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 published: 2003-02-25

The Holy Spirit Symbol for the English Schoenstatt Shrine

Paul Cooper, who designed the symbol, shares his thoughts and ideas






I took it as a great honour when Bill and Pat asked me to do some sketches for the Holy Spirit symbol, which the Liverpool groups were preparing to present to our English Schoenstatt Shrine. It was obvious to me that there had been a lot of discussion about this special project already, and Bill and Pat gave me several pictures, prayer cards and photos with various suggestions which had arisen from the previous discussions. Their intention was to create a new design, one in which the central image of the Holy Spirit symbol was to be seen as a gently ‘hovering dove’ – a dove of peace, of light and of joy. This was very much a departure from the symbol in the original shrine, where the image is more of a harsh dove, whose talons seem to stretch down to the people below.

The symbol in Schoenstatt forms an important part of the spiritual imagery of the shrine, and is centrally placed above the sanctuary. It shows a circle of radiating flames from which the ‘dove’ descends. It was agreed to keep the circular shape and the same size of the original symbol.

The "burning bush" – the tongues of fire

If we read the account of Pentecost, it is rich in imagery: "When suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting, and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; they separated and came to rest on each of them" (Acts 2). In some ways the task became how to convey these two elements within the circular shape of the symbol.

I had always been attracted by the ‘burning bush’ candle holder in our shrine, not only the metal stand itself, but the shadows that were cast onto the wall behind, making a picture behind a picture, and giving it almost a three-dimensional aspect.

It came to my mind that if the light could shine ‘through’ our Holy Spirit symbol, then this too would throw shadows onto the elaborate ceiling above.

To create the impression of ‘tongues of fire’ I made the flames appear to come from behind the ‘dove’ and radiate to the edge of the symbol – not symmetrically, but in a random pattern, until they reach the circumference where they join together to form a ring of fire coming from the Holy Spirit and reaching out to the whole world – in every direction. These ‘tongues of fire’ to be finished in gold.

The powerful wind

I felt at this stage that the symbol still lacked depth, so I put a second ‘layer’ beneath the layer of flames – this being a simpler design and deliberately flowing in different directions to the ‘flames’, and representing the "powerful wind … which filled the entire house". To provide a further contrast, the second layer would be finished in silver.

And so, when the lights were shining on the Holy Spirit symbol, there would now be shadows and reflections cast by the ‘dove’ onto the golden flames behind. In turn shadows would be cast onto the silver strands beneath – thus creating a feeling of movement and power behind the gentle calmness of the ‘hovering dove’.

The red cross of England

Lastly, to echo the Father Symbol and the Sanctuary Lamp, I felt it fitting to include the red cross of England behind the symbol, depicting the connection between the Cross of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and also the Triune connection between the Eye of the Father, the Cross of the Son, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. In this way I felt the Holy Spirit symbol incorporates all three in a powerful, ever-moving, yet gentle presence.

The jewelry

As always when involved in such projects, there are many other factors that are present in the completion of the work. I was struck by the great efforts made by many of our groups and friends to contribute items of jewellery, which were collected, taken to Schoenstatt and melted down by the goldsmith, to be included in the final design. Such gifts of wedding rings, etc., have added to the special nature of this symbol – many memories are included, many sacrifices and also many sufferings are associated with such cherished gifts. These are now carried forward in our symbol that carries many hopes and longings for the future. These are, in turn, carried in the Heart of the Triune God who knows all, sees all, and guides all according to His perfect plan, which encompasses all.

In another way the installation of the Holy Spirit symbol again shows the great sign of our covenant with our Mother Thrice Admirable. Just as with the shrine itself and so many of our undertakings, the symbol has grown from a tiny seed – the first dreams, thoughts and plans of a few families who asked themselves: "Could we do something for Schoenstatt in England?"

Set England on fire

How often has our Lady shown us her power in the covenant, by taking our small plans and turning them into something beautiful for God and for our Schoenstatt Family here in England?

  • Nothing without you – nothing without us –

When we look at the Holy Spirit symbol soon to be installed in our English Shrine, let us be reminded of the mission given to us by Fr Kentenich:

"Go, set England on fire …

… but not without blood" -

  • it is the essence of the symbol – the fire of the New Life in the Spirit flowing from the glory of the Cross –
  • it is also the essence and secret of the Schoenstatt Shrine itself.

May the presence of the Holy Spirit bring a new and deeper understanding of all He wishes us to achieve from our shrine.

May we experience the same power and strength given to the apostles on the first Pentecost day, so that our hearts may be renewed and set on fire by the force of our mission.

And may the ‘gentle dove’ guide us all along the right paths to a new beginning for our lives and for our country.

"Go, set England on fire … … but not without blood"


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