Today I really can’t write about anything other than the crazy huge party that happened all over the world this past weekend! The Schoenstatt Movement celebrated 100 years since it’s foundation, on October 18th, 1914, when a group of boys and Fr Joseph Kentenich sealed the original Covenant of Love with the Blessed Mother. Rather than go into the history of those times (you can read about them here) I would like to talk about these times! This past weekend, people came from all over the globe to Schoenstatt, Germany to renew this original Covenant of Love with the Blessed Mother in the original Schoenstatt Shrine. Also all over the world in all the Shrines and parishes and places where the Movement is present, there were celebrations, echoes and ripples of joy from the great day in Schoenstatt. You might be wondering what all the fuss is about- Why are so many Christians, so many Catholics, into this weird thing with a funny sounding name?
I was talking recently with some friends about our church today, and especially about our youth and the confirmation process and this idea of “choosing” the faith, as making a conscious and individual decision during adulthood. I always liked that part of confirmation, and it was important to me when I was young. And I’ll be the first to talk your ear off about the virtue and value of real, true freedom and taking ownership of your life. But it was interesting- my friend said something that made me see things in a little different light.
While it will always be important to take the inheritance we have received and “make it our own,” my friend noted how this accentuation of the personal decision to choose the faith might influence us to miss the greater picture. For while we must make our own choices, our choice is ultimately a response, a response to a call. A response to God. God calls to us, and has been calling to us, throughout the centuries. Our “yes” is a response to this great call. As Christ said “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16). This accentuation makes a difference, and really is more than just an accentuation. It is a orientation to the reality of God, and how God acts in the world.
So when I was first getting involved in the Schoenstatt Movement, and I would talk about the Movement with others. I remember saying something along the lines of, “I really like it, and I hope you do too, but if not, that’s okay, everyone’s invited but you’ve got to see if it’s for you.” Not that there was anything wrong with that – like I said everyone has to take their own personal decisions and respect the freedom of the other. But what my friend said about Christ choosing us really stuck with me, and made me reflect. Because it is not just about whether I like something or not, or whether some is easy or comfortable for me or not. It’s about listening to the call of God, through our own inner life and through the signs of Providence in our life and the world. Through that, we each discern our response to God’s call – how is He calling me to answer? Thus, the orientation starts with God – with His will, not my preferences. We called to life by Him – and this encompasses not just our preferences, not just our will, not just our relationships, but our life, our soul, and our love.
So what’s all the fuss about? Why did hundreds of thousands of people all over the world celebrate this weekend? Not because they have a personal preference of one way of being Christian over another, or a certain liking for one devotion over another – it’s because they have heard God’s call to life! They have heard God’s call through Schoenstatt to LIVE their lives in a way that renews the Church and the world – and they have responded with a resounding YES. It’s because their hearts have caught fire with love in a special bond with the Blessed Mother – the Covenant of Love. It is because they have heard her calling them to live life to the fullest and to bear fruit abundantly for God.
The call of the Blessed Mother through Schoenstatt is one echo of God’s call to all Christians during these times. You will find traces of the same echo in Vatican II, in Saint Pope John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization, in the teachings of Pope Emeritus Benedict, and in the words and living example of Pope Francis. And you can see how many of our other modern saints have responded to this call with their lives, for example Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. And with the huge celebration for the 100 years of Schoenstatt, it is my hope that many more will see how everyday saints are being born today through the Covenant of Love. Some are even beatified, such as Blessed Karl Leisner. And even greater, it is my hope that many more will be moved to respond to this great call, and ask themselves – how am I called to live in Christ? Christ has called us to life! To an extraordinary life of love in Him!
Only when we each seek to respond to this call to life in Christ is the Church renewed. And through those who have responded with all their hearts, the Church is being renewed – it is a living, breathing, vibrant Church! To those who think the Church is antiquated, irrelevant, or a relic of the past, I would wonder if perhaps it is their own eyes that have become calcified. Let us open our eyes to the wonders God is working on earth today. And may the wonders that transpired all around this world this week be an inspiration to us all! We are called to life!