Our Response: The Capital of Grace
The Blessed Mother wants to show herself in a special way in Schoenstatt, as an educator who forms the “new man” and the “new community” in Christ. This high ideal is primarily the fruit of the graces received in the shrine. But this also requires our active cooperation. “The grace of God was not futile in me,” said St. Paul. “I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1Cor. 15:10).
Some people may find the expression “capital of grace” somewhat contradictory. The first thought that comes to mind when we hear the word “capital” is economics. Here capital is associated with investments and other financial words. In contrast, “grace” refers to a very different world. It is associated with a living God, our redemption in Christ, the supernatural life. This is a classic Schoenstatt term expressing our personal collaboration with God’s actions, with our Blessed Mother’s actions from the Shrine.
So then, what does “capital of grace” mean? Her response makes us confront two realities of our Christian lives. On the one hand, this includes man’s necessary collaboration to attain his salvation in Chris and the mystery of the communion of saints on the other.
We collaborate with grace
Nowadays we speak about whether a person is “fulfilled” or not. We can also apply this to our Christian lives. My fulfilment as a human being depends on me, but not only on me. It depends on God, but not only on divine will. I am “fulfilled” as a human being and as a Christian if I collaborate with grace, if I unite my actions to divine action (recall the popular saying: God helps those who help themselves).
Our vision of the human being is essentially optimistic. We are already saved, redeemed through Jesus Christ. He redeemed us by His blood, shed on the Cross for the salvation of all mankind. But this salvation is not automatic. God respects our freedom and asks for our freely-given cooperation. In some way, we should also “deserve” our salvation. We can and should earn merits. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves in heaven” (Matt. 6:19-20). These merits enrich us personally but also have an effect on our brothers and sisters.
The communion of saints
Here is the mystery of the “communion of saints.” Every Sunday we pray in the Creed: “I believe in the communion of saints.” To what extent are we aware of this wonderful reality? How do we explain it? A text from Vatican Council II teaches us that “all those who belong to Christ and have His spirit grow together and they united among themselves in Him, forming one Church” (Church 49). Jesus said the same thing: “I am the vine; you are the branches” (Jn 15:5).
In the same way as one and the same root feeds the branches of the vine, our baptism also allows all of us to participate with Christ in the divine life.
“Diligently bring me contributions to the capital of grace”
From Schoenstatt’s early beginnings, efforts to strive for self-sanctification found concrete expression in the contributions to the capital of grace. “Diligently bring me contributions to the capital of grace…earn many merits and place them at my disposal,” we read in Founding Document of 18 October 1914.
This was lived many of Schoenstatt’s sons and daughters. We can see it in the lives of Joseph Engling, Fr. Kentenich and of our Family’s many heroes. In time, the current of grace became increasingly larger, deeper and active.
From here, by having contact with the shrine, we are submerged – in a manner of speaking – in a strong movement of grace that uplifts us, sustains us and leads us forward and higher. How do we tap into all of this? By also contributing to the capital of grace.
A prayer of offering that Fr. Kentenich composed while in the concentration camp at Dachau makes it clearer:
“What I bear and endure,
What I say and what I dare,
What I think and what I cherish,
All the merits that I gain,
What I direct and what I conquer,
All my joys and all my sorrows,
What I am and what I have
I give to you as a gift of love.
Use it so that the holy stream of graces
Flowing richly from the shrine…”
We can see that it is not only those things that are difficult for us (sacrifices) that can be offered to the capital of grace, but rather everything: the things I endure, the things I think and the things I love, the things that make me suffer and give me joy.
There is one thing we cannot forget. While it is a commitment to make contributions to the capital of grace, we can and should resort to the capital of grace when, in any circumstance, we are in urgent need.
It is as if a family has a joint bank account which any of its members can access and it never runs out in time of need. A prayer by Fr. Kentenich illustrates this well:
“Whenever Satan’s cunning and my own weakness discourage me
and I am oppressed by the bitter torment of my failures,
then I, too, can gratefully turn to our vast capital of grace
and have recourse to the merits of the noble, pure and steadfast souls
who daily choose the Lord to be their Bridegroom.
He benevolently turns his gaze towards them
and out of love for them will secure my happiness.” (Heavenwards, 453-454)
Based on these reflections it is easier to understand the following statement: “from the moment I began to give contributions to the capital of grace, I really understood what Schoenstatt was about.”
This is, on the other hand, the demand and the commitment the Blessed Mother makes from the shrine: “Do not trouble yourselves about the fulfillment of your desire. Ego diligentes me diligo – I love those who love me. Prove first by your deeds that you really love me and take your resolution seriously” (Founding Document).