The Founding Document
The Founding Document
Acceleration of the development of our self-sanctification
as a means of transforming our chapel into a place of pilgrimage.
1 First of all, I greet you again after quite some time with the beautiful salutation: Nos cum prole pia bendicat Virgo Maria [Virgin Mary, bless us with your holy Child.] It is the first time that these sodality words sound in this place. May they echo and resound for all times to come.
2 It gives joy to father, mother and children to move into a home of their own, even if it is plain and poor in comparison with the magnificent quarters which they previously rented. The thought: “This house belongs to us,” more than compensates for the loss of all other advantages. We, too, may experience much family joy today. This little chapel belongs to our small sodality family which is guided by our heavenly Mother. It belongs completely to us and only to us. Without envy we leave to others the more beautiful house chapel, our previous lodging. We rejoice and will let no one take this joy from us. Besides joy, a feeling of rightful pride makes our hearts beat faster. For this sanctuary, which has stood more or less neglected, desolate and bare for as long as we can remember, has been – because of us and at our instigation – restored and given to the Mother of God. At least since it has been in the possession of the Pallotine Fathers these walls have not been more beautifully decorated than today. May we see in this joyful fact a good omen for the future development of our young sodality?
3. Surely! It would be a sublime task, worthy of the diligence and labor of the noblest, if we sodalists could succeed in instilling a burning love of Mary and an ideal striving for virtue in our college such as it has never seen.
4 Why do I express myself so hesitatingly? Have I lost confidence in you? It is true, only the remnants of our flourishing sodality are present, but new life will soon spring forth from the ruins. My voucher for that is last year’s faithful cooperation on your part, and the genuine Marian spirit which you have acquired. During vacation, many ideals may well have crumpled under the smoke and dust of everyday life; some of the principles which we adopted during the course of the year and which we thought were unshakable, may not have stood the test of practical daily life. But one thing remains – of that I’m certain: it is the conviction that to be a genuine sodalist is inseparable from striving for moral and religious greatness according to one’s state of life. And we are just as animated today by the will for victory and the attainment of our sodality ideal as we were at the end of the last school year. No, my dear sodalists, I have not lost my trust in you. I know that we, by building on what we have already attained, shall make great progress in this year just as we set out to do in the last.
5 The slow development of the grace of our vocation and the consequent higher degree of our religious apostolic spirit is not, however, the aim which I want to present to you. My challenge goes incomparably higher. Each one of us must achieve the highest conceivable degree of perfection and sanctity according to his state of life. Not simply the great and greater, but the greatest heights ought to be the object of our increased efforts. You will understand that I express such an extraordinary challenge only in the form of a humble wish.
6 But if you want to know the reason for this wish, I must tell you of a favorite and [up to now] secret idea of mine.
7 When St. Peter saw the glory of God on Tabor, he called out with delight: “It is good for us to be here. Let us build three tents here.” [Mt.17:4] These words come to my mind again and again. And I have often asked myself: Would it then not be possible that our little sodality chapel becomes for us, at the same time, the Tabor on which the glory of Mary would be revealed? Undoubtedly, we could not accomplish a greater apostolic deed nor leave our successors a more precious legacy than to urge our Lady and Queen to erect her throne here in a special way, to distribute her treasures, and to work miracles of grace. You gather what I am aiming at: I would like to make this place a place of pilgrimage, a place of grace for our house and for the whole German province, and perhaps even further afield. All those who come here to pray shall experience the glory of Mary and confess: “It is good for us to be here. Here we want to build our tents, here is our favorite place.” A bold thought, nearly too bold for the public, but not too bold for you. How often in world history have not small and insignificant beginnings been the source of great and greatest accomplishments? Why could that not also hold true in our case? Whoever knows the history of our sodality will have no trouble believing that Divine Providence has something special in store for it.
8 Even as I speak, my dear sodalists, I feel that I have struck the right note. Your hearts have caught fire. You have made my plan your own. With confidence I place it and its fulfillment into your hands and will not hesitate to enter it into our chronicle. Future generations may then pass their judgment upon us. But, will we reach our goal? As far as it depends on us – and I no longer pronounce that with uncertainty and doubt, but with complete confidence – none of us, my dear sodalists, will allow anything to be lacking. This sodality chapel will become for us the cradle of our sanctity, just as a chapel of Our Lady in Florence was for our second patron. St. Aloysius. And this sanctity will apply gentle force on our heavenly Mother and draw her down to us.
9 It was more than five centuries ago. In a bloody war, the English and the French were tearing each other to pieces. France was already at the point of being annihilated. At the same time, a simple French village girl was struggling in ardent prayer to the Blessed Mother for the deliverance of her king. Suddenly the Archangel Michael appeared to her and told her: “She whom the great God acknowledges as his Mother has commanded me to come to you and tell you to take up the sword, clothe yourself in armor, and defend the cause of justice. You will deliver the city of Orleans from its enemies and lead the king to Reims for his coronation. A sword is hidden in the ground behind the altar in St. Catherine’s Church at Fierbois: Let it be brought forth and gird yourself with it.
10 The girl’s name was Joan of Arc, known to history as the “Maid of Orleans.” Pius X beatified her in May 1909. To me it is as if at this moment, here in the old chapel of St. Michael, Our Lady were speaking to us through the mouth of the holy archangel:
11 Do not worry about the fulfillment of your desire. Ego diligentes me diligo. I love those who love me [Prv. 8:17]. Prove to me first that you really love me, that you take your resolution seriously. Just now you have the best opportunity to do so. Do not think that in times like these, when momentous decisions are being made, that it is something extraordinary if you increase your striving beyond that of previous generations, indeed to the highest degree. According to the plan of Divine Providence, this World War with its mighty incentives is meant to be an extraordinary help for you in the work of your self-sanctification. This sanctification I demand of you. It is the armor that you shall put on, the sword with which you shall do battle for your
desires. Diligently bring me contributions to the capital of grace. By fulfilling your duties faithfully and conscientiously and by praying fervently, earn many merits and place them at my disposal. Then it will please me to dwell in your midst and dispense gifts and graces in abundance. Then I will draw youthful hearts to myself from here, and I will educate them to become useful instruments in my hand.
 by Father Jonathan Niehaus, New Vision and Life, pp 98-102.
Marian sodalities were noted both for its Marian devotion and also for its involvement and dedication to apostolic activity. Marian devotion and apostolic activity were integral features of the character of the sodalities-those directed by both the Jesuits and the Marianists. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Catholic Action was a movement strongly encouraged by Pius XI and Pius XII, and, in the mind of the popes, the sodalities of Our Lady were ideal settings for Catholic Action. Yet, there was frequently a hesitancy, a fear that the Sodalities of Our Lady would lose their character if they became too involved in Catholic Action. What was also needed was a broad theological vision which presented an image of the Virgin Mary that would encourage both Marian dedication and apostolic action (All About Mary, University of Dayton).
The Founder of Schoenstatt
Father Joseph Kentenich was the instrument chosen by God to found the international Schoenstatt Movement. He was born on November 16, 1885, in Gymnich, near Cologne, Germany. He deeply loved Mary and the Church. At the age of nine his mother consecrated him to the Mother of God. At that point, he placed himself entirely under her protection until then and throughout his whole life. At a young age, he felt called to the priesthood; nothing moved him more than the desire to make God known to today’s world. He saw in Mary a model of the human person with full integrity. Through his education, he led others to recognize the gift of inner freedom and the human dignity given by God.
Father Kentenich saw in Mary the model of the relationship between human beings and God, and of service to one’s neighbor. He devoted his whole life to his great goal: to form a new person, in the image of Mary, in a new community, through the bond of the covenant of love.
As a young priest, Father Kentenich was an educator in the minor Seminary of the Pallottine Fathers, in Schoenstatt, Germany. An extraordinary trust united him with his students. They took in his education with great openness because of his love for the Blessed Mother.
Attentive to God’s designs, Father Kentenich knew how to interpret the signs of the times. Along with a small group of students, he sealed a covenant of love with Our Lady in the little Schoenstatt chapel on October 18, 1914. This was the beginning and the foundation of Schoenstatt. Today this movement of life continues to spread throughout the world.
During the period following 1914, more and more people came in contact with Father Joseph Kentenich. Over time, he founded several communities for priests, families, men, women, youth, children, and the sick. These are organized into the Secular Institutes, Federations, and League branches of the Schoenstatt Movement.
The life of Father Kentenich was marked by the cross. During World War II, he was a prisoner of the National Socialists. He spent more than three years in the concentration camp of Dachau, in Germany. From 1951 – 1965, he was separated from his work by Church authorities and was sent to Milwaukee, USA.
Obedient to the Church and faithful to his founding charism, he accepted this time of testing as a form of personal imitation of Christ. For him everything, including the cross, was an expression of God’s merciful love. He himself became a father to many, announcing, and living this reality in a convincing way. Throughout his life and in his time of suffering, he wanted to serve the Church and in this way prove his deep love for it.
After the end of the Vatican Council II, he was received in audience by Pope Paul VI. At that time, the Pope expressed his gratitude to him and to the Schoenstatt Family. Father Kentenich continued to guide the different communities and branches of the Schoenstatt Family to be at the service of the Church.
After celebrating the Holy Mass on Sunday, September 15, 1968, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Father Kentenich died in the church of the Most Holy Trinity in Schoenstatt. His last resting place is found at the same place where he died. Father Kentenich died with the reputation of sanctity. Through his example, he tried to inspire in each member of the Schoenstatt Family what he chose to be written on his tomb: Dilexit Eclessiam; He loved the Church!
The process of his canonization was opened on February 10, 1975. Annually, thousands of people visit his tomb, located in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity on Mount Schoenstatt, Germany. There they confidently present their petitions and signs of gratitude for the graces received through his intercession. Father Kentenich is seen as the third point of contact in the covenant of love, because of his fatherly character. From the founding moment of October 18, 1914 on his position as founder has been a source of blessings for the entire Schoenstatt Family.
In 1982, Cardinal Ratzinger, later Holy Father, Benedict XVI, said:
May Mary, the Mother of the Church, through her faithful servant, Father Joseph Kentenich, teach many people the way of love for the Church so that the strength and joy of faith may penetrate our people and our nations!
Love for Mary should lead us to imitate her as our example in life and that love for her should be reflected in our lives. The prayer of the founder of Schoenstatt written in the Dachau prison camp, during World War II, should also be our prayer to Mary:
Let us reflect your image and walk through life entirely like you:
strong and noble, simple and kind, spreading love and peace and joy.
In us go through our times and make them ready for Christ (Heavenwards).
 Heavenwards is the book of prayers written by Father Kentenich in the concentration camp of Dachau (1942-1945).
Anyone whose prayers are answered through the intercession of Father Joseph Kentenich is encouraged to document it in a simple written form and bring it to the nearest Schoenstatt Center.
Prayer Answered Through Father Kentenich’s Intercession:
I prayed for…
I asked for his intercession by praying… (e.g. novena, visited a memorial dedicated to him)
My request was granted when…
I thank for his intercession by…
Soon I will seal my covenant of love!
What feelings do I have?
I long for…
I am joyful about…
I am afraid of…
I do not feel prepared or I feel that I have not prepared sufficient, because…
The main concern is:
How will I live my covenant of love in my practical life?
The covenant of love is not a goal. You don’t graduate, so to say, when you make the covenant. You do not finish the material and move on. This is a way of life. This is not the end of a road, but the beginning of a path that, if you learn how to walk on it, you can reach holiness. The covenant path is the path of every Christian. It is the path of St. John at the foot of the cross: “and he took Mary into his home” (cf. Jn. 19:26).
And so, now we want to reflect on how we take this covenant into our practical life. The fruits of this covenant will depend to a great extent on our collaboration. At times, the founder of Schoenstatt used the expression: Nothing without you, nothing without us! It consists in this type of collaboration.
Therefore, what are the elements or the means that will help make of the covenant of love something that transforms our daily lives? These elements include: our daily contributions to the capital of grace, our daily proofs of love, and our daily gifts to Mary!
The Concept of
the Capital of Grace
Schoenstatt is a work that came forth from a divine initiative and from a special human collaboration. There was no apparition of the Blessed Mother, but there was a covenant of love with her.
As stated in the Founding Document, the prayers and sacrifices of the young seminarians were meant to exert gentle force on the Blessed Mother. This is similar to a child that tugs on his mother’s hand begging for a special favor.
The concept of capital of grace is closely related to the “parable of the talents” (Mt 25:14-30 or Lk 19:12-27). In this parable, our Lord compares grace with a capital of talents. Talents were a measure of money, a coin. This parable clearly exposes the importance of our cooperation with grace, which multiplies and becomes fruitful.
The expression capital of grace has become a common expression in Schoenstatt. We speak of contributions in order to emphasize the fact that there must be an active and personal cooperation on our part. This has been summarized in the phrase: Nothing without you, nothing without us. This reality not only determined the origin of Schoenstatt, but also its later development. Because every kingdom is preserved with the same forces that brought it about (St. Salustia +251, Martyr).
Father Kentenich, referring to the contributions to the capital of grace, clearly stated: “We owe the existence of our family to the contributions to the capital of grace of the Mother Thrice Admirable. For this reason we must firmly preserve if for all times. With contributions to the capital of grace, the family and its fruitfulness increases or dies out.”
Behind our contributions to the capital of grace we find our love for Mary. They are the practical proofs of our love for her. Here are some examples:
- Do the ordinary, extraordinarily well
- Have a good attitude toward others
- Start out a positive conversation
- Serve others without waiting for them to ask.
- Answer in an uplifting way the telephone, the door…
- Share with others my goods, my time
- Offer my work to God during the day.
- Do good deeds and practice works of mercy
- Patiently endure pain and suffering
- Take time for prayer during the day
The term capital of grace did not originate in Schoenstatt. We already find it in the way of thinking of Alfonso Maria de Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists, also in Scheeben, a great German theologian, and others. Father Kentenich took up this term in 1915 and filled it with original content and meaning.
We all know that the word capital stands for a wealth or reservoir of riches used to produce more assets. It is a treasury that guarantees greater earnings by keeping it flowing: by depositing and withdrawing. This is precisely what the expression capital of grace refers to, but in the sense of graces and blessings. We bring our gifts of love and the Blessed Mother intercedes God’s graces and blessings for us. This to and fro movement of prayers and sacrifices between us and the Blessed Mother gives meaning to our joys and sorrows. We offer contributions to the capital of grace for our intentions, for those who visit the shrine, and for many others who can benefit from them.
The concept of the capital of grace is based on the teaching of good works. In the second letter of St. James (14:17) we read:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
We express our willingness to collaborate with God’s plan through our prayers and sacrifices in everyday life. The term, contributions to the capital of grace, does not mean that the capital of grace is increased by our actions. Rather, through prayer, sacrifice, joys, and all that we do out of love of God and the Blessed Mother, we open ourselves to grace and can help others to do the same. Through the capital of grace we can make everything fruitful, even the most incomprehensible or insignificant things of our daily lives.
It is a simple and effective means to focus the strength of our whole personality with all of its capacities, on the work of salvation. Every person, regardless of origin, age, or position, healthy or ill, can be effective for the salvation of the world through the capital of grace. Everyone can contribute to the good of others through the capital of grace.
- What have I understood by the term capital of grace?
- How will I bring this into my daily life?
Place a small jar next to a photo of the Schoenstatt Shrine.
The jar is a symbol of the capital of grace. Usually, those who visit the Schoenstatt Shrines find small pieces of paper where they can write their offerings to the MTA. You can do the same at home.
- What am I grateful for?
- What do I offer to the MTA that is difficult for me?
- What do I petition for?
I fill my little jar with…
Many years ago, Father Kentenich lived close to a garage. When those using the cars opened and closed the doors, there was much noise. A visitor asked him if it bothered him.
Father Kentenich answered: “You can also give that as a gift! No matter how small an act may be, if it’s done for the love of God, it’s great.”
Effect of good works
“The good deeds of strangers are like unperceivable streams of water that make the earth green.” (Thomas Carlyle)
Fruit of love
The covenant of love would have no value if we didn’t contribute our efforts, if we only pronounced it with our lips, and if it did not come from the depths of our hearts… There is no love without sacrifice. Love lives by sacrifice, just as the flame consumes the candle wax. Sacrifice increases love, and sacrifice is the fruit of love. (Father J. Kentenich)
The capital of grace is like a system of recycling. It’s about all the hardships of my life and the times which I continue to fall in spite of my good intentions. I can place these trying moments into the hands of the Blessed Mother. I can recycle these experiences. Then, I can start all over again. “Her shrine is the best recycling plant I know.” (Testimony of a young professional)
Today, I thank for…
Today, I bring you (mention the most difficult things of the day and the most beautiful experiences of your day)…
Today, I pray for and ask for…