Schönstatt: Begegnungen am Ursprungsort

Birth of a Concrete Sharing
Encounter with the "Scuola Abba" of the Fokolare Movement

(Michael Schapfel/mkf) On March 3rd, 2000, leading members of the Fokular Movement and their "Scuola Abba", a group of 26 scholars of different nations and academic fields, dedicated to scientific research on their foundress' charisma, met with Schoenstatt members from different communities and members of the Joseph Kentenich Institute, that is committed to similar tasks in view of Father Kentenich's charisma. Besides fruitful mutual sharing, a common prayer time in the Founder Chapel was a highlight of this inspiring meeting – when one member of the Fokular Movement prayed that Father Kentenich with his Father charisma would not only be Father of his Schoenstatt Family, but also for the other Spiritual Movements of the church.

God's gifts are often surprise gifts; by far extending what human planning, longing and preparation would ever dare to expect. Father Kentenich speaks of the "creative resultant", an outcome that cannot be explained by the mere human input of ideas, strength, and efforts. The event of March 3rd, 2000 seems to be such an experience of the creative resultant for the members of the Joseph Kentenich Institute (JKI) and beyond.

Birth of a Concrete Sharing

In January, the presidium of the JKI had planned this year’s annual conference. Ideas were shared to pick up the event of June 10th, 1999, when Chiara Lubich and Andrea Riccardi visited Schoenstatt, following Pope John Paul II's call to the Ecclesial movements to grow in unity on the Pentecost Meeting in Rome, 1998. Instead of analyzing growing unity of the ecclesial movements from a Schoenstatt perspective, the idea was brought up to practically come closer, to share with members of the Fokular Movement what this event meant to us. It was planned to invite someone to give a talk on The "Scuola Abba" of the Fokular Movement. Contacts were made with Dr. Wilfried Hagemann, head of the Fokular priests in Germany. He agreed and said he would also like to inform Chiara Lubich on what was planned.

Chiara Lubich was informed, and she regarded this idea more important. than the Schoenstatt persons had thought. She did not only want to send Dr. Christoph Hegge of Münster, the Bishop's secretary, and member of the wider circle of the Scuola Abba, but also another priest from the International Center of the Fokular Movement. Professor Fabio Ciardi OMI of Rome should have been in Hong Kong that day, but Chiara Lubich preferred him to be in Schoenstatt.

Learning about the Scuola Abba

On March 3, 2000, six leading members of the Fokular Movement arrived on Mount Moriah, Schoenstatt: Professor Fabio Ciardi OMI, Rome, Dr. Christoph Hegge, Münster, and the leaders of the Fokular Movement in Germany: Helga Maria Rademacher, and Clemens Hachmöller (Northern Germany), Renata Simon, and Heinz Barion (Southern Germany). Besides the members of the annual workshop of the JKI, other Schoenstatt members, together with Fr. Michael Marmann, head of the General Presidium of the International Schoenstatt Movement, joined.

It was a very heartfelt mutual greeting – many of the participants already knew each other. Fabio Ciardi passed on Chiara Lubich's personal greetings to all.

Ciardi, professor for Spiritual Theology and member of the inner circle of the Scuola Abba, introduced the beginning and task of this group.

It is routed in Chiara Lubich's personal spiritual experiences soon after founding the Fokular Movement. Shared spiritual experiences of herself and her friends while staying in the mountains in 1949, marked the spiritual foundation of her founding with the "Word of Life" being essential and the "pact of unity" as central process – a radical pact of mutual support and love. In a meeting with Igino Giordani, a politician and writer, Chiara felt first urged to the pact of unity. After the Holy Communion of that day she wanted to pray to Jesus, but couldn't! She only could say one word: "Abba", Father. Jesus was praying in herself to the Father. Chiara took notes of her mystical experiences during this time.

The Well of a Founder's Spirituality

Ciardi shared that after the official approbation of her founding in 1990, Chiara felt urged to work on the experiences of this time. Bishop Klaus Hemmerle of Aachen (+ 1994), a member of the Fokular Movement, recognized these experiences as important contributions to theology and inspired theological working on them. Thus, the "Scuola Abba" began, first consisting of four members, meanwhile with 26 persons from Italy, Germany, France, Spain, England, Brazil, USA, among them also a Protestant theologian. Most of them remain in their scientific jobs, they all live together in Rome. Each Saturday, they meet with Chiara. At the beginning of each meeting, the mutual "pact of unity" is renewed. Each one tries to be empty of self, and to be open for the others. Theology is to be done not about Jesus, but by Jesus – and the method is, to try and see the Father and all reality with the eyes of Jesus.

Paragraphs of Chiara's notes are read, and then commented by her and by others. Each one can ask questions to Chiara. Her texts are then complemented by quotes from the Scripture, from saints, theologians. In unity and a Marian approach basic to the Fokular spirituality, they want to grow in insight of the charisma. Ciardi described the process like a well with a mighty fountain in the center – Chiara's charisma. The members of the Scuola Abba are like small fountains around who take in the pure water of the charisma and enrich it with their very knowledge to pass it on to others. Marian method, then, means take in, foster, and let grow.

Persons from outside are often invited to join a meeting – Anglican bishops, leaders of Protestant denominations as well as catholic theologians, or politicians. Results are published in a scientific magazine, "Nuova Umanitá". Approximately 300 people form a wider circle committed to sincere study of the Foundress' charisma.

Professor Ciardi did not share mere theology or information about a scientific endeavor. Much of the vitality and spirituality alive in the Scuola Abba was shared in an impressive and contagious way. It was obvious that this group lives out of the charisma of Chiara Lubich, and also, their scientific work is ultimately marked by their spirituality - spiritual attitude as "form" of scientific research.

Time was too short for intensive sharing. Future meetings could be marked by sharing of a certain way of theological and generally scientific work marked by a specific spirituality in the spirit of Chiara Lubich, or Father Kentenich. Organic thinking, living and loving as "form" and "method" of working on Father Kentenich's words, ideas, of scientific work in general – a process has been set forth for the Schoenstatt members present.

Highlight in the Founder Chapel

After the intensive work on that afternoon, all joined for a prayer service in the shrine on Mount Moriah, with spontaneous singing and praying. After supper, all went to the Founder Chapel on Mount Schoenstatt – the place where Father Kentenich died on September 15th, 1968, and where thousands from different countries come to be close to him and ask for his intercession. It is also the place where the founders of Fokular and Sant' Egidio spiritually met Father Kentenich on June 10, 1999 at the end of their visit to Schoenstatt. Here, Chiara entrusted the future way of all three movements to the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt.

Silently, the Schoenstatt and Fokular members prayed at this holy place. Then, free prayers of gratitude were expressed. "Only in Assisi I found such a deep love for a founder like here in Schoenstatt," one of the Fokular members prayed. Another one prayed that Father Kentenich with his Father charisma would not only be the Father of the Schoenstatt Family, but also offer his Father Charisma to the other Ecceliastical Movements. The time in the Founder Chapel ended with the prayer, which Chiara had prayed there in 1999, with the renewal of the dedication to Mary, and asking for the blessing for all movements in the entire world.

Translation by: Cousett Ruelas

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