PARAGUAY, Sebastian Acha, former leader of the Schoenstatt Young Men, co-founder of Patria Querida (a political party with roots in the Schoenstatt Movement), MP for two parliamentary terms •
Ever since Schoenstatt came into my life – into my life, that is a reality, it was in my earliest childhood through my experiences with my parents – the life and legacy of Fr Joseph Kentenich has fascinated me.
The pedagogical recommendations of the Movement took on shape and form while we developed our activities, first of all as a family, and then personally in my group. There the main question was the contribution Schoenstatt has to make towards forming a “new person for a new society”.
The prophetic vision of our founder has no connection with supernatural revelations or abstract constructs, such as other Catholic Movements with special charisms practice with their great spiritualities. Our father and founder’s recommendation aims at inner change, and the huge interior space of meditation and work required to cultivate personal holiness.
Since we are social beings, and our actions are meant to contribute to society, it is impossible to see Schoenstatt’s ideal isolated from a deep influence on our surroundings. This transformation logically forms the basis for what we call the “new social order”. That is why our actions have to be rooted in faith in Divine Providence, that is, put very simply, we have to listen to the voices of the times.
Already early on, Schoenstatt got me to take a stand to the social injustices plaguing Paraguay. My connection with the shrine through the covenant of love meant for me the indisputable necessity to look for answers to the questions as to the sources of these injustices, the basis for the “lovelessness”, and the mechanistic thinking that reduced everything to the typical answer in Paraguay, “That’s how things are!”
This expression of indifference and conformism was for me the clear “anti-value” that has to be fought. For me it was the voices of the times that proclaimed loudly what Fr Kentenich so categorically rejected, and described as the worst sin of humanity: de-humanisation, collectivism, suppression of one’s own identity and subjection to the superficial diktat of public opinion. It is an anti-value that Fr Kentenich answered not by running away, desertion, putting up walls, or cheap criticism, but by saying “Here I am” as Mary did when the Lord called her.
My personal experience gave rise to the call to transform the politics in our country. I felt addressed by the huge challenge to replace client politics and the bribery of the electorate with a message of self-education and self-confidence. I felt I had to appear on the political stage and say exactly the opposite to what the people usually hear from their “leaders”, “Listen, I am not the one to solve all your problems; you are the ones who have to find the solutions, because you can!” To sacrifice ten years of my life, my marriage, my children, my personal safety, and that of my loved ones, would have made no sense unless all my efforts were a contribution placed on the altar of our shrine.
Perhaps many might see the outcome of my experience as a failure. For me it was an overwhelming victory. My family is still at my side, I have a wife who has accompanied me unconditionally all these years, I can walk the streets with my head held high, and am acknowledged by the people closest to me, and even those I have never met. I have five children, and the eldest can understand already that their father is proud, not for having won the battle, but simply because he fought. They understand that the exit does not consist in running away and hiding myself; that the usual complaints from the sofa achieve nothing unless they are accompanied by deeds; that no one can change anything by writing an article or giving talks. The true change consists in committing oneself completely even if no one believes you, likes you, accepts you, and refuses to elect you.
Commitment isn’t an option, it is an obligation. Fr Kentenich didn’t found a Movement of comfortable people expressing an opinion, or communicators of life. He founded a Movement of revolutionaries, of critical men and women, who put their love into action. They are committed to the reality they want to change. Our father and founder looked for people with convictions, who don’t look for excuses to escape the concentration camps, but who instead go through them, who don’t try to avoid the sordid reality and the injustices, but get to know them and change them, precisely because they see the “dirt” within themselves. Schoenstatt is not a Movement of comfortable and conformist laypeople. Schoenstatt is a Movement of men and women who decide freely to share in the reality around them in order to overcome the confines of conformism and indifference through extraordinary holiness. That is how and that is why we are Church.
Source: Magazine of the Young Men’s Organisation as a contribution to Misión Roma, Asunción, Paraguay
Original: German. Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester UK