Thousands of stars speaking of hope, faith, confidence, and love
Christmas 2004 in Schoenstatt
SCHOENSTATT, mkf. "South East Asia", reads a star placed by the crib in Schoenstatt early in the afternoon of the Feast of the Holy Family, December 26, and the other line reads: "all the victims of the deadly floods in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Maldives…" Some 28,000 stars… Some time later, some 600 persons gathered in the Adoration Church for the Ten Minutes by the Crib, prayed for the victims of the sea quake that overshadowed this Christmas, thus sending a spark of love and hope to the countries affected by the most devastating catastrophe of 2004. Children ringing bells and waving stars, children with eyes radiating with awe and joy, bring the message that Christmas is reality in the middle of pain and hurt; Jesus, born a child in the poor manger of Bethlehem, is the savior of the children in danger of life, the jobless persons, the people in prisons and slums, the poor, the homeless, the helpless, the defenseless…
This year, really thousands of "stars" are surrounding the manger in Schoenstatt Bethlehem, maybe more than those that were shining that Holy Night of Bethlehem; stars that in Spanish, English, German, Portuguese, Italian... speak of hope and fear, of faith, solidarity, and confidence. More than 450 mails were sent from 21 countries with each up to 200 names of loved ones, of friends, colleagues, neighbors, to be present this Holy Night in Schoenstatt. On December 24, the stars were placed in the Original Shrine, the Founder Chapel, and finally by the crib in the Adoration Church.
Shepherds and Kings
Like the shepherds and kings 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, people came to find Jesus in Schoenstatt’s Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. For the first time, a Christmas Mass with special involvement of children was offered in Schoenstatt, at 4,30 pm in the Pilgrims’ Church – with some 500 adults and 100 children participating. Phone calls kept coming in until soon before the Christmas Mass started, due to an article in the local newspaper announcing this Christmas Mass. Children were invited to join the entrance procession, carry the Baby Jesus to the altar and later to the manger. At the end of the Holy Mass, the children and all adults who wanted, received a candle, decorated with a bright star, lit at the "Light of Peace from Bethlehem". – Until 23.00 PM, the Original Shrine was open; the Adoration Sisters celebrated early the night the 75th anniversary of the opening of the tabernacle of the Original Shrine for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Perfect divine timing to schedule such a jubilee in the Year of the Eucharist. It was on Christmas Eve 1929, that Father Kentenich opened the tabernacle, thus marking the beginning of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Original Shrine.
At 23.00 PM, when the Original Shrine was closed, the Adoration Church opened for the first visitors of the Christmas Mass to be celebrated at 23.45 PM. People from Vallendar and the surrounding area, people from the Schoenstatt communities, the volunteers of the Schoenstatt World Youth Day Project Office, other young people who are spending some time in Schoenstatt, visitors from Chile, USA, Mexico who had been celebrating a truly international Christmas at House Sonnenau – they all kept filling the Adoration Church. The volunteers from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, USA, and Germany, contributed songs in English and Spanish, readings and petitions in their languages, giving an international touch to the Christmas Mass. Father Duncan McVicar invited all to join the shepherds and kings rushing to the place where Jesus was born, with gifts in our hands … gifts of love and devotion. Father Duncan Mc Vicar’s humorous way of sharing his own joy in Christmas gifts helped to re-understand the tradition of giving gifts – affected both by commercialization as by its moral condemnation - as a genuine biblical way of sharing the joy of Jesus’ birth with family and friends. The story of the nativity play in a town in England, with the three Wise Men or Kings to be all of a sudden replaced by members of the parish, linked Christmas 2004 with come World Youth Day 2005, to which the Wise Men (venerated especially in Cologne) give the theme: We have come to adore him. Father Duncan invited all to identify with that parish member who offered his empty hands as the most precious gift to Jesus, empty hands that he can fill with his gifts. "Do not be afraid to afterwards approach the crib, like the children do, and tell Jesus that you love him and that you offer your empty hands," he encouraged the community.
60th anniversary of Karl Leisner’s first Holy Mass
On December 25, an international Christmas Mass was celebrated in the afternoon on Mount Sion, especially for the volunteers and other young people in Schoenstatt.
December 26, 1944, was the day of Karl Leisner’s first and only mass; ordained December 17, 1944, in the concentration camp in Dachau, December 26 was the first and only time he could celebrate Holy Mass. The 60th anniversary of this moment of grace was celebrated in –Schoenstatt with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel on Mount Moriah, that hosts the altar from Block 26 in Dachau, that saw the ordination and first Mass of Karl Leisner and the many masses that the imprisoned priests celebrated. Some 50 persons came to spend some time of silent prayer, closing with the vespers at 6.00 PM.
Ten minutes by the crib
Some 600 persons at 3.00 PM and some 280 at 4.00 PM made for a powerful start of the "Ten minutes by the crib" starting as usual on December 26, in Germany known as "Second Christmas Day". A young girl o five years, almost daily visitor of the year before, arrived almost one hour earlier, because " this year I definitely must be Mary." – "That is beautiful", commented a young woman who came with two children, "that goes right through you." The hearts of children as well as adults are touched by the mixture of traditional Christmas carols and songs that the smaller children know from kindergarten and grade school, of simple catechetical and meditative texts, the strong involvement of children dressed as shepherds, sheep, stars, kings (or queens), prayers that mention the sorrows and needs that move people today – joblessness, sickness, broken families, news of catastrophes like that in Southern Asia, wars, riots… and the prevailing message of hope and redemption. At the end, with a prayer written by Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, all turn to Mary, the Mother of Peace and Hope, asking her that Christ may be born again in each one’s heart, for all: "for my house, for my city, for my country, for the entire world, for the glory of the Father."
Some already started to write the names of loved ones on the stars before the celebration began; the moment when all were invited to fill in their stars and place them by the crib, like each year, each day is the strongest one. Grandparents and parents who up to then did not stop to take pictures of their little ones, put camera and camcorder aside and fill in stars.
"I came because my mother told me so often about it," a woman from the Frankfurt area commented. "A long time ago I ceased going to services with my little daughter, it is just to stressful to always have to keep her calm or get annoyed comments from others when she runs around. My mother told me that here I can bring her without problems, and it is true. Thank you all for offering this!" – "It’s the first time that we are here", a man from Koblenz said. "My wife read it in the newspapers and we just came to see, it is great!" After the celebration, people move towards the crib to get a glimpse of the many details of the scenery, others pay a visit to the Founder Chapel, where they are offered cards with quotes from Father Kentenich, many also frequent the stand with brochures, novenas, and booklets.
Like each year, the former stable near the Adoration Church, beautifully decorated, receives hundreds of visitors for Christmas tea and cookies – and a nice chat with the Sisters and other visitors.
The "Ten minutes by the crib" are to be continued until January 9. Last year, some 10,000 visitors came and experienced what since 1997 has been the basic idea of this celebration born out of a spontaneous idea of some Schoenstatt Sisters: "All may come to you, Jesus, Child in the manger…"
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