"All may come to you" -
(mkf) With more than 1,300 participants in the crowded Adoration Church in Schoenstatt, and about 400 who did not find a place inside and listened from outside, the "Ten Minutes by the Crib" in Schoenstatt ended on January 7, 2001. "All may come to you" – the introductory line of a prayer from the "Ten Minutes by the Crib" became a reality in this Christmas Season. "All may come to you, Jesus, Child in the crib," even if they have to form long lines and don't find a place in the church. Over 10,000 persons experienced Christmas by the Crib in Schoenstatt during this Christmas season.
Some of those who knew from previous years came already at 1:30 PM. Those who arrived later than 2:50 PM could only enjoy the radiant sunshine and the text and songs from inside the church that were transmitted outside via loudspeakers (or enjoy the tea and cookies offered in the barn). There was actually not one free spot left in the crowded Adoration Church. Since the beginning of the "Ten Minutes by the Crib" celebration on December 26, hundreds of persons had come each day to join in praying and singing and to write the names of their loved ones on a star, thus entrusting them to Jesus, the Child in the crib, and the prayers of the Schoenstatt Sisters.
At least 1,300 persons were in the church on January 7; about 300 – 400 stayed outside or came later. At the end of the day that also marked the end of this Christmas service for this season, approximately 220 gallons of Christmas tea and over 1,000 plates with cookies had been served, thousands of "Good Words for 2001" from Father Kentenich were taken home, and thousands of names were written on stars. Nobody knows what happened in thousands of persons, in hundreds of children who came during these days – for the first time ever or three or four times during one week. "We take this very seriously," said Sr. Mariluis, one of the Adoration Sisters who were busy day in and day out setting up the church for the many visitors. "We will continue to pray for each one who was here and whose name is written on a star. The other sisters join us in praying." People from Argentina, Ecuador, USA, and Chile who read about the stars on the Internet asked that their names and those of loved ones be written on stars and placed by the crib.
Children - Treasure and Hope for Tomorrow
The Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary formed a choir and an orchestra to make this season's final singing by the crib a special event. Already by 2:30 PM, when the church was fuller than for a usual Sunday Mass there, Christmas music with organ and flutes provided a festive and religious atmosphere. "Where are the baskets?" asks a young mother standing by the crib. "We want to fill in our stars now." Children of all ages sat on the steps in the sanctuary of the church, bells and cardboard stars in their hands. Others waited in the back of the church, dressed as shepherds, as Joseph or Mary. For some of the girls who took the role of Mary and for their parents, this was a profound experience. "The last time I saw my daughter that quiet and even-tempered was nine years ago – when she was just born and slept," sighs a young father, at the same time radiating sincere pride. Little Elena did not want to leave after the celebration; she was too small to wear the dress designed for "Mary," but she understood. "I found this snail's shell; it's my favorite treasure. Can I give it to Baby Jesus? Next year when I come again, can I be Mary again? And will my snail's shell still be with Jesus?" – "I don't think I ever saw a church filled with so many young people and children like this," said a man who did not find a place to sit and left the church, not at all annoyed but radiant with joy. "I can't stand for an hour; I'll just go home and come again on another day. Imagine – to find a church too full to stay. There is hope for tomorrow." Dr. Roman Fink, Munich, who designed the documentation and the video presentation in the Father Kentenich-House said, "The nativity scene is enchanting, and when so many children are sitting by the crib, you sense – not just feel, you really sense – that children are a treasure, a human treasure, a treasure for humankind. I hardly ever experienced that as powerfully as I did today. This is the future. To see this future here in Schoenstatt can really change your conviction that it is too late anyway. It is not."
"Through Schoenstatt May the Wide Halls of the Holy Church be Filled Again"
The message is spread by word of mouth in the area around Schoenstatt. During the Christmas season, one should have been in Schoenstatt. Some senior citizens from the Westerwald came three times during the week; in the Weitersburg parish choir's annual assembly last week, the main question was, "Who was already there? And who will go on Sunday?" A Schoenstatt mother heard about the "Ten Minutes by the Crib" on the radio in Karlsruhe, which is about 160 miles from Schoenstatt. "I got into the car and drove there on Saturday. I liked it so much, that I went to House Marienland and asked for a room to stay overnight so I could participate again today!" - "Do you have an idea where to go on Sundays with children?" a man asked his colleague. The spontaneous answer was, "Go to Schoenstatt! They appreciate children and sing carols."
Protestants, and Muslims are among the participants; they feel welcome and a sense of belonging. Many of those who come obviously don't know much about their faith, don't have a place and a home in a church. The simpleness of the texts make them easy to understand by all. "The God in whom you believe must be a loving one," says one young woman who came with two small girls who helped collect stars and bring them to the crib "Thank you for sharing him with me."
The "Ten Minutes by the Crib" service was started in Schoenstatt in 1997 and since then is offered each year from December 26 through the Sunday after Epiphany. Additionally, "crib trips" were offered on several days with an extended program for adults and children.
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA
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