by Sarah-Leah Pimentel
The history of Schoenstatt’s spiritual development is a gradual movement from a personal spirituality to one that is outward focused. A friend of mine once described the covenant of love as the soil that nourishes both the inner and outer journeys of our Schoenstatt life. The Blessed Mother takes the first step by inviting us to enter into a covenant of love with her. We respond by sealing our covenant of love with her, and in so doing, we embark on a journey of self-education – guided by her loving hand – that gradually leads us to grow more deeply into God’s plan of love for our lives. However, the joy of that self-discovery cannot be contained and so, it must necessarily pour itself out for others.
This is the focus of our reflection this week, as we return to the passage we first examined during the second week of Lent:
“The good earth they need is the natural and supernatural readiness to be generous, but above all, to be chaste and to love.” (Joseph Kentenich, 1954/55, Kentenich Reader Vol. II, p. 25)
Generosity becomes a source of renewal
Generosity is not just about giving of ourselves (natural), but also of passing on the spiritual (or supernatural) gifts that we have received. Reminiscing on the Jubilee celebrations in Schoenstatt my friend reflected that the renewal of the covenant of love on 18 October 2014 was one of many instances in the last 100 years where the Schoenstatt Family has passed on our most precious gift. We see it in our branches every time a new group is started. The elder members are instrumental in passing on their experiences and the wisdom of a life lived in the covenant to the next generation.
I had a very real sense of this during the Jubilee celebrations in Schoenstatt, particularly during the vigil on 17 October. The theme for the night was the “Night of the Shrine,” which is an annual celebration of the Schoenstatt Youth. It began in 2005 with the Youth Festival in Schoenstatt, attended by some 3,000 members of the International Boys and Girls Youth prior to the World Youth Day in Cologne. I was blessed to have been a part of the volunteer team that worked for a year to prepare that Youth Festival. And it was with immense emotion and pride that I sat again in the Pilgrim Arena nine years later and watched as a new generation of Schoenstatt Youth took the symbols of that first Night of the Shrine and gave it new life and new meaning.
Ten years ago, a large Perspex shrine where the youth have continued to place their petitions and prayers symbolised the desire of the International Youth to make a Covenant of Love for the Youth of the World. On 17 October they — the youth we entered into a covenant of love with — were renewing their own covenant of love with the entire International Schoenstatt Family. The generosity of 3,000 young people to share their covenant with youth who hadn’t even been born yet, multiplied itself in the covenant of love renewed by thousands of people all over the world on 18 October 2014.
Generosity, therefore, becomes a source of renewal. But generosity is also a relinquishment. Part of this renewal requires letting go. It was beautiful to be present at the Night of the Shrine last year. But it was also difficult. It brought home for me that I am no longer part of the Schoenstatt Youth. My life journey has taken me to other places. Together with the many others who helped to prepare that Youth Festival in 2005, we provided our small contribution to the Schoenstatt. But now, we need to let go and let a new generation discover the treasures we found and multiply them.
Chastity as faithfulness
Remaining faithful is something very rare in today’s world. We have so many choices. When we tire of one pastime, we take up another. We change clothes to fit each passing fashion. We abandon relationships when they become too hard to handle.
It is sometimes also difficult to remain faithful to our covenant of love. We may have sealed our covenant during a beautiful part of our lives, but as our busyness, worries and disappointments burden us, it becomes very easy to forget that special moment of grace.
Yet, I invite you think back to the day you sealed your Covenant of Love. You may have cried tears of joy or of release. You may have felt our Lady’s presence in a special way, or perhaps the whole paraliturgy spoke into that quiet, still corner of your heart. Above all it was a moment of purity. For a second in time, everything in the world was perfect, pure, stainless.
Chastity is exactly this: the purity of conduct and intention. When we make the decision each day to remain faithful to the covenant of love, we are preserving the purity, the perfection of that special moment. This is especially hard when we feel that we are lost in the dark and can’t seem to find a way out of the abyss. Despite this, we are called to remain faithful to our covenant of love, knowing that the Blessed Mother will always be faithful. And in remaining faithful to our covenant, we also maintain our faithfulness to one another.
The law of love
Our life in the covenant is not an obligation. It is freely chosen. It is an outpouring of the heart. This is what the prophet Jeremiah speaks about in this Sunday’s readings:
“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers…for they broke my covenant…I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Our covenant of love is an expression of this “new covenant” which is deeply inscribed in our hearts just was we are inscribed into the heart of the Blessed Mother.
How do we respond to such love? As Jeremiah tells us, teaching about God’s love just doesn’t have the desired impact. We don’t learn to love by studying it in a book. We learn to love by experiencing love. When we have experienced love, we want to share it with others. This is precisely the end goal of our covenant life: to make God present in the world through our actions, so that truly, everyone may know God. We do this through our compassion, through our solidarity. We do this by stripping ourselves of all self-interest. We do this by completely emptying ourselves out for others, just as Jesus did from the Cross.
Prayer: Dearest Mother, when we look at your Son on the Cross, we think of his generosity, faithfulness and love for us. We are often weak and forget about the covenant you sealed with us in that hour of grace. We draw strength from Fr. Kentenich and pray with him:
“Hail Mary, for the sake of your purity, keep me pure in body and soul. Open wide to me your heart and the heart of your Son. Implore for me deep self-knowledge and the grace to persevere and remain faithful until death. Give me souls; keep all else for yourself. Amen.”