First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to my mom! Today is the first Mother’s Day for which I have ever been out of the country, and the second for which I haven’t been home with my momma.
But that’s ok, partly because I got to spend a few minutes on Skype (with a really slow Internet connection…) with my Mom, but mostly because I spent the whole weekend with my Momma Mary! Melissa and I had the chance to go to the original Schönstatt shrine in Vallendar, Germany. What a perfect way to spend Mother’s Day weekend!
If you are reading this and thinking “What the heck is Schönstatt?”, allow me to explain.
Schönstatt is a Christocentric, Marian movement of the Catholic Church that was founded in 1914 in Vallendar, Germany, by a priest named Joseph Kentenich while he was the spiritual director of a group of young seminarians. The Schönstatt spirituality has three parts: Covenant Spirituality (in which one “exchanges hearts” with Mary through the Covenant of Love), Instrument Spirituality (through which one strives to become an instrument of the Triune God the same way that Mary was used by Him), and Everyday Sanctity (through which one tries to sanctify everyday tasks, making ordinary activities and actions extraordinary). There is a lot more to Schönstatt than just this, but there is so much more that I could write a whole post on it instead of telling you about my trip at all! I’d encourage you to look up more information about it if you’re interested, or ask me sometime!
A main source of grace in Schönstatt is the Shrine, a small Marian chapel containing a tabernacle, the Mother Thrice Admirable image of Mary and Jesus, and several other important symbols. There are now hundreds of Shrines around the world, including two in Texas (hopefully soon to be three… we’re trying our hardest to build one in Austin!), but the original one is a special place of grace and we were privileged enough to be able to visit it and the surrounding land this weekend.
I was introduced to Schönstatt because there is a very young, lively Schönstatt community in Austin, including two branches at UT. I have made some of my best friends in college through SUW and SUM, and one really special thing about Melissa’s and my trip to Schönstatt this weekend is that six (**edit** eight or nine) of our best friends made their Covenants of Love in San Antonio on Saturday! It was awesome to be united with them in the Shrine!
(These pictures really add nothing of substance to this entry, but I have not uploaded my Schönstatt pictures yet. Plus, I think some of these pictures just deserve to be on here. See my Facebook for pictures in the next few days!)
It was a really special feeling to be at the starting place of something that I and so many of my friends value so much, on a weekend that was so important for so many of my (very attractive and photogenic) friends. One thing that my SUM buds will probably be proud to hear is that, when we met the Schönstatt sister who showed us around the different Shrines and the Father Kentenich House, and she asked us how two girls from Texas knew about Schönstatt, her first reaction to hearing that we were from Austin was, “You don’t need to say any more. I’ve heard so much about the amazing young movement in Austin!” Exhibit A: our awesome University Men in action!
One funny thing is that, when Melissa and I first started walking around the Schönstatt land in search of the famed Original Shrine, we passed it about 3 times without realizing it. We were pretty embarrassed… how could that happen? But when we sheepishly told that to our sister-guide, she smiled and nodded and told us, “That’s what’s so beautiful about the Shrine! It’s just like our Blessed Mother… even though it is very holy, it is also humble and quiet and unassuming.” It’s true: nothing about the Shrine is especially impressive. It’s a relatively small, white building; it doesn’t look like anything special. But the moment you step inside, you can just sense that it is a special place. It feels like home. Divine Providence was definitely on our side this weekend… two of the times we decided to go pray in the Original Shrine, just because we were passing, there just happened to be Adoration going on at the time. It was beautiful.
It turns out that there are actually about 10 Shrines in the general vicinity of the Original Shrine, so we got to visit several during our stay. Besides the Original Shrine, we also spent some time in the Kanaan Patris Heiligtum (a Shrine of the Schoenstatt Fathers with a special devotion to God the Father), the Haus Mariengart (a Shrine of Schoenstatt lay women that especially honors the Holy Spirit and contains a relic of St. Therese of Lisieux, one of my favorites and the patroness of my Awakening staff!), and the Heiligtum der Familien (the Family Shrine, which has a net of pictures of the families’ home shrines and an awesome statue of the Holy Family). Even though all Shrines have identical dimensions and most of the symbols they contain are the same, each one has a special, distinct feeling to it. It’s really incredible. Just being able to spend time praying in each one was wonderful.
Our weekend also included two trips up to the top of Mount Schönstatt, which includes a few more Shrines (we didn’t go into any of them, though), the Adoration Church and Chapel where Fr. Kentenich died and is now buried, and the Father Kentenich House, a museum about the life of the Founder and about the movement as a whole. Even though it was closed on Saturday, our sister-guide (can you tell I don’t remember her name? I’m horrible) took us on a guided tour of the museum part of the house! It was awesome to see the history of the movement in such a real way. Even though I had learned so much about Fr. Kentenich’s life and the founding of Schönstatt in the past two years, getting to actually see the original Founding Document and hear such passionate descriptions of the lives of the original Sodalists completely transformed the history for me.
Learning about the original Sodalists, the seminarians with whom Fr. Kentenich worked in the early years, whose spirituality shaped the movement, and whose apostolic zeal spread the movement during the war, was probably one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Two of the Sodalists, Max Brunner and Hans Wormer, are actually buried behind the Original Shrine, and Josef Engling, who died during WWI and whose body was never found, is commemorated there as well. Hearing their stories, normal people like us who lived very holy lives, seeing the seminary where they once studied, and walking the streets of Vallendar where they once walked, was really cool. There is a little memorial at the edge of the Schönstatt land, where Fr. Kentenich would walk with the boys (“his soldiers”) on their way to the train station, at the spot where he would bless them and their travels and then send them on their way. We walked past it every time we went to dinner in Vallendar, and it was a good reminder of the history of the land.
Overall, I am so glad that I got to visit this place of incredible grace this weekend. I don’t know what the future holds in terms of my relationship with Schönstatt, but I have learned and grown so much in the past year and a half, and this trip to Vallendar was an excellent way to experience more of this beautiful movement.
Other notable things from the weekend:
Several firsts occurred this weekend. After one month in Germany (during asparagus season, no less), I have finally tasted spargel (German white asparagus). And after six years as a student of German culture, I have finally had my first Spaghetti-Eis (delicious vanilla ice cream pressed to look like spaghetti, topped with strawberry “tomato” sauce and shaved white chocolate “cheese”). Also, I finally saw Tangled. Best. Movie. Ever.
The beds in our room at Schönstatt were SUPER comfortable… so comfortable that the weekend may or may not have included several naps and 10 hours of sleep per night. Heaven.
Eurail passes are awesome, but one downside is that they do not reserve you a specific seat on the train. Hence why, for half of my journey back to Freiburg today, I had to sit on the floor in the little section between cars. I kind of felt like a hobo.
My German language acquisition has reached new levels! I can now read and understand card game instructions in German! Never mind that I already basically know how to play UNO… I’d say that puts me at “almost fluent.”
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Some of my favorite Schönstatt prayers:
My Queen, my Mother,
I give myself entirely to you,
And to show my devotion to you,
I consecrate to you this day
My eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart,
My entire self without reserve.
As I am your own, my good Mother,
Guard me and defend me
As your property and possession.
Divine Providence Prayer
You know the way for me, you know the time.
Into your hands I trustingly place mine.
You plan is perfect, born of perfect love;
You know the way for me, that is enough
Holy Spirit Prayer
Holy Spirit, You are the soul of my soul.
I humbly adore you.
Enlighten me, strengthen me, guide me, comfort me.
Reveal you wishes to me
As far as this is in accordance with the will of the Eternal Father.
Show me what Eternal Love wants of me.
Show me what I should do.
Show me what I should suffer.
Show me what I should humbly and thoughtfully accept, bear, and endure.
Holy Spirit, show me your will and the will of the Father,
For I want my whole life to be nothing else
Than a continuous, and everlasting yes
To the wishes, to the will of God, the Eternal Father.