the grace of home

After our orientation in Köln was over, I headed to Vallendar, the place where Schönstatt was founded 99 years ago this month. Schönstatt is the oldest movement of the Catholic Church, and I got involved in the Austin branch my freshman year of college. You can read about my first visit to the Original Shrine here.

The first Schönstatt sighting on the walk from the train station

The first Schönstatt sighting on the walk from the train station

Vallendar is only about 1 hour south of Köln, so I figured I would use my DAAD-funded train trip across the country to multi-task. Unfortunately, that meant that I missed the October 18 anniversary celebration by only about a week, but I did spend a wonderful ~24 hours enjoying the peace and solitude of such a holy place.

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Buses in Vallendar only run once an hour on Saturdays, so I just walked from the train station to the Schönstatt land. Luckily, I didn’t get lost like I did last time! By the time I reached the land, my feet were really hurting and my luggage felt pretty heavy, but I made it to the Original Shrine. It turned out adoration was going on, which was just a wonderful coincidence!

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One part of the Schönstatt spirituality is the belief that Mary bestows graces on visitors of her shrines. There are three types of graces: the graces of home, inner transformation, and apostolic zeal. I am personally a fan of inner transformation, but this weekend the grace of home was placed on my heart especially.

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The more time I spent in the shrines (there are probably 6 or 7 shrines on the Schönstatt land), the more I felt at peace with my life. I felt a real sense of belonging, and I didn’t want to leave.

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In some cases, I really couldn’t leave; shortly after my arrival at the Shrine of the Ladies of Schönstatt, it started pouring rain, and I just stuck around a little longer until the rain subsided.

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The weekend was very relaxed. I took a nap, I did some reading, I leisurely made my way around to several different shrines and sites on the Schönstatt land. I was only there for about a day, so I took things slowly and didn’t pressure myself to see everything (especially some of the places, like the Fr Kentenich Museum, that I had already seen).

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Of course, I was sure to spend as much time in the Original Shrine as possible. I also climbed up Mount Schönstatt, and made a return visit to the Ladies’ Shrine, which might be my favorite. They have a relic of St. Therese of Lisieux, and it is nestled really beautifully up on a hill among the beautifully-colored fall trees.

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I also made the hike up to the Tabor Shrine, which I think is the special shrine of the youth movement. Because it was also up on a mountain, the view was gorgeous (once it stopped raining and the sky cleared).

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I stayed in Sonnenau, one of the buildings that houses visiting pilgrims. Apparently, there was some sort of children’s event going on, because there were kids everywhere. During meals, I got to eat in a separate little room because I wasn’t part of the children’s group… during each meal, I got to meet some really nice people. At dinner, I got to talk with Sister Anastasia and a visiting woman named Theresia, and the next day at lunch, I ate with a girl who visits every weekend because she works at a hospital in the area. I learned from Sister Anastasia that, even though there isn’t a shrine in Dresden, there is a Schönstatt site out in the Sächsischer Schweiz: a house with an MTA and a sister who lives there. I’ll have to visit sometime!

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By the end of the weekend, I was relaxed and rejuvenated from having spent so much time praying, meditating, and enjoying the amazing feeling, at last, of feeling totally comfortable and at home.

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schönheit

I figure that since my last few posts have been somewhat angsty and/or therapeutic in nature, I owe y’all a post telling you what I’ve actually been up to since I’ve been in Freiburg. In case you were wondering, today was a really good day! I met some other international students on a tour of the offices around campus that we need to go to in order to register, and now I have an American bureaucracy buddy! Yesss.

Also, I went up to the Shrine today.

This isn't today, it's from last week. The weather was really nice today... unlike last week.

It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!! It’s on a hill next to a vineyard and it looks down on Merzhausen and Freiburg! It almost competes with Addie Roy in terms of beauty. Almost.

The Shrine is a few miles away from campus… about 5 Straßenbahn stops and then a good 15 minute walk from there. It’s kind of a pain, but it would be a lot better if I had a bike. Actually, getting to campus from my dorm would be a lot better if I had a bike, too! Hmm… I thought about buying one, but they seem kind of expensive, and an unnecessary expense considering that I’m also thinking about buying a bike once I get back to Austin.

But the Blessed Mother’s got my back, apparently!!!

I went over to the Shrine today because there was a lecture and some kind of pilgrims’ meeting (I couldn’t completely understand the description of the event…) that turned out to be kind of like a mothers’ group or women’s group or something. There was a bit of an age gap haha, but it was ok, all the ladies were super nice and the sister who lives here is awesome!! She’s Japanese, but she’s lived in Germany for quite some time. She told us her story about how she became Catholic and how she was introduced to Schönstatt. I understood most of it, which made me feel super awesome!

Then we had Mass, and afterwards I talked to some of the women. They were really impressed by my German (ha… I was kind of proud of how well I did though!). One of the women, I have decided, is a German version of who I want to be in 20 years haha. So I’ll keep you guys updated on that.

But more importantly, we got to talking about whether I’ve bought a bike yet. The answer, of course, is no, not yet, but I’m waiting to see how prices work out and such. I couldn’t quite spit all of that out auf Deutsch. But the next thing I knew, the woman (whose name I don’t know… FAIL) was telling me to write down my cell number (which I also don’t know… DOUBLE FAIL) because she has an old bike that she’s willing to give me!!! Score!!! So, I wrote down my e-mail address for her and hopefully in a few weeks I will have a bike!!! YAY!!!!

So, as if I didn’t already know, Mama Mary is definitely here in Germany with me! Which reminds me… I went on a spontaneous hike the other day that brought me up to this gorgeous viewpoint from which I could see basically the whole city… even the Seepark next to my dorm complex and (I’m pretty sure) the Shrine! It was AWESOME! The picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but here:

The shrine is on the far side of that green patch on the left (you can't quite see the building itself). How pretty is this!?!!?