A Genuine Place of Grace
God favors places as early as in Old Testament times (Mt Sinai, the Temple in Jerusalem etc.). The early Church soon discovered a special effectiveness of God’s action in the places of Jesus’s life and the resting places of the martyrs. The veneration of holy places and the establishment of places of grace remains an important feature of Christianity until today.
God’s aim is to establish a personal covenant with man. Observation of how God works (such as in the Old Testament) makes it clear that He is not satisfied with calling us in a general way, but calling us to commitment through privileged times and places.
Although God is everywhere, He often chooses certain places to show His presence and action in a special way, often through Maryand the saints. Such places are called places of grace, pilgrimage places or shrines.
Founded in an Act of Invitation
It is Schoenstatt’s conviction that the Shrine is a genuine place of grace. In the months and years after Fr. Kentenich proposed the original covenant with Mary, inviting her to come to dwell there, he carefully observed the life around the Shrine for signs of genuine activity of Mary in the spirit of the Founding Document; the interior support from Mary in the Shrine which many experienced as soldiers in World War I; the formation of young men whose lives showed true and heroic sanctity (especially Joseph Engling).
In the years since 1914 many of the faithful have repeatedly observed that the Shrine is a place of grace, especially in the area of the three “graces of the Shrine” –the grace of a home, of inner transformation, and of apostolic fruitfulness.
Schoenstatt was founded in an act of invitation: the earthly partners offered their striving for sanctity and the heavenly partner (Mary) was asked to come to actively dwell in the Shrine as Mother and Educator. This is precisely the “Covenant of Love” upon which Schoenstatt was founded. The life of the Shrine depends entirely on this covenant and Schoenstatt’s unique kind of Marian consecration is inseparable from the Shrine and its graces. Every covenant of love with the MTA is therefore connected to the Shrine, at least spiritually, and the Shrine is nourished by the life of covenant of love of all who are attached there.
The three graces of pilgrimage are the most typical graces received by any pilgrim to the Schoenstatt Shrine.
The Grace of Home
The grace of home is the grace of knowing that Mary totally accepts me and gives me a home in her heart and in her Shrine. This is communicated on the natural level by such things as the small size end homey atmosphere of the Shrine. It is communicated on the supernatural level through the motherly presence of Mary, who accepts each person just as he or she is.
The Grace of Inner Transformation.
The grace of inner transformation ties to Mary’s work as Mother and Educator in the Shrine. She not only makes us feel at home, but also works to make us Disciples of Christ that are more complete by transforming us from within. In Schoenstatt this grace ask for in conjunction with each one’s efforts to educate self and others, building on the realization that our effort is necessary but also the realization that without the assistance of grace, the full formation of the newman in the new community is impossible.
The Grace of Apostolic Fruitfulness
The first two graces of pilgrimage culminate in the third: the grace of the apostolic fruitfulness. When the soul is completely at home (knows it is completely accepted) and deeply transformed (made free from the many things which make it fearful and hesitant to spread the Gospel), it is able to be more fully effective as an instrument of God, allowing it to attain a high degree of apostolic fruitfulness.