The Shrine and its symbols

When you learn about Schoenstatt for the first time, you are suddenly faced with the reality of the little chapel, the Shrine. Without being a great observer, you soon detect that something central to the Movement lies there, or better still, that the Shrine is the heart of the Movement. Why? The answer is simple and at the same time it is profound because since October 18, 1914, the Blessed Virgin Mary has attached herself there in a very special way. In that way, the Schoenstatt Shrine becomes a connecting point between Heaven and earth: a place where divine action and human collaboration meet. There we are accepted and from there we are sent; there, we go to petition, but we also go to offer.

In addition to trying to explain the Shrine, you have to experience it personally. Let us enter and contemplate in silence its interior. Above the Tabernacle we see the image of Our Lady of Schoenstatt with the Child in her arms. Mary does not appear alone but with Christ her Son, in an indissoluble union with Him. We see the Cross, we see the Tabernacle. The everlasting laws: where Mary is, the Lord Jesus is also. This is a central characteristic of Schoenstatt: because it is a profoundly Marian Movement, it is so profoundly centered on Christ. Here we have the two main points of the Redemption: the cross of Christ (or Christ on the Cross) and the image of Mary: the great gift of God the Father to mankind and the human child who responds fully to His plans and to His plan of salvation.

“Let me present the cross and the picture of Mary to the nations as the sign of redemption so that the two who stand as one in the Father’s plan of love may never be divided.” (p.90 HEAVENWARDS, American edition)

Thus reads a prayer composed by Father Kentenich in the Dachau Concentration Camp.

From the beginning, the Schoenstatt Shrine was characterized as a place with a marked Eucharistic cult. Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was born there and the Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary has, without interruption day and night, maintained it for more than fifty years. From there, adoration circles arose in different countries and in diverse communities of the Schoenstatt Family.

Symbol of the Father

Above the image of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, a symbol makes the Father in His Divine Providence present. It is the so called “Father Eye.” How revealing are the eyes of a person. The eye keeps watch, the eye listens, the eye penetrates, the eye transmits. The gaze of the Father is a gaze which protects, guards, is quick to help and does not punish. The gaze…..the eyes of the Father are eyes of mercy and goodness. The Father Eye Symbol of the Father speaks to us of the strong patrocentric aspect of the Schoenstatt spirituality.

Symbol of the Holy Spirit

Near this symbol we find another symbol: a dove which represents the Holy Spirit. Simply put, they are laws of God’s plan, laws of Christian living. The Virgin Mary directs all the love we give to Christ; it gives us a growing sensibility to the Holy Spirit, it helps us to know the Father. Simply said, Mary takes us to the Blessed Trinity. We are at the center of the Schoenstatt spirituality expressed in this simple prayer: “Unite us in holy tri-unity and thus we will walk in the Holy Spirit to the Father.” (Fr. Kentenich)

St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Michael, St. Joseph, St. Vincent Pallotti

There are other symbols. Under the main picture, we see the figures of two apostles: St. Peter with the keys and St. Paul with the sword in his hands. Both make the Church of Christ present; both, in a certain sense, represent the College of the Apostles. Both remind us of Mary’s role in the mystery of the Church; Mary as model and at the same time Mother of the Church.

To the left of the altar is St. Michael the Archangel conquering the dragon. St. Michael in whose honor the chapel was dedicated before October 18, 1914, appears as the great warrior of the cause of God (Michael means: Who like God?) The dragon is the symbol of the evil one, the devil, the “power of darkness.” This sign renews our awareness that in the history of mankind and in the history of each individual, there exist invisible powers doing battle between the divine and the demonic. These truths are forgotten by many or for which millions of men are no longer sensitive because their faith has weakened or is dead. The presence of the dragon makes us think of the mission which the Virgin Mary has in this battle which is so much emphasized in Genesis as in the Book of Revelation. Mary, the Conqueror of the serpent; Mary, the Crusher of the serpent. We see the statue of St. Joseph.

The Patron Saint of the Universal Church, the spouse of the Virgin Mary could not be missing in a Marian Shrine. On the opposite side, an image of Vincent Pallotti, precursor of Catholic Action: canonized saint by Pope John XXIII on January 20, 1963, inspirator and pioneer of the World Apostolic Confederation which Schoenstatt has assumed as one of its objectives (“Give us faith in Schoenstatt and in Pallotti and may this sign of unity never be taken from us” Fr. Kentenich).

The Shrine, the place where divine action and human collaboration meet:

“Nothing without You, Nothing without Us.” “I love those who love me.” Typical Schoenstatt expressions which remind us of the important role played by human collaboration in this new divine initiative.

For this reason, behind all Schoenstatt Shrines, we find the “black crosses.” The Joseph Engling stone speaks to us in a simple and eloquent language that the Virgin Mary established herself in the Shrine because there were human instruments who gave themselves completely, placing themselves totally at her disposition as instruments. The Shrine, connecting point between Heaven and earth…..there, the Blessed Virgin Mary grants us in a special way the pilgrimage graces.