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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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!
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.