SOUTH AFRICA, Sarah-Leah Pimentel •
On 2 December I received the sad news that the Schoenstatt Shrine in Johannesburg had been robbed. The thieves had got in through a window and stolen everything containing some kind of metal (probably to be melted or sold), including the tabernacle. Thank God the Schoenstatt Sister who stays on the property was unharmed.
Bad news always spreads quickly and of course, the biggest concern, over and above the loss of our precious symbols in the shrine is what happened to the tabernacle and the consecrated hosts inside it. We don’t know. But we pray that in some mysterious way, the Body of Christ can touch the lives and hearts of those who do not know what they do — through ignorance, desperation, or misguidedness.
Signs of covenant solidarity
Even in this sad event there was solace, reparation for the desecration of the shrine, and true signs of covenant solidarity.
The Dreamteam of schoenstatt.org, when they received the news of what happened, immediately offered up their prayers and deeds of love in reparation for the sacrilege that occurred. Pamela Fabiano and Jose Cravo, who have spent time in this shrine immediately offered their prayers. Within minutes, motivated by members of the Dreamteam, the Schoenstatt Family in Madrid, Lisbon, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina expressed their solidarity and offered up prayers and acts of reparation.
Tita from Austria took on a particularly difficult translation and offered this up as her contribution of love and solidarity for the shrine and Family in Johannesburg.
The Schoenstatt Family in Johannesburg is very grateful and sends their thanks to everyone who showed us such love and concern.
The many ways the Body of Christ is desecrated
For me, the shrine in Johannesburg is my ‘original shrine’ because it was here that I encountered the Blessed Mother for the first time. Here I began the slow transformation that changed my life and continues to change it and deepen my faith daily. So when I heard the news, I became very emotional.
But as I prayed through the sadness, anger, and prayed for forgiveness, I began to think about the many other ways that the Body of Christ is desecrated each day.
Yes, the theft of the tabernacle is a serious offense and there is always a concern about what might happen to the consecrated hosts that are the presence of Christ for us.
Scripture tells us that we are all born in the image of God. This means that we have a trace of the divine inside us. Christ was both human and divine. Each one of us — irrespective of whether or not we believe in Jesus — carries something of God’s nature, of Christ’s nature within us.
Is not the Body of Christ desecrated every time a child is abused? Is not the Body of Christ desecrated when a woman is scarred through physical and emotional abuse; when entire groups of people are chased from their homeland, tortured, raped and killed; when the poor live on the rubbish heaps of our cities? Is it not a sacrilege when the human spirit is broken down and debased through prostitution, human trafficking, political persecution and lack of access to dignified living conditions?
It is right to be outraged when a religious site is desecrated, and it is our duty to offer up many deeds of reparation to ask for forgiveness for the evil committed.
But we should also speak up with the same degree of outrage when the basic human rights of our brothers and sisters are trampled on. We should make daily deeds of reparation for every act committed against the Body of Christ who is present in each human person.
A call to prayer
The incident at the Shrine in Johannesburg is sad, but it is also a call for us to deepen our commitment to prayer and regular contributions to the capital of grace, offered in covenant solidarity for the entire family of God.