Go with us, Mary — Feast of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Shrine Campaign
Faith Touching and Transforming Every Day Life
(mkf) It happens in Berlin and Hildesheim, in Arnstadt and Spaichingen, in Gymnich and Munich, in Soest and in Simmern — and in more than 900 other cities of Germany: Jesus and Mary are welcomed in the homes of 32,000 or so families. On May 27, 2000, 1,800 people from all over Germany came to Schoenstatt to join the Feast of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Shrine Campaign.
Some started at 3:00 am to participate in this feast. From all directions, cars and busses arrived in Schoenstatt, and people began to file into the Pilgrims' Church. Everywhere you saw these typical blue bags with the Schoenstatt logo, containing a Pilgrim Shrine: a picture of the Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt in a shrine-shaped wooden frame. In pilgrim shrines like these, Jesus and Mary are visiting 4 millions of families in 45 countries. United with all of them, the participants in Schoenstatt celebrated this feast of joy and faith - with radiant sunshine, although incessant rain was predicted.
Representatives of the German dioceses gathered in front of the Pilgrims' Church, carrying signs of their dioceses and Schoenstatt flags. Rottenburg-Stuttgart with the biggest number of pilgrim shrines was present as well as dioceses like Hamburg, Berlin, and Hildesheim, with small Schoenstatt communities and few Catholics and Christians. Girls from Speyer carried a flag of the Holy Year. While the flags of all those countries with Pigrim Shrines stood in the church, the flags from Germany and Brazil - the country where the Pilgrim Shrine Campaign began - were carried into the church for the festive entry.
A Procession and a Surprise
Some songs had been sung, the participants were welcomed. Outside of the church, children waited with flags and baskets with flowers, and the flag carriers. Meditative music began. The procession began in total silence. Then, some whispering, and applause, increasing, as more and more persons realized that the most important persons of this feast came with this procession: Jesus and Mary in a big Pilgrim Shrine — decorated with red roses, carried by four men. The music changed to "Praise the Lord", the applause became louder and louder, while the procession made it's way through the church — while outside the dark clouds seemed to be blown away and the sun broke forth. The big pilgrim shrine was placed in the middle by the altar. Jesus and Mary had come, the feast could begin.
Sr. Marié greeted the priests present - among them Father Beller, and Father Rummel, the director of the Original Shrine, and the Vallendar mayor, Herr Helbach. How does the mayor of Vallendar feel on such a day? "Schoenstatt is Vallendar, and I am proud to be the mayor of Schoenstatt. Because of Schoenstatt, Vallendar is know in the whole world — more than Koblenz! I am glad that so many people come here, and that Vallendar is also part of Schoenstatt — with the MTA picture in the city hall, and in the public kindergarten."
Pictures of Fr. Kentenich, and João Pozzobon, were brought to complete the scenery around the big pilgrim shrine, followed by a dance performed by girls from the Speyer diocese to the tune of the "Magnificat".
Her Gentle Power Reaches to the Ends of the Earth
After a short break, several persons gave witness about Jesus and Mary working in their lives and their parishes. Whenever the Mary came in the pilgrim shrine, one mother shared, she entrusted her teenage son to her. He took part in an exchange program and spent a year in New Zealand. She was worried, and experienced that Mary really took care. This helped her accept her second youngest wish to also spend a year abroad — and helped when her youngest one was in hospital with brain tumor. "We had practiced to entrust everything to Mary when she visited with us. That helped to now entrust her our son. We often went to hospital's house chapel and prayed there."
She wanted to thank the Blessed Mother for her help during her husband's time in the hospital in very critical condition. Life with three small kids had to go on. She shared how it helped her to know that the others prayed for her husband. "He recovered; he does not speak about religion. But whenever the pilgrim shrine is with us, he says: 'Fine, the Blessed Mother is here again!'"
A woman who started two groups in Dorsten shared that first she was not excited at all with the idea of the pilgrim shrine — her pastor had asked her to get it started. But meanwhile, she experienced so much that she would not miss on Mary's monthly visit. One of the groups would not go on, but she had already won nine other families to continue.
Moritz Haller, of the Arnstadt youth band, a member of a pilgrim shrine group of youth, shared: "I always take her to my room and place her where I see her when I fall asleep and wake up. That helps to think of praying a morning prayer or night prayer. Really, my relationship with God got deeper since she came."
One lady shared about a May benediction with more than 100 mostly young participants - an initiative based on the contacts through the pilgrims shrines.
Grass Root Renewal
The Dambacher family from Illerberg are pilgrim shrine experts - they got the Campaign started in 60 cities in their diocese. After they had initiated 30 groups in their own parish, they called the pastors of the neighboring parishes, inviting themselves to speak to parish councils. "We were terribly nervous, but we did it, because our home shrine's name is: 'Build from here a world which is pleasing to the Father'." They met a pastor who was absolutely secure it would not work in his parish. They felt their presentation had not been too great. Then, soon later, a call from this pastor: "We need 22 shrines!" An other pastor called the campaign a grass root renewal of his parish. The Dambacher's added: "It is such a joy to see how she is working!" Constance, a 7th-grader, gave the final testimony: "She always smiles at me, and that's cool!"
Who receives many gifts wants to thank and return gifts. All were invited to write their gifts to Jesus and Mary — joy, intentions, sacrifices, sorrows, loved ones — on slips of paper. Then, all walked forth and put their "gifts" into big jars. After a short meditative prayer preparing for the visit of the Original Shrine, thank was given to the many volunteers. Special thanks were given to Herr Hartmann who had crafted almost 3,000 wooden frames, to Frau Rosenberger for sewing exactly 2,135 bags, to Herr Jehle for framing the pilgrim shrines, and to Frau Thanner, a florist, who had decorated the church.
Encounters, Prayers, and Radiant Sunshine
When leaving the church, many stood in amazement: radiant sunshine, a picture perfect summer day. Weather forecasts had said: rain all day. "We prayed for good weather," said one Schoenstatt Sister. "I did not bring an umbrella along!" By the Pilgerheim, a catering firm served snacks, and along the way, souvenirs could be bought — ginger bread hearts with 'I go with you' the ultimate highlight.
Spontaneous talking, welcomes all around. The first group went to the Original Shrine for a prayer service, others had lunch, the other groups went to the Original shrine some time later. For many of the participants, this was the first time to see this place of grace.
Beginning at 2:00pm, alternative programs were offered on Mount Schoenstatt and in the valley. Many went to Mount Schoenstatt to visit the Founder Chapel, and Father Kentenich House, watch a video about Schoenstatt, listen to Sr. Petra who shared about Father Kentenich, or just walk around. In the valley, discussion groups took place, Herr Arendes shared about João Pozzobon, common and silent prayer times, and confession, were welcome alternatives.
Some just walked around, paid a short visit to the Original Shrine, talked with new friends. A joyful, relaxed atmosphere all around.
Radiant Centers of Christ's Love
At 3:15 p.m., the festive Holy Mass began in the Pilgrims' church. Several local Schoenstatt members and visitors joined, among them an engineer from Brasilia, Brazil: "I live close to the new shrine," he shared. "I took part in a workshop in Nuremberg and am to leave for Brazil tomorrow. Of course I wanted to visit Schoenstatt. I did not expect something like that!"
"It was hard today to see a melancholic face," Father Beller said at the beginning of the Holy Mass. "Now it's definitely impossible." Father Strada, and Fr. Rummel, and Fr. Egle concelebrated, along with several priests from parishes with pilgrim shrines.
In his sermon, Fr. Beller spoke about the process that takes place with Mary regularly visiting. "If you know someone very well, and meet this person after some time, you enjoy this. Nothing is new — the same person, unchanged. But what is, becomes new. The very moment of meeting, of encountering, of seeing each other again, is beautiful. That's why the regular visits — Mary comes, she goes, and come again — mean so much. "She comes, she comes again — and each time she comes, it is like a feast." When the Blessed Mother would come more often, she would get to like us and we get to like her. "And as she leaves, she stays a little bit longer — in an inner unity." Some would then like to erect a home shrine. And finally, those who grow in their love to Mary, feel motivated to do something for her, and for others. And thus, the friends of the Blessed Mother in Schoenstatt would become her co-workers, and the homes radiant centers of Christ's radiant love. All these houses would be united among each other, and with the Original Shrine in Schoenstatt.
Father Rummel, then, blessed the flag for the Jubilee Year. For the offering, Pilgrim shrine #1, #1,000, #2,000, and #3,000 were brought to the altar, as well as the jars with the gifts, and bread and wine. Before the blessing, all took their pilgrim shrines and formed a "net", holding hands. The blessing of the new pilgrim shrines was extended to all the houses and homes visited by Jesus and Mary in a Pilgrim Shrine, all over the world..
A fire was lit in front of the Pilgrims' Church, and the "gifts" from the jars were burnt. Girls sang Marian songs and invited all those who had not to leave to sing along. "We have to go, it's 6 hours to drive. When we come here next time, we'll stay for a whole weekend." — "We were here for the first time. It's overwhelming!"