A Movement of Education

Schoenstatt’s educational paradigm is intrinsic to its very essence. It is for this reason that Schoenstatt is known as a movement of education and educators.

Founded on the Our Lady’s immense love and blessed by the personal charisma and a profound prophetic vision, Fr. Kentenich, throughout the course of his life, developed an astute psychological instinct, an organic psycho-educational understanding of the human person, that would later translate into an educational paradigm based on love enrooted by trust, freedom, relationships and ideals, so as to lead individuals into a Covenant with God through Mary and creative unity with their fellow man and their environment.

In light of modern man’s declining ability to love, as a result of the separation of faith and life, Fr. Joseph Kentenich provided experiences of renewed dignity of each man and woman, born of the knowledge that each person is loved and called to live in God who is love. Within this context, his educational paradigm has been developed into a set of principles for the holistic development of the human person giving rise to free and independent men and women capable of becoming cohesive role players in society and who exhibit responsibility, professional discipline and above all, love.

On various occasions, Father Kentenich has described his concept of education. With different highlights and nuances, he defines it:

To educate means to serve unselfishly the originality and individuality of another, that is, to serve unselfishly the great life which God has given to each person.


The aim of education is the human, religious, and social maturity of the individual. Life is the fundamental criterion of education because to educate is to serve this life unselfishly: “To educate means to conceive life, awaken life, transmit life,” says Fr. Kentenich.

Traits of the Schoenstatt pedagogy

Besides the pedagogical strengths: the pedagogy of the Covenant

In visualizing the forces which move the pedagogical process, in Schoenstatt we speak of a pedagogy of the Covenant.

In the Covenant, we find man and God, nature and grace. Man is an active agent of education. As clay which can be fashioned into a work of art, likewise man – each man – has the potential to be a masterpiece, an image of the Trinity. The individual is the potter(molder) of his destiny and responsible for his past, present and future. No one can take this right from him nor manipulate his existence. As the actor of the process, he must “self-educate himself,” that is, take seriously the responsibility for his own life for which he will be accountable for to God.

In the Covenant, God comes to help man. Man receives from God the strength, the guidance, the meaning, and the motivation for the process of change. Experience has demonstrated that every pedagogical “idea” which consciously separates religious values clashes with the inherent limitations of nature and leads to intrinsic contradictions. The pedagogy of the Covenant is based on the Thomistic adage: “Grace presupposes nature, elevates it and makes it perfect.” The better disposed nature is – healthier and reconciled – the more fruitful will grace be. Grace will plan the naturally existing strengths. There is no dichotomy nor contradiction, not between both sources, but collaborative harmony.

From the standpoint of the educator: Pedagogy of confidence, Pedagogy of freedom and pedagogy of love

The passion to educate: here is the key of the Schoenstatt educator. From the standpoint of the educator, we define the pedagogy of Schoenstatt or the Kentenich pedagogy as a pedagogy of confidence, of freedom and of love.

Pedagogy of confidence

Confidence must be earned and confidence must be offered. To earn confidence, contact with life is indispensable. Without that vital flow which emanates from the educator, without the magnetic thread of empathy and sympathy which leads to a relationship of intimacy and dialog, confidence will never be gained. The “same language must be spoken,”…..interests and needs must be grasped…..must learn to listen and work with patience and great unselfishness. Of special importance is that the mission, the originality, and the needs of the other must be respected. To earn or gain the confidence of another is the fruit of an interior authority.

Secondly, the educator must offer confidence. It is about awakening co-responsibility….. the essential attitude to grow as an autonomous and creative person.

Pedagogy of freedom

Here we touch upon one of the central aspects of Kentenich pedagogy: the education for autonomy. “We have to form men who know how to decide for themselves, motivated from within, and who learn to obey their conscience” (Fr. J. Kentenich, 1931). From that standpoint, may one of the rules for the self-criticism of the Schoenstatt educator be the following: “A decisive question: Did I educate autonomous men who can continue their way bravely……even without me?”

The greater the margin of freedom, the better forged are personalities with personal spirit and a later rebellion or a late compensation is avoided. Pedagogical “molds” and education according to “clichés” will never produce the authentic and optimal results desired for today. The central task of the educator is to lead by means of a positive atmosphere, a motivating climate, where values are grasped at all levels: intellectual, volitional and acetic. Serious but free commitments will come forth which emerge from the interior of the individual or the community. The educator who knows how to work with the principle of life, usually leads to magnanimity…..does not obligate under pressure or from the program of “duty,” but from the suggestion of the “being able” and “wanting.”

Pedagogy of love

Demands should always be inspired by love and lead to love. Father Kentenich defined it as “pedagogical love,” and understood as such the love which has the virtue to transfer life to the pupil. Without this pedagogical love, education does not exist. It is pedagogy based on the example of the Good Shepherd.

From the standpoint of the means: The pedagogy of attachments

Man is a relational being. His identity will consolidate in the measure in which he can develop himself as such. Attachments are the richest educative means for pedagogical success. Father Kentenich has made an analysis of the importance of attachments. He perceived that solitude and loneliness, abandonment and dissatisfaction, poverty and psychic and mental deficiencies, fear and the dread in which modern man lives today have a common source: the absence or atrophy of the true attachments.

Attachments are relations established in an affective union and inspired in love which maintain a great continuity. They are born from deep experiences. They grasp the entire person…..his intelligence, will and feelings. They often give shelter to the subconscious and lead to attitudes and purchases motivated by their own energy. They are not subject to momentary variations but prolong themselves for a long time or for throughout the life of man.

The response to this situation, Father Kentenich finds in what he calls the “organism of attachments.” Schoenstatt knows and works in the pedagogy with three types of basic attachments:

  • attachments to persons (family, groups, Mary, saints…..)
  • attachments to places (Shrine, Home Shrine…..)
  • attachments to ideas or values.

From the standpoint of the modality: Organic pedagogy

Education is a total process: it spans the totality of the individual and his stages. If man is an organic reality, the process of his growth will also be organic. This “organicness” is familiar with laws which must be respected as modalities of education. Growth is slow. Growth comes within to the outside and from an organic totality – germinating – toward another organic totality – more global.

From the standpoint of the goal: Pedagogy of the ideal

The goal of education is the human and religious maturity of the individual. Beyond this maturation, Schoenstatt knows the pedagogy of the ideal. The ideal is more that a project of life; it is a response to the existing questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?

The personal ideal presupposes faith in that each person is unique and singular. This individuality is received from God the Creator. In the Divine mind and heart there is an original idea of each individual. Like the artist who conceives the work before realizing it, in the same way, God the great “Architect” has a particular idea of each being. The task, and especially the ideal, is conditioned by the physical, psychic and spiritual structure of the individual; also the environment – epoch, circumstances…..social, cultural and familial confines – conform and make clear the life mission. The personal ideal can be defined as the dispositions and fundamental attitudes of the soul that, if faithfully cultivated, develop organically toward full human freedom and into being the Children of God. The personal ideal is not an abstract idea; it is already germinating in the individual…..in his desires…..in his abilities and in his personal history. In the present world where the individual runs the risk of losing his center and negating his identity (being lived from the outside and manipulated in his restlessness and needs), the pedagogy of the ideal helps to put the personality into harmony, maintain the identity and offer meaning to life.

What we said about the personal ideal is analogous for each social group. The family, the enterprise, the school and the parish can find in the pedagogy of the ideal an appropriate and fruitful means for growth and original development. The community ideal is the image of the ideal of a new community, formed by new individuals and motivated by the strength which communion in love and the participation in an idea proportion.

Schoenstatt’s proposed educational paradigm can be used in educational settings for the formation of children and young people in the home, kindergartens and schools and can also be used for the purposes of formation in ecclesial and business environments and can be applied to communication, leadership, politics and social activities.