Why Schoenstatt Gave Our Lady a New Crown
Last week the International Schoenstatt Movement crowned the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “Queen of Spiritual and Physical Health”. Erin Carelse found out what that means.
In the midst of the worldwide coronavirus crisis, the International Schoenstatt Family Movement crowned the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “Queen of Spiritual and Physical Health”.
The simple Mass was streamed live from the original shrine in Germany, where the movement was founded in 1914.
Many South African Catholics followed the livestream as Schoenstatt has a significant presence in this country, especially in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Queenstown. It was not lost on anybody watching that “corona” means “crown”.
The coronaviruses take their name from the shape of the virus, which resembles a crown. Schoenstatt founder Fr Joseph Kentenich often crowned the Blessed Mother at various crucial points in the history of his life’s work and in moments of great difficulty, calling on her to protect her children in times of need, and entrusting impossible situations into her care and prayers.
Sarah-Leah Pimentel, a member of the Schoenstatt Family Movement, explained that a trend began to emerge within the International Schoenstatt Movement, which largely comprises Spanish speaking Latin America, to crown Mary as the queen of the virus. The hashtag #CoronaMater (meaning “Crown Mother”) began to trend and became a worldwide cry.
“The crowning was a moment to pray for all those who have been affected by the coronavirus: those who have fallen ill and those who have died; frontline workers in hospitals caring for the sick; world leaders who are faced with very difficult decisions that will impact the health and finances of millions; those who suffer isolation and fear at home; those who were unable to bury their dead; those who do not know how they will feed their families as the global economy grinds to a halt,” said Ms Pimentel.
A personal coronation
She noted that it was also a moment of personal crowning. “Each family watching at home from their homes was also asked to crown the Blessed Mother in their home shrines,” she said.
It is a Schoenstatt concept that the graces we receive in the physical shrine are also present in our homes, where we set up a prayer corner and ask Mary and Jesus to be present. “Some people had small crowns that they used for the crowning ceremony. Others made paper or cardboard crowns, or crowns made of flowers, or a picture,” explained Ms Pimentel, who is also a monthly Southern Cross columnist.
She pointed out that #CoronaMater is not just a symbolic act. “It is a tangible act of faith, fully entrusting this virus, the world’s health, and our own families to the Blessed Mother,” she said. “In our powerlessness, God the Father is all-powerful. In our vulnerability, the Holy Spirit gives us the courage and faith to face our frailty. In our isolation and inability to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, Jesus comes into our homes and fills us with spiritual graces. In our fear, Mother Mary covers us with her mantle, protecting us from anxiety,” she said.
Schoenstatt vs Nazis
Sr Connie O’Brien, the South African Schoenstatt Movement coordinator, explained that the first crowning took place at the original shrine in Germany in 1939.
“During Fr Kentenich’s incarceration in the Dachau concentration camp [from 1942-45], when many were dying of starvation, he crowned Our Lady as the ‘Queen of Bread’, and some lives were in fact saved when food parcels were smuggled through shortly afterwards,” she explained.
Already in the 1930s, Fr Kentenich had foreseen the dangers that lay ahead for Schoenstatt since it was in direct opposition to Nazism. “He sent Sisters out to South Africa and South America. Replicas of the original shrine in Germany were erected in other countries,” she added.
“During his time of exile in Milwaukee [1951-65] another ‘spiritual breakthrough’ occurred with the development of the ‘home shrines’.” Sr O’Brien said an organic life process ensued, with many wanting to take the experience of the shrine into their own homes. Thus they developed a place of prayer in their homes where they could experience the graces of being a domestic church. “Mary was called upon to be the Educator of Families.
Since some families were feeling helpless in the face of the many challenges that confronted them with regard to their children’s education, their marriages and financial concerns they thought about crowning Our Lady in all their needs,”
Sr O’Brien explained. Thus their home shrines became places of refuge, support and hope for many in their difficulties, she said. “It became a pastoral opportunity for faith to grow within the family, spearheaded by the parents who were motivated by ideals flowing out of their covenant of love with Mary.” On May 31, 2015, the Zimbabwean Schoenstatt Family, after a nine-week novena, crowned Mary as Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen of Africa.
On October 18, 2014, the International Schoenstatt Family crowned Mary as Queen of the Covenant of Love at their centenary celebrations in Germany attended by 15 000.
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