One cannot really understand Schoenstatt without considering its international character that goes hand in hand with its spirituality and teachings.
This is also reflected in the universal spirit of Schoenstatt’s founder, who in 1948 said that “the inclination towards the global, the impulse towards the international, the wish of the international apostolate is simply something that is intrinsic to the Family.” This characteristic is the answer to present and future needs as our world increasingly becomes a single unit and is in danger of being transformed into a uniform sameness.
This mission inspired Schoenstatt’s founder to crown her in 1946 as the Queen of the world, as he had done before, in the Dachau concentration camp. “The same responsibility,” added Fr. Kentenich, “has led me over land and sea, year after year, since 1947.” In other places, where it was possible, daughter shrines were erected. “These should support the kingdom of the MTA (Mother Thrice Admirable), from where where she, as Queen of the World, can cast out her nets and accomplish her task as educator” (1952). The motivating idea and guiding force behind this task was not only the universal dimension of the Schoenstatt Family, but also the “ideal of increased proximity and unity of nations, based on careful development of originality and mutual complementarity for the good of all” (1952).
The Dachau Experience
“In Dachau, we fought long and hard for Schoenstatt International. The Polish Schoenstatters did not support this idea. The need to belong to Schoenstatt (Germany) became an almost insurmountable obstacle, on both an intellectual and emotional level. A French priest thought that he had found the solution, by saying that Schoenstatt is not in Germany but in the world, but this also failed to convince them. At that time, a report arrived from Uruguay, carefully describing the inauguration of the Shrine and showing how the people there drew closer and closer to the small place of grace, a faithful and perfect replica of our Shrine in Schoenstatt. In this we found the solution to all of the issues and it was possible to found Schoenstatt International.” (PJK)
It is clear that Schoenstatt’s internationality would be unthinkable without the presence of the Shrine throughout the world. Without it, Schoenstatt could neither exist nor fulfill its mission. This was the reason why the Sisters of Mary took the risk of building the first replica of the Shrine in Nueva Helvecia, Uruguay: the argument that without the Shrine, it would be impossible to start the Movement. Father himself was the first to spread the idea of daughter shrines. In Argentina, he often said, towards the end of the 1940s that “without the Shrine, I can do nothing.” And he did not do it for those who worked tirelessly to found Schoenstatt in the country and gain land for the Shrine.
Daughter Shrines and Internationality
The daughter shrines contributed greatly to establishing Schoenstatt in the countries and cultures where it took root. But more importantly, God’s Providence ensured that each shrine, beginning with Father’s Shrine in Argentina in the 1970s, found its own mission, particular to its history and the character of the people who were influenced by it.
Schoenstatt.org has reported on many of the original developments that have occurred in the most far-flung corners of the world.
Burundi is a moving example of this, where thousands of people come to the Shrine and take the Pilgrim Mother to remote areas of the country…as part of a persistent and consistent initiative to pray for peace and unity among people of Burundi.
The Home Shrine, a seed born in Villa Ballester (Argentina) and transported to Brooklyn (USA) by Fr. Carlos Boskamp in the 1960s and confirmed by Father Kentenich in Milwaukee – where it was given its name and developed as a life current and grace for local families – is a providential development of the Schoenstatt Shrine that has largely contributed to the enculturation of Schoenstatt in its most diverse aspects. The Home Shrine brings together the Covenant of Love, a special place in the home, traditions, art, customs and popular religious devotions. It also develops, preserves, rescues and gives them new life. In many cases it is also a place of prayer for friends and neighbours who absorb what they experience there and spread it to those around them.
Internationality – the attitude of deep respect for each nation
Schoenstatt is an international family. It has grown, be it in small or large ways, in many countries, continents and cultural spaces.
Schoenstatt is also international because it promotes exchange between different peoples and helps to enrich these relations.
By “internationality” we mean the ability to accept world tensions as a challenge to unity in diversity. Any kind of plurality gives rise to tensions that may either create or destroy life. It is creative in as far as people mutually stimulate one another and complement one other in their being and personal abilities. It is destructive each time that it ignores the other or fails to recognize that each person has a part to play, rejects others and corrodes their selfhood. Internationality replaces the fruitless and destructive competitiveness of belonging to a global community by transforming it into a force for peace as well as human and social growth.
The attitude of profound respect for each nation, race and culture forms part of Fr. Kentenich’s approach. One of his recommendations is:
“Those who work abroad should take care with national sentiment among the people in which the movement is taking root because it is easily vulnerable. Adapt to their ways, customs and language and love the people wholeheartedly.” (1949).
Internationality is the basis for Schoenstatt’s cultural contribution to the modern age. Nations produce culture. These have become increasingly interdependent due to communication, international politics, social, economic and ecological problems. But it is necessary to create a new kind of internal solidarity that respects diverse origins and pluralism, stimulates international help and generates a change of mentality and behavior. We need new ways of connecting with one another that is not solely governed by competitive contracts.
As an international movement, Schoenstatt offers such a contribution, which was also expressed in the prayer that governed the behavior of the Schoenstatt prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp:
“Despite each individual way remain united,
dedicating ourselves to the Father as an ideal kingdom
and overcoming all barriers of nationality
even when hate infests the masses of the nations.”
We are conscious that his task requires even further development. An official Schoenstatt document, which formed part of the 1985 program stated:
“…we are also urged towards greater understanding, as a gift and a task, of the internationality of our Movement and to make it fertile.”
In this way, Schoenstatt can become a “living sacrament” of Catholicism, the Church and the great brotherhood of the people of God.
The www.schoenstatt.org website is expressly dedicated, in the international spirit of Father Kentenich, to the internationality of Schoenstatt as a gift and task.
1) P. Esteban Uriburu, Huellas de un Padre, Editorial Patris Argentina,
2) P. Guillermo Carmona: Schoenstatt, ¿qué es?, Editorial Patris Argentina,