A Genuine Place of Grace
God favors places as early as in Old Testament times (Mount 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 relationship with each person. 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 one of these genuine places of grace. In the months and years after Father Kentenich proposed the original covenant with Mary, inviting her to come and dwell there, he carefully observed the life around the shrine for signs of Mary’s genuine activity in the spirit of the Founding Document. This proved itself in the support which the founding generation, as soldiers in World War I, experienced from Mary in the shrine, as well as the formation of these young men whose lives revealed true and heroic sanctity (Joseph Engling in particular).
In the years since 1914, many have repeatedly observed that the shrine is a truly a place of grace, especially regarding 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 and actively dwell in the shrine as Mother and Educator. This is precisely what is known as the covenant of love upon which Schoenstatt was founded. The life of the shrine depends entirely on this covenant. Schoenstatt’s unique 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 so-to-say nourished by the 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 awareness of knowing that Mary totally accepts me and gives me a home in her heart and in her shrine. On the natural level, such things as the small size and homey atmosphere of the shrine help to make this a vital experience. On the supernatural level, Mary’s motherly presence is sensed as one who accepts each person just as he or she is.
The fact that the daughter shrines are all replicas of the Original Shrine enhances the sense of being at home. Pilgrims who travel from one daughter shrine to another feel at home right away because the soul recognizes the familiar spirit through the familiar forms. The picture of Mary with her divine Son allows this grace to be further extended, for even this one point of familiarity helps the soul to rapidly feel at home in the shrine and with the Schoenstatt Family.
The Grace of Inner Transformation.
The grace of inner transformation is a fruit of Mary’s intercession as mother and educator in the shrine. She not only makes us feel at home on a natural level, but she also encourages us to become disciples of Christ interiorly transformed from within. In Schoenstatt, this grace is asked for in conjunction with each one’s efforts to educate self and others, building on the awareness that our efforts are necessary but also the realization that without the help of grace, the full formation of the new person in the new community is impossible.
The Grace of Apostolic Fruitfulness
The first two pilgrimage graces culminate in the third: the grace of the apostolic fruitfulness. When the soul is completely at home and knows it is totally 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.