I must admit a certain reticence to writing this article because I don’t think in one article I can truly do the Schoenstatt Movement justice, but the movement’s nearly 100 year old story and that of its founder Father Josef Kentenich really needs to be told. In 1914 a young German priest Father Kentenich started a movement that was so unique it took nearly 50 years before many would understand the groundbreaking effects it could have on the Church. This future saint would not only survive the suspicions of some on the theological left and right, but he would also survive Dachau. He died in 1968, the same year as another misunderstood priest, Saint Padre Pio.
When writing my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, even I was stunned about the new movements that keep cropping up within the Church, even as so many have written off the Church. Indeed this is the History of the Church, when one thinks she is coming under attack by the dark side, she only grows stronger in faith due to her burgeoning movements.
However, Father Kentenich left behind an amazing outlook which every believer should emulate and a perseverance that few could imagine. In a modern world full of individuals making millions of dollars on self help, pep talks and new age “spiritual guidance,” Father Kentenich reminded everyone that Jesus is our true Spiritual Guide and His Blessed Mother the model for us all to follow.
Father Kentenich took the same philosophy as St Teresa of Avila who was fond of saying, “Please Lord save us from more dour priests and their false asceticism.” Father Kentenich raised the ire of some in the Church when he repeated St Teresa of Avila’s views and that of another saint named Therese, the Little Flower. Though an intellectual of the highest order, Father Kentenich repeated the line of Jesus that we must be like little children if we want to enter the Kingdom of God. The German priest said the faith must equip us here on earth with spiritual and earthly strategies. He looked into the field of human behavior and the burgeoning field of Catholic psychology to help the faithful cope with an ever increasing narcissistic world. One can only imagine Father Kentenich’s views today if he saw the level of self absorption our world currently exudes.
Following World War I, Catholic devotions and piety skyrocketed across the world, especially in Europe where too many of the clergy had succumbed to Pope Pius X’s warnings about modernism. Too many priests and seminaries pooh poohed these devotions and popular new saints like the Little Flower. Though Father Kentenich was an intellectual of the highest order, he was upset that too many of the clergy and the hierarchy were dismissing the basics of the Faith. Though many of the faithful were hardly educated by modern standards they saw the sheer nuttiness in throwing out devotions for modernism. Sadly, their grandchildren would do just that.
While he was calling for something akin to a Vatican II conference thirty years before it happened, Father Kenenich warned all who would listen what would happen to the Church if she ever tried to be of the world. Though he looked to the future, he always embraced Marian devotions and Eucharistic Adoration as essential for Christian formation. For Father Kentenich the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph were the ultimate educators for our world and we must study them in order to succeed. Today the Schoenstatt Movement is made of not only Schoenstatt priests and sisters but hundreds of thousands of families around the world. Prominent in their homes is an icon of the Blessed Mother with the child Jesus to remind families of their role as Christian educators.
Father Kentenich was a man of many great quotes; as a new father this one touched me. When asked why the fruits of his priesthood blossomed so quickly when he was considered such a rising star in the seminary Father Kentenich said the following and I will paraphrase; When a woman is pregnant she is experiencing her child and already exudes her maternal instincts. However, the father doesn’t really show his until the baby is placed in his arms for the first time and his paternal instincts of protection and education immediately come to the surface, and so it is when I was ordained. I immediately looked at those in my charge and prayed that God would give me what was necessary to lead those whom I was called to serve, he said.
The Schoenstatt Movement is visible all over the world, but especially so in Latin America and African, as well as parts of the US and of course Europe. Soon the movement will be 100 years old, though it promises to be a movement whose best days are yet to come. Perhaps in this late Advent Season as we approach Christmas and another calendar year, now would be a good time to familiarize yourself wit the Schoenstatt Movement and how it might make you a stronger believer.