SCHOENSTATT, Maria Fischer •
It was one of the stormiest days in this stormy month of March, the day when Fr Dr Michael Marmann was buried. Much was said in those two hours while the storm raged around the towers of the Church of the Blessed Trinity. His confreres and successors as Superior General of the Schoenstatt Fathers, his friends from “Together for Europe”, Schoenstatt members with whom he started in Regensburg, had much to say in those two hours, and at the end his own words resounded, which Fr Heinrich Walter, who preached, quoted from his key experience of meeting Mary and Jesus.—
“Once again as we walked in the cemetery (in Milwaukee) – we sat on a bench on a slight hill – we had a conversation that became a key experience for me. We were talking about Mary, and in particular about how in the past I had been unable to do anything with her – precisely as a student of theology. Then, not long before my ordination, I had an experience during the night when I faced a question that was typical of my situation at the time: Whether one could address Mary with the familiar “DU” (you). At the same moment I experienced a personal relationship to Christ that I had not known until then – particularly in that night in the seminary chapel as I turned towards Jesus in the tabernacle. As I remember it, it had a visible effect on our Father who spent some time pondering on it; then he turned slightly towards me and said: ‘If you love the Blessed Mother we are friends’. These words had a permanent effect on my life – not least because it seemed to me that our Father spoke those words to me as a Christ’s priest. It always reminded me of Jesus’ words to his disciples, “I have called you friends, because I have revealed everything to you that my Father has told me”[i]
It was an experience that Fr Michael Marmann quoted in detail in an article for the collection of texts published as “Zuneigung. Christliche Perspektiven für Europa”,[ii] which Fr Walter quoted at the end of his sermon. An opening of the door into the life of a person who knew many people in many different ways; a life that was appreciated at his funeral, but can never be wholly understood or interpreted at a funeral. God has reserved this in every life for heaven, and perhaps also just for himself.
Holy light-heartedness and trusting daring
Schoenstatt Fathers from various countries, and diocesan priests in great numbers, had gathered around the altar. The main celebrant was Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio, Superior General of the Schoenstatt Fathers, and with him at the altar were Dr Peter Wolf, for many years the Superior General of the Institute of Schoenstatt Diocesan Priests, Fr Theo Breitinger, Provincial Superior of the Sion Province, Fr Heinrich Walter (International Co-ordinating Office), and Fr Marmann’s nephew, Deacon Felix Geyer.
Members of the youngest course of Schoenstatt Fathers arranged the musical setting of the Mass, and the accompanying leaflet of hymns showed a copy of the picture from the gallery of Superiors General in the Father House on Mount Sion. It had also adorned the cover of the book Streiflichter auf Spuren des Lebens, which his confreres in Munich had compiled for his eightieth birthday from texts covering his life, and a number of congratulations. Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio and Fr Heinrich Walter took up a number of subjects from this text.[iii]
Affection was the central concept under which Fr Heinrich Walter depicted the departed; affection and appreciation as central processes out of which unity can arise, a process within a community that shows in the affection between cultures through which the togetherness for Europe came into play.
Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio thanked Fr Marmann on behalf of the community and Schoenstatt. He had opened up many apostolic paths. “God gave you – as Pope Francis said of himself – a santa inconsiencia, a holy light-heartedness, but also trusting daring. So you took many important and promising decisions for the future.” Then he mentioned examples: the decentralisation of the community, the foundations in Nigeria and Italy.
Severin Schmid, had come, together with two other representatives of the Focolare Movement in Rome. “With Fr Marmann the apostolic Schoenstatt Movement loses a central figure, and the Focolare Movement a precious friend and companion”, the website of the Focolare Movement in Germany stated. Schmid quoted from the letter of condolence from Maria Voce, the President of the Focolare Movement. She recalled the important stages along the way of the ecumenical “togetherness” of the ecclesial movements, which she called “events of ecclesial history”. “The covenant of mutual love lasts beyond death”, Severin Schmid said.
Bridge, pioneer, unity: three concepts with which Gerhard Pross (YMCA) described Fr Michael Marmann, with whom he was “united in friendship and through whom he had experienced a covenant culture.”
Mr & Mrs Mucha spoke on behalf of the families in Austria, whom Fr Marmann had accompanied for a time, and Fr Otto Amberger spoke about the time when, in the early 1970s, Fr Marmann had encouraged the Schoenstatters in Regensburg to take the initiative and found a movement.
The two members of the schoenstatt.org team who attended the funeral add here the words Fr Marmann wrote for one of them as a dedication in the book already quoted so often here: “United in the effort to open Schoenstatt to the world of today”.
When the mourners arrived on Mount Sion they were involuntarily reminded of the lines in one of the Schoenstatt hymns: “You remain standing in the storms …”. The force of the storm almost blew them off their feet, and drowned the words of Deacon Felix Geyer and the readings and hymns.
Schoenstatt, which Fr Michael Marmann accompanied and led in various positions, has passed through a number of storms, and is going through them now as well, not only because sexual abuse and the abuse of office and conscience have not stopped before its gates. The storm up on Mount Sion reminded the mourners of what a courageous youth in Chile had told them in their letter; of the worries about the upkeep of the houses at Schoenstatt that tie up so many competent people who would be needed for innovation and shaping the world; of how again and again it seems that highlighting one’s specific character can only take place by questioning what others build.
A few prayers accompanied him while the coffin was carried to the grave and a breath of Easter blew threw the storm, because “we love the Blessed Mother”.
[i] Quoted from Streiflichter auf Spuren des Lebens, Commemorative publication for the 80th birthday of Fr Michael Johannes Marmann, Munich 2017, p. 39.
[ii] Was mir Maria bedeutet – Mit Maria zu Jesus Gelangen (What Mary means to me – With Mary to Jesus), published in: Friedrich Aschoff, Franziskus Joest, Michael Marmann (ed), Zuneigung. Christlich Perspektiven für Europa, Präsenz Kunst und Buch, 2007, Quoted in Streiflichter auf Spuren des Lebens, commemorative publication for the 80th birthday of Fr Michael Marmann, Munich 2017, p. 18-21.
[iii] Streiflichter auf Spuren des Lebens, commemorative publication for the 80th birthday of Fr Michael Marmann, Munich 2017, p. 12-14.
Original: German. Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, UK