Historic milestones of the Apostolic Schoenstatt Movement
18 October 1914 . 20 January 1942 . 31 May 1949 . 20 and 22 October 1965
In his retrospective reflection on the history of the Apostolic Schoenstatt Movement, Fr. Kentenich highlighted four fundamental events which are not only relevant for their historic importance but also the inner growth of its members. These events are known as milestones, which is also a reference to the road marking system of ancient Rome.
The life-giving process of discovering God’s plans, sustained by faith in Divine Providence and interpreted in the light of that same faith, led the founder towards a deep relationship with God, which he described as the “eruption of the divine.” We can then say that these four milestones are key events which led to new cycles of growth in the Movement’s development.
1. Standing in divine light
The date of first milestone is inextricably connected with 18 October 1914, the date on which the Apostolic Schoenstatt Movement was founded. For Fr. Kentenich, this daring step was confirmed by the positive reaction to the founding of the Marian congregation by the Pallotine seminarians, a newspaper article about a place of pilgrimage in the Pompei Valley, the meeting room in the old cemetery chapel and the start of the First World War. He saw the “eruption of the divine” and interpreted the consecration to the Blessed Virgin, which he later called the “covenant of love” with the Blessed Mother as mother and educator, and the attachment to the shrine as acts of faith, making this the most daring moment of his life (Founding Document).
2. Standing in divine confidence
A second milestone – 20 January 1942 – allowed the covenant of love to grow more deeply. This date reflects the Schoenstatt Movement’s response to the National Socialist dictatorship in which the covenant of love was deepened in the religious attitude of the Blank Cheque and the Inscriptio.
Fr. Kentenich was arrested on 20 September 1941. During his imprisonment in Koblenz, Germany, he was deemed fit for the concentration camp. The Schoenstatt Family tried to persuade the doctor to grant him another medical examination as a result of an earlier lung condition. However, on 20 September Fr. Kentenich rejected this offer and instead chose to trust blindly in God and to follow the path leading to the Dachau concentration camp: “Please understand the answer with faith in the supernatural reality and the interwoven destinies of the members of our Family” (Letter of 20 January 1942). Fr. Kentenich later saw this event as an “axis in the history of the Family,” particularly in relation to the inward growth of the theological virtue of hope.
The development of this attitude is an important pedagogical goal within the Schoenstatt communities. The “synchronisation” with the growth of the founder’s attitude, characterised by active faith in Divine Providence, both for his inner freedom and sincerity, serves as the ideal image for religious life. This “interweaving” has become an internal attachment to Fr. Kentenich from the time of his imprisonment in Koblenz and Dachau, and continues to be consciously present in the movement, where he is seen not only as a founder but also as its “supernatural head” and a father figure (contact point).
3. Standing in divine strength
The third milestone is the 31st of May 1949. After returning from the Dachau Concentration camp, Fr. Kentenich aimed to integrate his foundation with the existing Church structures. He therefore sent his writings to the bishop of Trier so that these might be examined and requested a commission to examine the spirituality and the praxis of the Schoenstatt Movement. In response, Auxiliary Bishop Bernardo Stein visited the community of the Sisters of Mary. In response to the report emerging from the visitation, Fr. Kentenich drew up a voluminous study, a part of which he sent from Santiago-Bellavista, Chile, on the 31st of May 1949. With prophetic clarity and honesty, he provided a diagnosis that foresaw multiple threats and dangers for the future of the Church: “It therefore, requires that the final seed of the illness from which the Western soul is dying: mechanistic thinking be exposed and cured!” (Letter of 31.05.1949). Fr. Kentenich dared to confront Church authorities and consciously risked the life of his foundation in order to achieve this great goal.
4. Standing in divine victoriousness
The conflict arising from the letter of 30 May 1949 revolved around the role that Schoenstatt plays within the Church and paradigmatically referred to the Church’s role in a changing and increasingly pluralistic world. Therefore, the fourth milestone specifically describes Schoenstatt’s task within the “Church on the new shore” and the fulfilment of the Second Vatican Council. At a historic level, this milestone occurred on 20 and 22 October 1965, marking the end of Fr. Kentenich’s exile in Milwaukee, USA following a decision by the Holy See and its confirmation by Pope Paul VI.
During his 1965 October conferences, Fr. Kentenich called the Schoenstatt Movement to help the Church fulfil the fundamental ecclesiastical concepts, newly emphasised by the Council, and exemplify this image of the Church. In this regard, the founder even made a promise to the Holy Father during the former’s audience with him on 22 December 1965.
The names that Fr. Kentenich gave to the various milestones show the relevance these historic events hold for a life of faith: “standing in divine light – standing in divine confidence – standing in divine strength – standing in divine victoriousness.” The knowledge of experiencing God’s hand throughout history (“elementary eruption of the divine from the top down and the eruption and opening of the divine within the entire Family”) becomes concretely known and is connected to the growth of faith. The three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity take on social and individual significance. Similarly, the milestones become abbreviated formulas for a school of faith that is psychologically and pedagogically guided.
Bibliography: Vortr 3./4.1.1966; Anspr 12.4.1966; Vortr 1.6.1966; Anspr 20.1.1967. E. Monnerjahn, Der dritte Meilenstein. Überlegungen zu einem aktuellen Jubiläum, Regnum 9 (1974) 76-94; J. Niehaus, The 31st of May. The Third Milestone, Waukesha 1995.
Author: Joachim Schmiedl
Source: Schoenstatt-Lexikon, Patris Verlag, Vallendar Schoenstatt