A Place of Grace: 100 Years of Schoenstatt

Approximately 63 kilometres west of Sydney lies a hidden secret, a quiet respite, a place where you can turn your smart phone off for a while and reflect on life. It is a place to think, a place to pray. A Marian Shrine that acts as a bank of graces that Our Lady distributes as required. At the Mt Schoenstatt Spirituality Centre in Mulgoa preparations are underway to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of their foundation this weekend.

The Shrine is a replica of the original Shrine in Schoenstatt, Germany. One of over 200 that have been built around the world over the past 100 years. All will be celebrating the jubilee this weekend. Many from the Schoenstatt Movement and many who simply frequent the Shrine are heading to Germany for the celebrations at the original Shrine too. They travel to Europe, where there are many 100 year anniversaries occurring. World War I broke out that same year.

What is the Schoenstatt Movement?


The Schoenstatt Catholic Movement was founded on the 18th of October 1914, it is not a coincidence that 2014 is also the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I. Schoenstatt’s founder, Fr Joseph Kentenich’s initial steps toward creating this order were born out of his response to an eminent war that he knew would prematurely take the lives of many of his high school students. He was the spiritual director to these young men.

He knew that they would soon be conscripted to take arms for Germany and he knew how the horrors of war could affect a young soldier and that the mortality rate would be high. He felt they needed a protector, a guide, someone who would always be there for them, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the predicament. Someone that would especially be there at their hour of death. However and whenever that may be. That person was Our Lady, Our Mother Mary. She is honoured in the Shrine as the “Mother Thrice Admirable”.

Fr Kentenich was a saintly man. His spirituality and wisdom led to inspired writings and some amazing acts. He spent three years as a prisoner at Dachau Concentration Camp. He willingly allowed himself to be arrested by the Nazi regime, having ignored the pleas of well-intentioned friends who advised him to leave Germany before his arrest. After much contemplation and prayer, Fr Kentenich believed it was God’s will for him to be incarcerated.

MTA.jpgThere are stories of how he would sacrifice for his fellow prisoners by giving them what little food he was given, in an environment of poor hygiene and starvation. He himself going without enough food, yet never losing his priestly demeanour, never far from Mary’s graces. He had a very close relationship with Our Lady, having consecrated himself to her care as a young boy.

In the early stages leading up to the creation of Schoenstatt there was a joint decision with a core group of young men in his spiritual care to create a Shrine for Our Lady and to consecrate themselves to her under a Covenant of Love. They were given permission to convert a garden shed which used to be a small chapel into a Shrine and the rest is history.
Unlike other Marian Shrines this Shrine was not a result of visitations of Mary such as in Fatima or Lourdes, but rather it was built to honour her and was an invitation for her to use to distribute God’s graces. To which she has generously obliged.

Graces Around the World, Even Australia and New Zealand

All the Schoenstatt Shrines offer anyone who visits an abundance of graces. I have grown to love the Shrine in Mulgoa, the only one I’ve visited. I recently spent some time filming some projects there in preparation for the Jubilee celebrations in Germany and was surprised by how busy the Shrine is during the day. I thought I would have free reign to film peacefully in the Shrine on a week day but rather found there was a constant stream of visitors. A pleasant problem to encounter. Visitors are from all walks of life and from a multitude of cultures. It is a place of pilgrimage with a strong spiritual connection to the other Shrines around the world.

I highly recommend anyone to visit, Catholic or non-Catholic, all are welcome. For young adults there is an initiative called Shrine Time, from 7.30pm to 8.30pm, on the fourth Sunday of each month, a Holy Hour involving prayer, reflection, praise, worship and Benediction followed by a social gathering.

The promotional video that I worked on will be released soon. The testimonies from the young men and women on camera are quite inspiring. So if you are tired and weary of the busyness of life, if you have anything you need to contemplate on or require graces for or are simply curious about Schoenstatt Spirituality, we are fortunate to have three Shrines in Australia that you can visit. There are Shrines in Mulgoa, Sydney, in Mt Richon, Western Australia and in Victoria there is the first Schoenstatt Shrine built in Australia in Kew. In New Zealand, icons of Our Mother Thrice Admirable, an image which lies at the heart of the Schoenstatt Movement, travel from place to place. Visit the Schoenstatt website for more details. Of course there are also the other 200 or so around the world. Make sure you visit if you ever find yourself close to any of them.

EWTN will be telecasting the Jubilee celebrations from Germany from 1 am on Sunday the 19th. For more information, visit www.schoenstatt.org.au. You can also follow one of the pilgrims from Sydney heading to Germany, Patrick Lee on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.

Photo credits: Image of Mother Thrice Admirable in the Shrine by Miguel Zaragoza. Image of statue of founder Fr Joseph Kentenich facing the Shrine in Mulgoa by Florence Jouvie.

Miguel is a filmmaker specialising in visual effects and animation. He studied at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School (AFTRS) where he now teaches casually for their Open Program for kids and teens. He established Level Eleven Media in 2011 and has worked on a variety of short films, music videos and corporate shoots. He has a deep passion for animation and all films that make an impact! He loves the craft of storytelling from script to screen. He can be found at his local public school teaching catechism to kids on Tuesday mornings. He finds it extremely awkward referring to himself in the third-person narrative so will now stop doing so.

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