GERMANY, Bettina Betzner •
In the midst of the turmoil of World War I in 1917, a young woman experiences an encounter that will change her life abruptly. For the observer it is an inconspicuous encounter and yet a decisive moment. After a prayer in a small side room in the military hospital, a conversation between two people begins, which will change their lives. Through Frater Franz Salzhuber, Countess Gertraud von Bullion learns about the existence of the Apostolic Federation of Schoenstatt. It is an association of lay people who have dedicated themselves to the apostolate in all attainable areas through a practicing Catholic faith in everyday life. A field of action in the midst of everyday life that speaks to and touches the heart of the young Red Cross Sister Gertraud. —
After the end of World War I, Gertraud von Bullion contacted the founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, Father Joseph Kentenich, with the request to open the Apostolic Federation to women. But she was not immediately granted access. In the Federation, mostly consisting of theologians, access for women was unthinkable at that time. But Gertraud is a fighter and feels a great longing in her heart to do everything with passion for her faith, to get closer to this decisive heartbeat. She takes the first steps and sets out on her journey…
And us today?
In times of the Corona pandemic and the virtual worship celebrations on the screen we feel a great longing for the encounter of God in the Eucharist. We seek the closeness of God right now, in times of limited contact.
How can we give space to the longing in our hearts?
What efforts do we make to come close to the God of our life and the longing of our heart?
In all the hearts of the universe
On December 8, 1920, Gertraud consecrated herself to the Blessed Mother with determination, inner readiness, and emotion to two women in the Covenant of Love. Gertraud and her cousin Mariele Christmann from now on placed their lives under the protection of Mary. They let themselves be led by the call of God to serve God and mankind. They did not do this out of themselves, but with a deep emotion and the decision to join the Apostolic Covenant. This consecration of the first two women went around in circles, and so the first Women’s Conference was held in Schoenstatt in 1921.
The consecration hour as well as the letter from the day before shows the inner spiritual world in which Gertraud lived. All her love was for the Trinitarian God, her great love for the Immaculata and for people. She wanted to serve them and she did so until the end of her life.
“Jesus, my King, I offer you my heart completely, reign in it completely and forever, but I also want to use all my powers, my whole being, as an instrument of your holy mother, so that you also may reign as King in all hearts of the universe!
Gertraud von Bullion
And us today?
How do we show our love for God in times of Corona? What signs of love in faith do we put into practice? What are we ready to use? Do we become creative to give a sign of this relationship with God? We live from our small house churches, from our home shrines and heart shrines. There is our control center, the heartbeat in everyday life, which brings me closer to God and to my neighbor.
Do we take this possibility and this place seriously in order to work from there?
I want to serve
Gertraud von Bullion was a personality who lived by the motto of her family Count’s dynasty and lived her life according to this motto with a deep loyalty: SERVIAM – I want to serve!
Their love for their neighbor is reflected in their daily readiness to serve. In her serving devotion she is completely committed to her fellow man, whether in the neighborhood with the needy, simple people and their children, for whom she liked to make toys out of everyday things, in the support at home or with the widespread relatives. She worked with the soldiers in the military hospital, where she worked as a spiritual caregiver and among the Red Cross Sisters or with the young women in the Congregation of Simple Women. She did not see herself above anything or anyone and lived her Christianity through and through – not the title was her figurehead, but the nobility of her heart and her deep love for God as her father and for Mary as her mother.
Solidarity! WE are here for you – stay at home! Everything will be fine – I’m staying home! Stay healthy!
People live in uncertain times from the signs of solidarity and togetherness of a community, a society – the common good is the essence of a well functioning democratic, but also human society – one helps the other – all for one and one for all. Only in this way can times of need be overcome and borne together.
This is more evident than ever now and today and worldwide – we must stand together to overcome this natural disaster together. It is not only the individual that counts, but also the collective of cooperation.
The disease that can defeat you
But the war left its mark on Gertraud. She, like so many others, suffered a wartime ailment: pulmonary tuberculosis…of which she was never cured. She tried to get the disease under control in many sanatoriums and cures, and in the end the disease had her under control.
But the last word was not sickness or death, which was inevitable in her eyes, but God the merciful Father God. She believed in him and experienced the God of her life through loving signs and gestures. HE was there for her and SHE was there for him – until the last breath! She kept her positive attitude towards life and went towards the one she unspeakably loved and held in His hands.
Corona keeps us in suspense and sometimes our breath stops when we look at the development of the crisis in our own country, in the world. Devastating are the effects… on economy, education, society and our families. The health system is reaching its limits. People have worries and panic and long for normality. For a hand to hold, for care and tenderness. Often they no longer know what to do. Fear of the disease is spreading, killing many.
What gives me peace? Where do I have my inner support points? Where is my source of strength? Who is there for me when I feel lonely and abandoned. Who holds – when nothing holds me?
Serve until the end
Gertraud von Bullion experienced her stability in God, in Jesus Christ, in Mary, in her relationship with them.
She was grateful until the end and ready to serve until the last breath and drop of blood for him and the people to whom she gave all her love and closeness.
My personal testimony
My personal support is my mother and queen in my Home Shrine, our father and founder, my community of the Schoenstatt Women’s Federation.
In Father Kentenich, in his paternal love for me, in very small signs of attention through his quotations and texts. Looking at his picture, where I experience the inner correspondence of encouragement. They are inconspicuous dialogues that bring about transformation in my heart. Dialogues that I have with the Blessed Mother, with Jesus Christ in my little home church, in my Home Shrine.
It is a dialogue and a struggle with God of my life who sends me to be there for the people.
For a family that needs support in everyday things.
For an employee in great anxiety and worry, since she belongs to the risk group. Panic and fear accompany her. Then my encouragement, I am there for her, is simply important.
My little oasis at home gives me the strength to speak courageously, but with composure, my security and my support in faith to others.
Original: German 11.05.2020 Translation: Lindsay Burger, Ohio, USA
A very good commentary on how to approach this crisis. Be at peace in your shrine and do what you can to serve your common man.