Finding the Source of Easter Joy: "The Lord has Risen!"
Holy Week and Easter in Schoenstatt and all over the World a Time of Deepening the Relationship with Christ
(mkf) Thousands of people experienced a time of deepening their relationships with Christ and finding the source of genuine Easter joy as they came to Schoenstatt Centers all over the world to join in open retreats, liturgies, prayer services and days of reflection during Holy Week and Easter, and to experience a big community of faithful. In Schoenstatt, Germany, young women from Germany and Switzerland, families from Graz, Austria and families from all over Germany, couples preparing for their marriage, a Philippine community from Bonn, Germany and many visitors from all over the world united in the same Easter joy.
Approximately 2,500 people joined in the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter in Nuevo Schoenstatt, Florencio Varela, Argentina, in the church of God the Father. In Bellavista, Chile, as well as at several other Schoenstatt Centers in Chile and Ecuador, open retreats were offered on Good Friday. In Bellavista, "living stations of the cross" with a procession in a wide area around the Shrine were the highlights of this retreat. In Chile, Mexico, Germany, and many other countries, the days around Easter were again a highlight of Schoenstatt Boys' and Girls' Youth retreats. "It was such a life, it was such a joy to experience the religious life of these young girls," said Angie Santos, of Guayaquil, who spent Easter helping with a Girls' retreat. Already on Palm Sunday, the Austin Schoenstatt family had sponsored a meditation on the Stations of the Cross in a parish in Austin. Accompanied by a music group of Schoenstatt members and friends, children, young people and adults presented the meditation with texts from Heavenwards. "We should have these texts for everyone," one participant said. "These texts moved me more than I can express." On Easter Monday, families and children were invited for an Easter party at the International Schoenstatt Center in Waukesha near Milwaukee, with an egg hunt for all. In Querétaro, young people from the Schoenstatt Boys' and Girls' Youth went to the quarters of the poor during Holy Week to share gifts and faith with them, as missionaries of Christ's servant love. "My brothers and my friends came back radiating such a joy," shared Yadira Oceguera, who had taken part in the Easter retreat at the Shrine in Querátaro. "They had a very deep Easter experience."
"It's so beautiful to be Christian!"
A busload of pilgrims from Graz, Austria, arrived on Holy Thursday, among them many young families with children. The group participated in all of the liturgical celebrations in the Adoration Church – the goal of their pilgrimage was to take in the atmosphere of the place of grace and the Schoenstatt family. Schoenstatt Father Elmar Busse of Vienna concelebrated the Holy Mass on that day with Archbishop Paul Cordes, Rome – on a private visit in Schoenstatt – being the main celebrant. He spoke about the Christian dimension of service. Gerdi Kurica, a professional lady from Southern Germany, and her parents were last- minute arrivals for the Holy Mass due to traffic jams. They had a little jubilee – their 10th Easter in Schoenstatt. After the Mass when Father Busse blessed some rosaries for the Austrian pilgrims in the Founder Chapel – the place where Father Kentenich died on September 15, 1968, after Holy Mass and where he is buried - a couple from Buenos Aires, Argentina, came in. Segunda and Alejandro Nolazco, of the 20th course of the Families' Federation in Argentina, silently celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary at this place. They were in Schoenstatt for the second time and left for Rome "to see the Holy Father" on Saturday. "We have six children," Segunda shared with pride, "and all of them belong to Schoenstatt. When I visit our Shrine with the little ones, I place them in my arms, look at the picture of the Blessed Mother, and say, 'As you hold your baby in your arms, I hold mine – and entrust them to you! Keep an eye on them!'" Already on Tuesday, 14 young families with children had arrived in the House of the Families for a Family Easter retreat. The gospel and liturgy of the days marked the program; symbols and practical applications linked the message of the holy days with family life, both for the adults and for the children. "It's so beautiful to be a Christian," said one man who, having grown up without knowing Jesus, was in Schoenstatt for the first time.
A New Joy to Live as a Christian Ever More Intensely
"The way we experienced Easter this year, how we prepared, worked, experienced, lived, mourned, rejoiced, and laughed with Jesus and his loved ones this year, was unique and created a new joy to live as a Christian ever more intensely. To be a Christian, especially with Father Kentenich's inspiration, is a challenge that I want to meet as a father of three. The suffering and the joy in Christ -- that's what I want to pass on to my children as the most precious relationship." The Philippine community from Bonn, Germany, "The Loved Flock," came to pray the stations of the cross in Schoenstatt – 59 people walked up Mount Schoenstatt in spite of snow and cold, expressing their love for Jesus at each station of the cross. Before, they had been in the Adoration Church where they learned about Schoenstatt and Father Kentenich, and in the Founder Chapel. There they wrote the names of their loved ones on sheets of paper and entrusted them and all their intentions to the intercession of Father Kentenich and in gratitude prayed for Schoenstatt and for the canonization of Father Kentenich. The idea for this pilgrimage to Schoenstatt had come from one lady who knew Schoenstatt from occasional visits. Before leaving for home, they met some Malaysian people from Bonn who had also come to Schoenstatt on this day.
At 3:00 PM, the liturgy of Good Friday began with the Adoration Church crowded with people from all over the world. Among them, Anne and Gaëtan Boucharlat de Chazotte, of Lyon, France, with their seven children. They enjoyed the liturgy although they did not understand a word of what was said and prayed. A friend from Chile introduced Schoenstatt to them when they were in Rome. On Holy Saturday, they met with a Schoenstatt family from Vallendar who can speak French.
During his sermon, Father Busse spoke about how to work through experiences of pain, rejection, and suffering in the way of Christ. Quick and passive acceptance – with inner frustration - said, would not be the Christian's nor Christ's way. Starting with practical experiences from human relationships, he highlighted the importance of active acceptance and love, with the perspective of the Easter joy that is each Christian's destination.
The Light of Easter – Illuminating the Darkness Everywhere
At 7:30 PM on Holy Saturday, the Easter fire was lit in front of the Adoration Church. The couples preparing for marriage, the young women from Germany on retreat and the girls from Switzerland on a training seminar, who had their own liturgical celebrations on the other days, participated in the Easter Vigil in the Adoration Church. The Easter candle was carried into the dark church and the light was passed on to all – as a sign of the Easter Light that illuminates every darkness of the world and of personal or family life. Christ's resurrection, Monsignor Zimmerer emphasized in his sermon, would not be an illusion but a reality, the true Light. The Easter candles all over the world would be a testimony to this reality as well as the genuine Easter joy of Christians. During the offering of the gifts, the young couples brought their self-designed marriage candles to the altar – accompanied by the benevolent looks and prayers of the people in the church. By the time all came out of the church, it had begun to snow, creating "White Easter" on Easter morning. The closing song of the festive Easter Mass on Sunday morning was a summary of these Easter days: "Mary, Celebrate and Rejoice – Christ has Risen!"
Fr. Pablo Pol, Argentina, Yadira Oceguera, Querétaro, Mexico, Angela Santos, Ecuador; Sr. Teresa, Wisconsin, USA, Adrienne Kennedy, Texas, USA, and Sr. María Paz, Chile, contributed to this report. Individual reports on some of the events to follow.
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA
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