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Apostolic Movement


Frequently Asked Questions

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Schoenstatt is a Catholic movement that lives the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is inspired by charisms that define its identity and mission and a history if Blessings and fuitfulness in keeping with a special initiative of God. To understand Schoenstatt, one can consider it as a movement of renewal, a place of grace and a unique spirituality within the Church. 

Father Josef Kentenich (1885-1968) is Schoenstatt’s founder. He was born on November 16, 1885, in Gymnich, Germany.

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The Church’s teaching on merits and our possibility to cooperate in Christ’s work of salvation (see Col 1, 24: “In my own flesh I make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church”) encourages us to actively strive for sanctity and make ourselves available for the building up of the Kingdom. 

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God’s typical way of touching the pilgrims to the Schoenstatt Shrine is summarized by the three “graces of the Shrine”

  1. The grace of home,
  2. The grace of inner transformation
  3. The grace of apostolic zeal or fruitfulness.


These graces refer to blessings commonly experienced by those who come to the Shrine and pray there. The first is feeling of being at home. Many first-time pilgrims are impressed by feeling of home that can only be explained by the motherly presence of the Blessed Mother. A frequent experience made by members who travel abroad is to suddenly feel totally at home the moment they enter a Shrine, even though land and language may be totally foreign to them; the exact replica them feel at home in unfamiliar surroundings.

The grace of inner transformation refers to effect of the Shrine, especially on those who take seriously Mary’s power as Educator. Many have felt their lives changed for the better through the influence of Mary in the Shrine.

The grace of apostolic zeal or fruitfulness enables one to share the faith or give witness to it in a way that not only changes one’s own life, but the lives of others as well. As the center of an apostolic movement of renewal, the Schoenstatt Shrine is also an “epicenter” of sorts for apostolic efforts great and small.


Frequently Ask Questions

“Schoenstatt” is named after its place of origin: the little Schoenstatt Valley in the Rhine region of west-central Germany. It is just east of Vallendar on the Rhine, a small city about 6 km (4 miles) north of Koblenz. Schoenstatt is some 90 km (60 miles) south of Cologne and about the same distance west of Frankfurt.

The word “Schoenstatt” comes from German for “beautiful” (schoen) and “place” (statt). The earliest known reference to this valley is found in a historical document from year 1143, where it is called “eyne schoene statt”, that is, a beautiful place.

A movement is a broad current in society inspired by common cause or charism, usually motivated by the desire to reform, renew or defend some aspect of life. It can be inspired by a political or secular cause, such as the labor movement, feminist or civil rights movement. Or it can be inspired by spiritual or religious cause, such a liturgical movement or a biblical movement of the 20th Century Catholic Church or the revival movement of 19th Century Protestant America.

The last 100 years have been outstanding in their development of ecclesial movements.

These include; Schoenstatt (Germany, 1914), Taizé (France, 1940),  Focolare (Italy, 1943), Cursillo (Spain 1949), Communion and Liberation (Italy, 1954), Catholic Charismatic Renewal (USA, 1967), St. Egidio (Italy, 1968), Marriage Encounter (USA, 1968), and any more.

They have especially proliferated since Vatican Council II (1962-1965), reflecting new initiatives on the part of the Holy Spirit to engage the whole Church in its work of renewing the world.

Schoenstatt began on October 18, 1914. Although not formally constituted as the “Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt” until 1919 and 1920, the essential character of the covenant of love and the Shrine makes October 18, 1914 the founding day of the movement.

Fr. Kentenich’s importance to his work was something that grew gradually. In the early years, he deliberately remained in the background, advocating the leadership of many co-workers. Still, his personal contact was extensive: he personally knew thousands of members, and he specially knew the leaders.

His arrest by the Nazis in 1941 and his decision of January 20, 1942 (convinced that God called him to go to the concentration camp), thrust him and his importance as founder much more into the awareness of his work. This role was tested and clarified in the years of his exile in Milwaukee, making it clear that authentic Schoenstatt cannot exist without a genuine attachment to the founder.

In the time since his death in 1968, Schoenstatt members have rediscovered Fr. Kentenich in his ongoing importance for the movement. His guidance is sought in many questions – through prayer, study of his writings, return to witness from his life.

In Schoenstatt, one speaks of three contact points, or main relationships, which are needed to fully grasp and grow into the life of the movement. They are sometimes called the “three H’s”.

  • Head – Father Kentenich
  • Heart – the Mother Thrice Admirable, and
  • Home – the Shrine.

Mary, the Mother of God, is venerated in Schoenstatt under the title Mother, Thrice Admirable, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt.  This is often shortened to “Mother Thrice Admirable” or even “MTA”

The Title developed in three phases:

  1. The founding generation gave Mary the title “Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt” in 1915
  2. With the solemn crowing of the Mother Thrice Admirable in the Original Shrine in 1939, the title was expanded to “Mother Thrice Admirable and Queen   of Schoenstatt”
  3. In the final years of his life, Fr. Kentenich saw growing importance of acknowledging Mary’s many victories, including the resolution of the difficulties with Church during his exile. Hence the addition of the title “Victress”, which the founder solemnly presented to the MTA in a special act on June 2, 1966.

The title “Mother Thrice Admirable” originated with a Jesuit priest, Fr. Jacob Rem (1546-1618). Fr. Rem worked with the Marian Sodality in the renowned Jesuit school in Ingolstadt, Germany, where formed so-called “Marian Colloquium” in 1595 to inspire the most motivated students to the highest aims of sanctity. In 1604, he had the illumination that the favorite title of Mary in the litany of Loreto was Mater Admirabilis (“Mother Most Admirable”). This was confirmed in a vision he had while the students sang the litany, during which he signed the choir to sing this three times. With began the local tradition of praying this invocation in the litany not once but three times, and the students named their Marian image the Mater ter Admirabilis or Mother thrice Admirable.

In 1915, Fr. Kentenich came across a book by Fr. Franz Hattler, S.J. about Fr. Rem and the Marian Colloquium. The students in Schoenstatt felt this captured their spirit and longing perfectly: they wanted to develop a strong fervor that showed itself in both self-education and apostolate, and just as Ingolstadt had proved the motor of Catholic renewal of an earlier era, they wanted to be the instruments for another great Catholic renewal. In this spirit they chose Mater ter Admirabilis as the title for their image of Mary, too – adding “of Schoenstatt” to distinguish it from the “Mother Thrice Admirable of Ingolstadt” – and soon affectionately called her the “MTA”.

Fr. Kentenich further interpreted the title on many occasions to highlight important features of Mary and her mission:

  1. Admirable as Mother of God, Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the redeemed;
  2. Admirable in her power, in her kindness and in her faithfulness
  3. Admirable as daughter of the Father, Mother and bride of the Eternal Word, and vessel and shrine of the Holy Spirit;
  4. Admirable in her faith, love and hope, etc.

Schoenstatt did not have a picture for its shrine until April 1915, when one of the teachers in the school, Fr. Huggle, gave the students a lithograph print of a Madonna and Child in an octagonal frame. He knew of their need, saw this picture in a shop, and purchased it as a gift for the boys for some 23 Marks. It was placed in the Shrine on or shortly before April 30, 1915 and given the title “Mother Thrice Admirable” shortly thereafter.

The picture was one in common circulation at the time, known by the title Refugium peccatorum (“Refuge of Sinners”), It was painted in by Luiggi Crosio (1835-1915), a prolific studio artist from Turim, Italy. The Swiss firm “Künzli Brothers” contracted Crosio to paint this Madonna and Child for them in 1898. They then made lithograph prints of the image for sale around the world as a devotional work of art. Even before becoming associated with Schoenstatt, the image enjoyed modest popularity in areas of Ireland, Italy and the United States.

In the 1960s, the original painting (prototype for all prints) and copyright was purchased by Schoenstatt.

This inscription means: “a servant (or child) of Mary shall never perish”. The expression goes back to St. Augustine of Canterbury and reminds all visitors to the Shrine that those who love Mary and place themselves in her service need not fear the power of death or sin.

The “nothing without you” indicates Schoenstatt’s dependence on the presence and activity of Mary in the Shrine. The “nothing without us” indicates the necessity of our cooperation and striving so that the terms by which Mary was persuaded to come to dwell in Schoenstatt are met.

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. But 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 it’s graces.

The founding Documents has elements of a classical covenant: Two parties coming to a mutual agreement, a solemn act of sealing the agreement, a listing of the terms of this agreement. In preparation for Schoenstatt’s 50th anniversary (1964), Fr. Kentenich gave this covenant in the form of “Six Promises and the Six Demands” from the founding Document. It serves as a concise rendering of the terms of the covenant.

On the one hand, Schoenstatt asks Mary to do certain things. These are the six notable things which Mary promises to us in Schoenstatt.

  1. “It will please me to dwell in your midst”
  2. “And distribute gifts and graces in abundance”
  3. “From here I will draw youthful hearts to myself”.
  4. “I will educate them”
  5. To become useful instruments
  6. “In my hands”.

On the  other hand, Mary asks her covenant partners in Schoenstatt to make their contribution. These are the six demands asked of us.

  1. “Prove first by your deeds that you really love me.”
  2. “Increase your striving to the highest degree.”
  3. “This sanctification I demand of you.”
  4. “Diligently bring me contributions to the capital of grace.”
  5. “Fulfill your duties faithfully.”
  6. “Pray fervently.”

Fr. Kentenich developed the concept of the milestones as a way to grasp and cultivate the unique identity and mission, which God has given Schoenstatt. Each is a historical moment that defines a central aspect of what Schoenstatt is. Each is (to use Fr. Kentenich’s words” an “inbreak of the Divine” indicating something of God’s unique creativity in making Schoenstatt what it is today. The milestones are:

  1. October 18, 1914 – Schoenstatt’s founding and the covenant of love (the inbreak of the divine in a heroic act of faith).
  2. January 20, 1942 – Fr. Kentenich’s decision to accept transport to the concentration camp for the sake of the “inner freedom of the family”  (the inbreak of the divine in a heroic act of trust or hope.
  3. May 31, 1949 – Fr. Kentenich’s letter to Church authorities warning of the dangers of “mechanistic thinking” in the Church (the inbreak of the Divine in a act of love).
  4. October 22 (December 22), 1965 – Fr. Kentenich’s reinstatement by the Church and promise to Pope Paul VI to help realize the aims of Vatican Council II (the inbreak of the Divine in Divine victoriousness).

“Salvific mission” refers to Western Christianity’s mission in God’s plan of salvation. Fr. Kentenich especially saw this mission in connection with the special responsability of the Christianity West or “Occident” for the evangelization of the world. (“Occident” refers to the tradition and inculturation of Christian faith rooted in and radiating from Western Europe.)

Schoenstatt’s third aim is to help establish the “Apostolic Confederation” this refers to the confederation of all apostolic forces in the Church. The concept has its origins in St. Vincent Pallotti, who wished to overcome the petty rivalries between the many orders and congregations and replace them with a spirit of cooperation and mutual support. Fr. Kentenich integrated this concept into Schoenstatt’s mission in 1916.