100 YEARS OF SCHOENSTATT – Archbishop Robert Zollitsch

„She is the great missionary“

Holy Mass, international, Church of the Theology College of the Pallottines

Vallendar, October 19, 2014

schoenstatt-2Before I got to know Schoenstatt, Vincent Pallotti was familiar to me. His passionate drive to lead people to the Kingdom of God, and correspondingly to be apostolically active with all the fibers of his life, impressed me as soon as I heard about him. All of us surely agree on this: Without [seeing] his forceful urge toward the apostolate and his efforts to motivate as many people as possible toward it, this saint cannot be understood. And the more I then opened myself to him and occupied myself with him, the clearer a second thought became to me. A hardly less central aspect of his life and work is his love for Mary and his attachment to her.

The image of the disciples gathered around Mary in the Cenacle awaiting the Holy Spirit remained for Vincent Pallotti the epitome of apostolic readiness and mission. Thus he chose this image to be the symbol, the guiding image of his community. He may consider himself confirmed in this by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”: “With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization” (EG 284). For, as our Holy Father continues, “Jesus left us his mother to be our mother. Only after doing so did Jesus know that ‘all was now finished’ (John 19:28). At the foot of the cross, at the supreme hour of the new creation, Christ led us to Mary” (EG 285). Thus the Pope also places her before our eyes as the “Mother of the living Gospel” (EG 287), as the “missionary” (EG 286) who stands for “a Marian style to the Church’s work of evangelization” (EG 288). Mary is the woman who “sets out from her town” (EG 288) in order to bring Jesus, even before she has given birth to him, “in haste” (cf. Luke 1:39) to the people. She instructs missionaries and accompanies them.

What Pope Francis says about Mary „as the Mother of the Church which evangelizes” (EG 284) and as the “Star of the New Evangelization” (EG 288), leads us on a straight line to that which Pallotti firmly maintains as a program and guiding star when he chooses Mary [under the title] “Queen of Apostles” as the patroness of his work. Vincent Pallotti lives and works in close connection with Mary. For, according to Vincent Pallotti, Divine Love “gave us everything in Jesus”: his whole mystical body, and with it, Mary, its heart. And Pallotti, as Father Ansgar Faller SAC writes, “places it brilliantly clear before our eyes that together with his only-begotten Son, God has also given us his Mother as a personal possession. Thus he must say: How could he have but one meditation without thinking of Mary!” [1]. For Pallotti, Mary is the apostolic figure who pushes toward the people as the Woman of Departure (cf Luke 1:39 ff) and from whom he reads the missionary possibilities of Christian involvement as well as the chances of a missionary life without exterior activity[2].  Personal attachment to the Blessed Mother and Marian piety led to apostolic enthusiasm, which burned as a raging fire in Pallotti and gave untiring strength to his work. He always kept with himself a little reliquary with a picture of the Madonna[3].Thus he also wanted to know that she accompanied him in his hour of death, and [so] had the statue of the Queen of Apostles placed at his bedside. For, according to his conviction and his legacy to his community, his legacy to us: “She (Mary) is the great missionary. She will work miracles.”

4cb6109cc1bb989f57bf5281f0a02e2a_f159Through Schoenstatt I became more familiar with this legacy of Pallotti. Father Kentenich repeatedly quoted this sentence. With his Marian piety and Marian devotion he considered himself in accord with his “reverend founder,” in the language usage of one hundred years ago. When he spoke about zeal for souls and service of Mary as the driving forces of Pallotti’s apostolic heart and idealism, one senses his inner accord with him[4]. With St. Vincent Pallotti and Pope Francis, Schoenstatt emphasizes the Blessed Mother as the missionary who not only “made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost” (EG 284), but who also today “as a true mother … walks at our side, … shares our struggles and … constantly surrounds us with God’s love” (EG 286). Whoever recognizes Mary, together with Vincent Pallotti, Schoenstatt, and Pope Francis, as the missionary woman and Queen of Apostles, cannot do away with her as a soft figure and image of an outdated tradition. She is the woman who is constantly on the way to us and with us as a missionary. A missionary Church is a Church that is setting out, a dynamic Church, moved and led by the Holy Spirit as Mary was. The more I take in the wonderful exhortation of our Holy Father, “Evangelii Gaudium,” the happier it makes me [to see] the tremendous harmony of his depiction of the Blessed Mother’s task with Pallotti’s and Schoenstatt’s image of Mary and her missionary task. We can read this from the image of the pilgrim MTA that is here with us today. Deacon John Luis Pozzobon from Brazil carried her, the great Missionary, on pilgrimage by foot to the people for thirty-five years and thus began an unexpected chain reaction. Today the pilgrim MTA is on the way to the people with 200,000 pilgrim shrines in almost 100 countries.

The „Caritas Christi urget nos“ of St. Vincent Pallotti and his “Societas Apostolatus Catholici,” dear sisters, dear brothers, is the expression of a downright irrepressible longing to lead all people to Christ and to motivate as many Christians as possible for this task. For “mission,” as Pope Francis says, “is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people” (EG 268). God’s challenge “to those who believe in him ‘to go forth’” (EG 20) belongs to the essence of the Church. And “the Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step” (EG 24).

This holds true for all the faithful. “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization” (EG 120). What Pope Francis calls a new understanding of “personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized” (EG 120) was Pallotti’s main intention already 150 years ago and has been Schoenstatt’s [main intention] for 100 years. What our Holy Father calls the “Marian style to the Church’s work of evangelization” (EG 288) goes hand in hand with it. Mary, “Mother of the Church which evangelizes,” is “in the midst of the people” (EG 284) and instructs us how to walk the way of Church renewal in a missionary spirit and in humility. And this leads to a new dynamic. For “whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness” (EG 288). What our Holy Father states about “the community of missionary disciples” (EG 24) could almost be a combined re-wording of the “Societas Apostolatus Catholici” and Schoenstatt. For what Pallotti carried within himself was far ahead of his time and so revolutionary for his time that his concern had to retreat [into the background] for a long time. And what is revolutionary about a markedly Marian renewal includes, according to Pope Francis, tenderness that knows no limits and love that mercifully turns toward all people in a covenant of love with all and for all.

70507776When we celebrate the hundredth jubilee of Schoenstatt in these days, esteemed guests, dear sisters, dear brothers, then it includes not only looking back and looking ahead, but also gratitude. Our thanks goes to the Triune God – and to Mary, by whom we know we are led and protected. And it goes to you, dear confreres of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate. Schoenstatt came about, grew, and became great within the Pallottine Family and under its protection. There is so much that connects Schoenstatt with St. Vincent Pallotti and his Society of the Catholic Apostolate. Not only is there the main concern of apostolate and evangelization, connected with the mobilization of Christians. Not only is there the outstanding Marian spirituality of Pallotti and Schoenstatt. There is also the common history and the close connection that have lasted for many years. For that I thank you, dear confreres of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, with my whole heart. When we look back into history, we have to confess – and I do so gladly and with conviction: Schoenstatt would not have come about with you, dear Pallottines. Schoenstatt owes unendingly much to you.

Of course we all know that Schoenstatt’s process of growth and autonomy was also connected with tensions, sorrow, and challenges, and that not yet all the wounds have become scarred or even healed. But according to my feeling, what we have in common, what connects us and what has been given to us together is far greater than that which moves us apart or could even keep us apart.

Today, dear sisters, dear brothers, we stand before totally new challenges. Pope Francis identifies the present moment as “a turning-point in history” and speaks of an “epochal change” in which we find ourselves (EG 52). And the present “process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal” (EG 64). Thus, as the Pope states, [evangelization] “must reach the places where new narratives and paradigms are being formed” (EG 74), and place itself at the service of the necessary dialogue (cf. EG 74). With regard to Mary we believe “in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness” (EG 288). For the Gospel is a revolution of love.

You, dear brother Pallottines, have realized a heroic deed of love and set forth a great sign: You have given the Schoenstatt Family the shrine of the Blessed Mother in the valley, the Original Shrine. With that you have ignited a powerful fire for a new cooperation for the future. For that I thank you with all my heart. And I am privileged to quote Reverend Father Rheinbay with the sentence he formulated regarding “spirits of fire,” and apply it to us here: “Where people treat each other with a spirit of faith, society also changes.” [5] I invite you: Let us look forward together, carried „by the inner fire of renewal“! “This fire hardens the mind and not the heart.” Yes, the present “epochal change” challenges us and obliges us “to get (newly) involved with our all strength (that is love!) in the divine game of life.” [6]

For this I personally trust in the help and guidance of the Blessed Mother. It is not only the picture of the “Mother Thrice Admirable” that came from Freiburg to Schoenstatt that accompanies me on my way. For many years the picture of “Mary, Untier of Knots” has also accompanied me. She has already untied many complicated knots in my life and became for me the woman who builds bridges and leads together, the one who binds together in an alliance, in the covenant. I cannot whatsoever imagine it otherwise than that Mary wants to continue to accompany us and lead us together anew. To her we are privileged to entrust the continuing way into the future. Amen.

[1] Ansgar Faller SAC, Vinzenz Pallotti, Gott, die unendliche Liebe, Friedberg 1981, S. 46

[2] cf. Karl Stetter, Vinzenz Pallotti, Friedberg 1975, S. 98

[3] ibid. S. 93

[4] cf. Sermon on February 2,1913, in: Peter Wolf (Ed.), His Mission, Our Mission,
Vallendar 2012, p. 29)

[5] Fr. Paul Rheinbay SAC, Wir alle sind berufen – Pallottis Zukunftsbild für heute, in: P. Ulrich Scherer
SAC (Ed.), Unio – unsere Art, Kirche zu sein, Friedberg, 2013, S. 265 – 277, hier: S. 277

[6] ibid.