Harald M. Knes, Institute of the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary •
Since February 21, 2020, it is official from the Church: Mario Hiriart Pulido lived a life in which, with the help of God’s grace, he lived Christian virtues in an outstanding way. I would like to highlight four aspects of his life. —
Christian spirituality in a church critical environment
Father Joseph Kentenich saw the Church heading towards a time of profound change and renewal. The Founder wanted to help the members of the Schoenstatt Movement and all Christians to develop their own personalities in an original way so that they could make sustainable decisions with courage and frankness. Everyone must be able to live the Christian spirituality as a minority in a society that thinks differently.
The spirituality that characterized Mario’s family was Freemasonry. His decision to become a Christian was a very conscious one. Out of a kind of inner sporting spirit, as a young engineer and Christian, Mario made a conscious decision to join Corfo, an elite state-owned engineering company founded out of a spirit of secularization and Freemasonry. He contributed with his professional attitude to work, but also lived his Christian faith unobtrusively and at the same time snappily, by organizing Bible meetings for lunch with the employees who wanted to. In this way Mario is close to many Christians who are already facing similar challenges when it comes to being a Christian in modern society.
To be a Christian in a church under crucial test
For Mario, the experience of the Church was multifaceted: parishes, Eucharistic celebration, the Catholic University Office, Schoenstatt. He experienced how the Schoenstatt Movement in Chile was practically divided into two camps. Each side believed itself to be right. He succeeded, with Father Humberto Anwandter, in overcoming the division and took out the polemic with a great deal of clarity, authority and influence, in finding patience and the willingness to make sacrifices.
In many countries Christianity suffers from polemics and division. In Germany, Christians have lived with the consequences of church division for 500 years. In Chile there was indeed no church division in this sense, but the breach of trust in consequence of the abuse scandal of Catholic dignitaries went like a deep rift through the whole church and society, the consequences of which are not yet at all foreseeable.
Mario can give comfort to many people here. He himself suffered extremely from the division. He had to experience many small injustices from Schoenstatters of the other camp and he gave it to the Blessed Mother in the “Capital of Grace”. The human weakness in him and in others never made him doubt that he had taken the right path. It was clear to him that, in addition to his actions, he needed above all the Spirit of God and the help of the Blessed Mother to overcome such a muddled situation.
Christian spirituality in the context of a lack of reputation
The Church of Chile is re-sorting itself after the spiritual earthquake and the breach of trust. Many demonstrators have used the social unrest in Chile get back at the churches. According to a 2019 survey, Chile was the country in Latin America where the population has the least confidence in the Catholic Church. The pendulum has thus turned violently. The church office alone no longer provides authority among fellow human beings, on the contrary.
Mario’s entry into the Marian Brothers was not associated with social prestige at the time. The fact that he was a Brother of Mary and what he associated with it was something that very few of his friends understood. Many saw it as a missed opportunity, if you want to be celibate, to gain more authority and recognition in society as a priest.
Mario can be an example for many celibate Christians who, in difficult times, receive little recognition from society for their total dedication to God. Behind this the providence of God the Father can be seen: The decision for a total surrender to God must be as free as possible from social recognition and the like, especially if it is to be a viable, sustainable decision.
Being a Christian in the “forecourts of the church” Christ sein in den „Vorhöfen der Kirche“
The Catholic Church is currently losing members in many traditionally Catholic areas. This should neither surprise nor frighten us Catholics. The life of the church is increasingly shifting to the “forecourts of the temple”. People are coming less and less of their own accord to a service, to a priest, to benefit from the graces of the sacraments. In these times, the role and importance of the laity in the Church today is all the more evident, because it is they who are at home in the “courts of the temple”.
Mario saw it as a special purpose in his life. He was in contact with many non-Christian people, places and ideas and left an impression without losing clarity and salt himself. “Mario was a better Marxist than I was,” said a Communist in a 1967 survey, acknowledging Mario’s simple lifestyle.
Mario was aware of the importance for the Church in the future to have appropriate schools and universities in order to be able to present the Catholic points of view in contact with the people of society. For this reason he deliberately did without many conveniences and decided to have a small office under the stairs, as a lecturer in the Catholic University with a low salary – all in love and in service to the Church.
Original: German 24.02.2020 Translation: Lindsay Burger, Ohio, USA