All may come to you.... and they come: from Vallendar, Bendorf, and Bragado
"Ten minutes by the Crib" opened on December 26 with more children than ever present on this day
SCHOENSTATT, mkf. It's hard to imagine that only a couple of years ago, Schoenstatt on December 26th – "second Christmas Day", public holiday in Germany – was almost deserted, with only a few insiders or stray hikers ending up at the beautiful crib in the Adoration Church. How different the scene since in 1997 the "Ten minutes by the crib" started. "All may come to you, Jesus, child in the manger," was and is the motto – and they come in growing numbers: from Bendorf, Vallendar, Koblenz, and the broader environs of Schoenstatt, young parents with their babies on their shoulders, grandparents with their grandchildren taken by the hands… This year, they also came from Bragado in Argentina and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, from Eagle Pass in Texas, and Curitiba, Brazil: hundreds of persons had used the internet to make themselves and their loved ones present by the crib in Schoenstatt.
December 26, 2002: it's raining not really hard, but constantly, with temperature just around unpleasant. "Maybe it's because of neither sledging nor hiking being possible on a day like that," one of the Schoenstatt Sisters attending the visitors remarked as she noticed the big number of young parents with small, really small children approaching the church short before 3:00 PM. Many of the children already know the procedure and rush into the back part of the church, where within minutes they change to be angels and stars, shepherds and kings, Mary and Joseph. Others receive big yellow-red cardboard hand stars that they wave to the tones of well known, traditional Christmas Carols, or bells to accompany the music.
"This is Christmas for me"
"We saw the queue of cars and just followed, thinking something must go on there," a middle-aged couple said. They did not know about the "Ten minutes by the crib" but decide to come again and bring others. This is how it works – word of mouth spreads in doctor's surgeries, in the supermarket, kindergartens, parishes…Others learn about the "Ten minutes" via Internet, newspaper, of the local radio stations. Most of the participants come from nearby – Vallendar, Bendorf, Koblenz, Simmern, Altenkirchen -, but also from places far like Cologne, Bonn, Aachen, Mainz, or Trier. A young Philippine Schoenstatt Sister asked two little boys whether they want to take hand stars and join the other kids that were already sitting at the steps of the altar. They don't understand her… and respond in Spanish. Together with their parents, and two younger siblings, these two little Argentinean boys who live in England with their family have spent Christmas in Schoenstatt. Visitors from South Africa, Mexico, and Ecuador also came on this day.
"This is Christmas for me," one of the many volunteers said between dressing a little girl as star and saving a little king's crown from falling to the ground. "To show others the love that we Christians celebrate on Christmas." Martina Rasch, from Meerbusch, a home economist in "normal life", is for the third time spending her vacation in Schoenstatt to manage the children's program. "I can hardly imagine to miss it, it is such a joy!" Since the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary started the "Ten Minutes by the Crib" in 1997, not only the number of visitors grew. For a long time, it's not only the Schoenstatt Sisters who are active in this Christmas apostolate; volunteers from many Schoenstatt branches are involved – and with enthusiasm. "Without the many cookies donated by Schoenstatt mothers and others, we could not do it," Sr. Anne-Meike Brück, the head manager of the "Ten minutes by the crib", admits.
Yet, it is about not only Christmas tea and cookies, and the joy of the little ones. It is about sharing the essential message of Christmas: God has made himself a friend of each human being with his birth in the poor stable of Bethlehem, for ever and for everyone. Because each person is precious in his eyes, nobody needs to stay aside. God came as a child so nobody needs to be afraid, to be perfect, to be successful.
Four bishops and 600 Brazilians by the crib – and the Pope came on December 27
It's always a special moment, when the visitors are invited to fill in the little yellow paper stars with the names of loved ones. When the closing part of the "Ten minutes", the Christmas caroling, is almost over, you still see children, young people and adults filling in the stars. Children collect the stars in baskets and place them by the crib, but many adults go there on their own, some staying for some quiet moments of dialogue with the Divine child… This year, there already was a basket with several hundred stars standing by the crib, hours before the "Ten minutes" began. Before, these stars – along with some bigger stars with hundreds of names – on Christmas Eve had been in the Original Shrine, and then in the Founder Chapel.
"I am moved to know that our names were on these stars in our beloved original Schoenstatt," wrote Azucena and Victor Duarte from Asunción, Paraguay. More than 600 Brazilians were there, name by name sent through Sr. M. Nilza, who had spread the news shared on schoenstatt.de on the website of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother Campaign in Brazil. Together with them, four bishops, more than 50 parish priests, a Convent of Benedictine Fathers and another one of Franciscan brothers, "the whole Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign from Texas", all the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary from Argentina… and, on December 27, the Pope! He also had his star by the crib, thanks to Irene Rodriguez from Eagle Pass, Texas. Mariza Mendizábal from Bragado, Argentina, saw the first pictures of the "Ten minutes" on December 26, and wrote: "Thinking that our names were on these stars is really moving!" – "You can't imagine how grateful we are that the name of our family was with the Mother in our Original Shrine," wrote Mayita Ochagavía, from Chile, "How small is the world, when we can communicate without knowing each other, in the name of God who became Child. With him, the frontiers between the countries have ceased to matter."
Midnight Mass with great influx of people
The traditional Midnight Mass in the Adoration Church on Christmas Eve, December 24, already had attracted many people to Schoenstatt. With a big number of Schoenstatt Fathers concelebrating, Monsignor Zimmerer, Director General of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, lead the celebration. Like each year, the procession of the priests to the crib, after the gospel, was the highlight of the Mass. With the congregation singing "Silent Night, Holy Night", Monsignor Zimmerer entrusted all people and the world peace to the Prince of Peace in the crib. A big wooden rosary by the crib reminds of the Year of the rosary.
Soon before the Mass began, a women came to the crib and placed her Pilgrim Mother picture right in front of Baby Jesus… linking in a tremendously organic way the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem with the big new visitation of Mary through the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother Rosary Campaign, bringing Christ to the houses and families, to the prisons and hospitals, in airplanes and taxis, to the ends of the earth.
Christmas Tea, Cookies, and Joyful Socializing
With the opening of the "Ten Minutes by the Crib" on December 26, also the old barn near the Adoration Church opened again for the hundreds and hundreds of visitors who before and after the "Ten minutes" (that actually are 30…) go there for a Christmas tea, cookies, and joyful socializing.
In the small shop and cafeteria, Sr Astrid and some volunteers offer coffee, cake, books, and souvenirs for the visitors.
In the Father Kentenich House, from December 26, a multi-faceted program is offered for adults and children: a radio drama for children, a drawing competition, video clips for children, and for adults. For January 6, and 7, kindergarten teachers will come with all of the children from their kindergartens. "You can really come here with children," an elderly woman said on leaving, "I'll come back and bring my grandchildren along."
The "Ten minutes by the crib" will be offered each day at 3:00 PM, and 4:00 PM, until January 8, 2003.
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