PARAGUAY/MEXICO, Juan Ramón Santoyo Reyes, Novice •
It is October 20th in Tupãrenda, and it is raining. Two days have already passed since the celebration of October 18th here in our shrine “Nation of God, Heart of America”. For my part, I wanted to write a small reflection on the Covenant of Love that has matured during the last few days. —
In the time leading up to October 18, some important memories have come to mind, some different definitions to describe the Covenant, and certain ideas on how to approach a subject that seems so broad and at the same time so simple. To speak of the Covenant of Love is to speak of Schoenstatt itself, it is to speak of God and the Church, it is to speak of the one who kneels before the Blessed Mother and gives her his heart; it is to speak of you and me, because we have experienced in our own bodies that Mary loves us and takes her promises seriously.
I have often asked myself, “How did I get here?”
Since I entered the novitiate of the Schoenstatt Fathers, I have experienced many changes in my life. Leaving my home, my country and my way of life meant a death leap for me, where the only thing that moved me was a “favorite idea”: my vocation. I want to become a priest. With each passing day, I become more aware of the scope of this decision, or rather, the scope of the vocation that God has given me. I have often asked myself: how did I get here? It seems surreal to think that barely 11 years ago I did not even consider myself Catholic, and now I cannot separate my life from God or Mary. What happened in between? What brought me here? First of all, I firmly believe that I was brought here by the deep experience of Mary’s love, her covenant with me, and her motherly care. Secondly, I was brought here by all those who have formed a family with me in the Movement, and by so many others who are heroes to me without a cape or a name. My vocation is the fruit of their work, dedication, and love.
During my time in the Schoenstatt Youth, I have seen so many come and go. Many of those who began the journey with me are no longer with me, and others who I never thought would become my friends have become strong and lasting bonds. It might seem that there were (and still are) those of us who “survived,” who “remained faithful.” At that time, this reality brought with it a subtle temptation, another question: what is the point of it all, what is the point of giving one’s life in the branches, in the apostolates, in the groups, when most of them leave after a while? Perhaps we can think that in the end we have not succeeded in making a difference, that we are rather a kind of exception and that we have failed in so many things. It is precisely this feeling, this memory of so many young people who have gone through a moment of disappointment or disillusionment with Schoenstatt, with our faith, which has marked part of my Covenant experience this year. What does it all mean?
“Blessed Mother, let me share this experience, even if it is only with one other person”
And this was the answer that God gave me in the last days:
We offer our lives because we believe in a world where love is the main unifying element between people. The covenant that God made with us in Baptism we renew through our Covenant of Love with Mary. This makes us all members of one large family, the Church, and within it, members of Schoenstatt.
I remember when I made my promise. I said to myself, “Blessed Mother, let me share this experience, even if it is with only one other person.” For me, the wonder in my heart was so great, the joy was so great, that it would have been enough to give my life for just one other. In Schoenstatt I had experienced a home, a real place where Mary looked at me and spoke to me, where different people jumped up to the sound of the Franz Reinisch hymn. I believe it does us good to live in this childlike attitude. We do not give our lives for numbers, we do not give our lives for big moves, we give our lives so that others can experience these strong bonds that have changed our lives without worrying too much about where they will lead or when they will arrive.
Where would they all be without Father Antonio, without all those who have given their lives?
We offer our lives because we believe in what we have seen. In times of crisis or of misfortune, we are often overwhelmed by an unfounded idealism. This idealism, as Joseph Kentenich called it, separates us from reality and turns the religious into a collection of ideas, thoughts, and intellectualisms. It separates us from the people around us. Realism, on the other hand, is what unites faith and life, shows us an objective reality, and makes us see it from faith. It reminds us that Christ and through Him Mary are responsible for the multiplication of fruits, even if we do not always see it.
Here in Paraguay, Father Antonio Cosp, one of the founders of the Paraguay Movement, passed away a few months ago. At 4:00 p.m., as I walked in the entrance procession to the Covenant Mass, I did not think about the heat, but I looked at the thousands of people on both sides of us and I asked myself: where would they all be without Father Antonio? Without all those who gave their lives? It is funny because many of them probably didn’t even know him personally, many are pilgrims from far away coming for the first time.
Our actions, our attitude and our faith change the world!
But would Mary have been able to perform her miracles if it were not for the devotion of people here on earth? Even if our actions are concretely circumscribed and often seem insufficient, it is our trust in the fruits that God will give that keeps us going. Our actions, our attitude and our faith change the world! We offer our lives because we want to trust. In this day and age, it seems an act of rebellion to trust in God, in His coming, and that He will find ways to write straight on crooked lines.
Like Mary, we want to give a faithful “yes” that knows how to accompany Christ and unite his will with ours. We want to be able to listen to him so that we can follow him. A friend of mine wrote to me about this and reflected, “Trust [he also said to himself], the time will come when we will see it… I am always afraid that what I think will work will not please others or that it is not God’s work, but I trust that God will put little promptings in our hearts and lead us that way.”
That lived, real experience, knowing that God speaks to us, that He walks with us, that’s also one of the biggest reasons we give our lives. As my dear friend says, it is not about taking aimless steps, it is about taking confident steps because God is leading. Also, to say that we have confidence as allies amid so much movement and can provide calm in the storm is, in my opinion, one of the most necessary gifts of humanity today.
It is a gift that I miss something, because it means that I love and am loved
I would like to end with a final reminder. Here in Tupãrenda there is an impressive viewpoint from which you can watch the sunrise. There, one day, I got a little homesick for Mexico, my family, and my friends, who are family to me. It is true, I miss them incredibly because I love them very much. But then it dawned on me. It is really a gift to have so many dear people that I love. It is a gift that I miss something because it means I love and am loved. It is a blessing that makes me realize without a doubt that it is worthwhile to serve, to live the covenant, because God has kept His promises and given joy as the fruit of serving, of giving oneself.
What is the meaning of all our efforts? The meaning is ultimately God; the meaning is to share what we have experienced; the meaning is to connect with others and walk together, loving each other and realizing how much we need each other; we want to realize that the meaning is to be happy, because it is not natural to have something we want and of which we can say: Mother, nothing without you, nothing without us!
Source: Revista Tupãrenda, with permission
Original: Spanish. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org