HOERDE – WHAT NOW? Maria Fischer •
After the celebration of the covenant of love at the Original Shrine, and shortly after 10 p.m. on 18 August 2019, while the fire in which the many slips of paper with contributions to the capital of grace was still burning, I saw Dr Michael Gerber, Bishop of Fulda, standing a little distance away. I greeted him and thanked him for his sermon a few hours before during the Mass when everyone was sent out from the International Conference. So many passages reminded me of the rousing and uncomfortable sermon given by Archbishop Dr Robert Zollitsch at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Fr Kentenich’s death in September 2008. Both dealt with the huge subject of Schoenstatt’s apostolate in and for the Church today, as well as the mission of the Church in our present world. Both asked: How do I become aware of where the Holy Spirit opens a person’s soul? —
We talked about his mentioning the letter of the Chilean Youth. “I did that spontaneously and very consciously”, he replied. “I consciously mentioned ‘Maria 2.0’ and the letter of Chile’s youth to the Schoenstatt Movement. I didn’t know this two weeks ago when I sent the text for the sermon to be translated. I was surprised that this letter was translated into German and published. Of course, it was schoenstatt.org. Immediately after Mass there was spontaneous feedback from the Chileans who could read the Spanish text (without this intervention), and who could also follow the German. In view of the situation and the progress of the process, they asked me to include this text in what is published in the various languages.”
A German bishop who noticed how the Holy Spirit works in the souls of some young people. A German bishop who challenged us all and asked:
“Let us ask ourselves the critical question: How did I react in Germany to the initiative “Maria 2.0”? Or, how did I react in Chile to the “Letter of the Chilean Youth to the Schoenstatt Movement in Chile”? Was it immediately met with a defensive reaction? When do I ask more deeply: Which voices of souls stir in such an initiative? Which experiences could possibly underlie them? What does God’s Spirit have to say to me through them? This by no means implies that I have to agree with the positions expressed there. However, the question: Which movements of the heart underlies them, will open an initial access and the opportunity to enter into a constructive dialogue. I am grateful that I have been able to have some conversations with representatives of “Maria 2.0” in this spirit in the diocese of Fulda.”
A German bishop who gave us a climax at the end of a Conference that was not poor in its talks and training. A Spanish collaborator of schoenstatt.org remarked, “I would have liked us to break up into many small groups after Mass to discuss this sermon. It is a text with which we will have to work in our groups and communities”, so that individually and together we could discover our personal charism, and how we can contribute what is so new in Schoenstatt to the Church and world – without fear, without anxious adaptation to traditionalist and fundamentalist tendencies, without reducing Fr Kentenich’s charism to some harmless pious practices, without fear that we have no answers to the questions and objectives of a “postmodern and multi-optional world”, without the mediocre thinking that believes that for the sake of our own growth we have to undermine and belittle what others do and help to grow..
Apostles from many peoples and languages
A few hours earlier the participants at the Hoerde Conference, along with many others, had streamed to the Church of the Blessed Trinity on Mount Schoenstatt after spending some precious minutes meeting friends with a cup of coffee in hand. They were meeting again after a long time, or for the first time, and they had much to discuss about their projects, objectives, apostolate, family and community. Meanwhile a few collaborators on the editorial board talked about the wonderful presentation by Alejandro Robles and Elizabeth Fields on the project “Together and Share Discussion Groups”. For many it was the highlight of the Conference. The two stood there and talked enthusiastically on the subject of communication of real life. They had wanted to write about the project and how it came about, and had been told to do so by another collaborator of schoenstatt.org. Carlos and Lilita Ricciardi from La Plate repeatedly meet people from many countries who are enthusiastic about the Family “Misiones”. Eduardo Shelley from Mexico summarised a special moment during a brief meeting of collaborators of schoenstatt.org in the Youth Centre in the words, “Miguel Angel and Paz are no longer my WhatsApp friends, but flesh and blood friends.” He and Miguel Angel of the proofreading team will continue to fight about the correct use of capital letters, “but differently”.
More than 700 apostles from many walks of life and languages gathered gradually in the Adoration Church. They used the invitation to use the few minutes of silence before Mass started to write down what they had discovered, or re-discovered, as their personal mission in these days. You could feel that it did them good. In addition you could also feel the desire to discuss the subject about their experiences, their concerns, and what had to be done with everyone.
With the hymns, the readings and also the sermon in a number of languages, Mass developed an international character. People from many languages and countries were setting out joyfully and enthusiastically despite the oppressive heat.
Our Federation does not give in to pessimism!
“We will have to think about and discuss Bishop Gerber’s sermon”, one of the schoenstatt.org team remarked immediately after the Mass. The bishop had spoken quite naturally in English, Spanish and German. Those present could follow what was being said from a translation in the brochure handed out before the Mass.
“Our Federation does not give in to pessimism! It opposes the radical nature of the Evil One with the radical nature of the good, and believes that the good will win through, indeed that it has to win through. Only sound optimism helps to renew people and the world; pessimism never builds up, it often only pulls down!”
This quotation from a letter of Alois Zeppenfeld can be followed like a golden thread through the sermon. It provided the background music, as it were. It was there even when some core elements of the process at Hoerde a hundred years ago were being discussed. Those elements became gifts and tasks for Schoenstatt’s apostolate today in the current context of the Church and society.
The challenge connected with a request was: Let us live and give, in an apostolic spirit, the riches we have (and which we sometimes have not understood or lived as prophetic gifts). This could be the multi-dimensional model of government and leadership as a key to the many questions of government, leadership and power in the Church. It could be the awareness that God acts through “divine initiatives … which make the drama of Easter present: “This can also help us to get away from a fatalistic and pessimistic attitude, and find our way to that fundamental mood that characterised our Federation members a hundred years ago. We don’t know how much drama will mark the path the Church of our days will follow in the time to come. However, precisely here we may experience in a deeper way the communion of the disciples and Mary in those hours of Easter.” Or it could be the topic of being aware of when and where the Holy Spirit opens the hearts of people for his message, and where new and real life is growing in the depths of a soul that has been touched by God.
The Church grows in souls. So does Schoenstatt.
“Throughout his life one of the essential questions of our founder was: How are the heart and the depths of the soul opened for God to work there? He went on to ask: How can I become attentive to where the Holy Spirit opens a person’s soul? This gives our view of the expressions of the human soul, and the manifestations of the human soul in a culture, theo-logical meaning in the truest sense. We ask: How could such a movement possibly reveal the work of the Holy Spirit, who opens souls for the message of the Gospel?”
The Church grows in souls. So does Schoenstatt. So the apostolate means: “here and now, in this post-modern, multi-optional world, we have to win people for a living relationship to Jesus Christ and for the Gospel. This cannot only meant simply looking for people who still show some sort of “good Catholic” attitude. If we believe in the continued divine initiative, we have to reckon with it that the Holy Spirit will open the souls of very different people for his message, precisely also in the souls of those where we least expect to find it on account of their lifestyle.”
Thank you, Bishop Michael Gerber. We have been sent out to be attentive to where the Holy Spirit opens the soul of someone.
Photos: Roberto González, Maria Fischer
Original: German. Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, UK