attachment. One must foster an awareness of God’s love for oneself, and an awareness of being a child of God. “God finds His children irresistible when they admit and accept their helplessness.” He claims that the sacraments, and particularly daily Mass, cultivate a clearer direction from Jesus for one’s life. A personal longing for greatness should be rooted in the heroism of daily life, and the desires that motivate us should correlate to the challenges we face in daily life.
As with Catholicism in general, prayer within the Schoenstatt Movement is the lifeline of the soul. “Prayer frees the heart from inordinate attachments to earthly goods, unites us with God and opens our hearts to the riches of God’s omnipotence and mercy.” Its close relatives, penance and self-denial, turn us from sin with the resolve to amend our lives.
This attachment to God is balanced by a God-pleasing attitude toward work and a loving attitude toward others. However mundane it may be, our work should be done well and offered to God. Fr. Kentenich perceptively recommends supplementing an unfulfilling career with contributions of time and talent outside the career toward the common good where greater personal fulfillment may be found. Herein lies one link to the fostering of community, though a more thorough explanation of the focus on service toward one another was lacking in the excerpt I read.
What I found most helpful was his articulation of the part we play in developing our spirituality:
We must defend the divine life [within us], increase it and make it fruitful. It faces the threat of many and powerful foes. Those around us are the devil and the spirit of the world, the foes within us are greed and the quest for power and pleasure. We defend ourselves from all these foes with an enlightened and effective practice of self-denial. But we must also increase the divine life in us through good works and the reception of the holy sacraments. It becomes fruitful when we cooperate in the apostolate, extending the reach of the kingdom of God and bringing blessings to others.
Again, these are what I consider to be sound principles behind an instrumental spiritual movement, founded by an insightful and beneficent priest, and open to all faithful Catholics. More information can be found on their international website and the local (Austin) web site.