Sarah-Leah Pimentel, South Africa •
A Christian does not have the right to be an orphan…we have a Mother.
For me, this is probably the most powerful sentence of the entire message that Pope Francis shared with the Schoenstatt Family last year.
We have a Mother
Sometimes it is very easy to feel abandoned. When a company closes down and the workers are retrenched. A mother whose child has grown apart from the family circle and never comes home to visit. That same child who turned his or her back on the family and is now too proud and ashamed to return home. A broken relationship when it seems that sun will never shine in our souls again. The elderly person who has been forgotten by everyone. A person consumed by a deep depression.
At some point in each of our lives, we are tempted to feel that we are orphans, completely alone and unloved. It is precisely into this desolation that the Holy Father provides us with hope. Even the worst criminal, judged by human eyes as unworthy of heaven, stands a chance of entering heaven, because of their belief in Mary’s maternal care, as Pope Francis tells us in the story of the Virgin of the Mandarins.
What is more, says Pope Francis, Mary walks alongside us every day of our lives, constantly bringing Jesus to us, so that by the “power of the Holy Spirit…Jesus can be born and grow in us.” In her maternal role she “educates us in the faith” by touching “our consciences” and encouraging us to always choose for God and to repent from the times that we have turned from Him.
Fr. Kentenich saw Mary’s maternal hand in every life event
Fr. Kentenich also experienced Mary’s motherhood in a unique way. She stood in place for his own mother when she was no longer able to care for him. In the darkest moments of crisis of faith as a seminarian, he recounts that he managed to overcome because he was certain of one thing: that Mary was his Mother and she was holding his hand through the turbulence in his mind. That same trust in the Blessed Mother is what kept him sane when he was kept in isolation at the Koblenz prison and later in the Dachau concentration camp.
In fact, in every instance of his life, he saw the hand of Mary guiding him. One excellent example of this was upon his return to Schoenstatt after his exile in Milwaukee, he told the Schoenstatt Family gathered in the Marienschule: “Our Lady is giving me to the Family once more…she is placing it back in my hands so that I can form it and mould it in the way corresponding somewhat to the plans of eternal Truth, and so then that I may pass on into eternity where I shall continue to guide my life work in a new way” (Uriburu, E. A Father to Many, p169).
A Church without a Mother is an orphanage
However, as Pope Francis goes on to say while speaking about Mary’s role in evangelisation, Mary is not just a mother to each of us individually. She is also the Mother of the Church. In fact, the Church is often described as Mother. The Holy Father is pointing out that a Church that is healthy and is truly at the service of humanity takes its example from the Mary’s maternal qualities and her role as a conduit to bring her Son Jesus to God’s people. Francis warns that if Mary is not present in the Church, it becomes an “orphanage.”
This is a very harsh image. A Church that is an orphanage is an impersonal place. It is a place that merely goes through the motions of pastoral care, without giving special attention to each one of its members, and instead treating them all as a monolithic mass.
In contrast a Church that is Mother is a very personal place, where each person feels at home. Each person is valued for their unique history, their identity, and their particular journey to holiness. In the same way as we cannot remain indifferent to the Body of Christ — both the glorified Jesus in the Eucharist as well as the suffering Saviour on the Cross — so too, we cannot remain indifferent to the hurts of each of our brothers and sisters. A Church that emulates a mother’s care and concern also recognizes that each member of the church carries his own unique crosses and our ministry should be, as Pope Francis said at the start of the audience: “flesh to flesh.”
Schoenstatt: We have the gift of a mother
We might almost be tempted to think that we know all of this…after all, our Covenant of Love with our Mother Thrice Admirable is what identifies our Schoenstatt charism. For this reason, it might be very easy to overlook that Pope Francis is speaking to us too, calling us to become Marian models.
As Schoenstatters, we have a wonderful gift. We have a Mother. But she is not ours alone. We need to share her. We already do this in so many ways, and the Pilgrim Mother Campaign, is perhaps the most poignant example of how we share Mary with people from all walks of life. Our Mother is present in the shrine and she becomes a source of grace and mercy for many people who come to visit the shrine. Fr. Pedro Kühlcke’s prison ministry in Paraguay and the 100 Houses are wonderful ways in which we giving a mother to those who have been abandoned by society.
Where else does the Blessed Mother want to go?
However, we should not become too contented with what we have achieved. We need to ask ourselves: where else does the Blessed Mother want to go?
Europe is filling with thousands of people who have become orphaned from their communities and their cultures and their ways of life. How can we, as Schoenstatt, offer them a home (spiritual or physical) and give them a mother in the midst of a strange new world?
The Holy Father has just travelled to Cuba. Cuba has been orphaned by the Western world for decades and stopped in time. As it slowly re-enters the global economy and re-encounters a world of new ideas and the breathless pace of evolving technologies, it will be very easy for it to lose its value system. How can we help the people of Cuba hold on to values that are good? The Pilgrim Mother is already there, but how can we tangibly help the Pilgrim Mother in her work of formation and evangelisation, bringing the people of Cuba to Christ?
Where are the other unchartered territories where we can give the world a Mother? There is so much that we can do, both in our own small circles — like a young mother in Cape Town who told me a few weeks ago that she feels an urgency to create a Pilgrim Mother circle for single mothers because they need help in raising their children — as well as in areas of where we have the ability to bring Mary into motherless environments, such as governments, large corporations, humanitarian organizations.
Our mission is to give the world a Mother.
The complete text of the message that Pope Francis gave to Schoenstatt is available as book/E-Book HERE