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Apostolic Movement

Joseph Kentenich Institute Workshop on the “Epistola Perlonga”

By: Heinrich Brehm

A provocative document

The “Epistola Perlonga” is the letter in which Father Joseph Kentenich responded to the report that the Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Bernhard Stein, in his role as Visitor, had written about the episcopal visitation to the Schoenstatt Movement which he conducted from February 19-28, 1949. Father Kentenich wrote this long letter as a contribution to the discussion, but the ecclesiastical authorities considered it more of a provocation. Thus the “Epistola Perlonga” is positioned, so to speak, at the beginning of the confrontations with the ecclesiastical authorities, first in the diocese of Trier and later in Rome, confrontations that would eventually lead to Father Kentenich’s exile.

Explanation of the text’s framework

The presentation on the internal structure of the extensive text Father Kentenich sent from South America to the Diocese of Trier in five successive communications was quite revealing. Father Kentenich remarked that the report on the visitation contains observations on Schoenstatt that are made from dogmatic, juridical, organizational, pastoral, and pedagogical points of view. His response focuses almost exclusively on the fundamental pedagogical concepts  within them, and on the central issue of the pedagogy of religion.

In the presentation on the structure of the contents, it became clear that the Schoenstatt founder wanted to explain both the method and the goal of his approach to the pedagogy of religion, but he unmistakably emphasized the goal of the “new man in the new community”, primarily in connection with the question of “perfect obedience”. Evidently, according to Söder, in the formulation of his answer, Father Kentenich adhered to a well-planned,polished scholastic style structure, but he did not always conform to it, especially in the closing section. This can be observed in his last three statements, the topics of which clearly no longer correspond to the originally planned structure.

The first JKI Study Workshop after the pandemic took place in a rather narrow circle (Photo: Brehm).

Comparing the fundamental versions

In his presentation, Prof. Söder pointed out that in the historical-critical editing of a text, the goal is to study and research the text to make it available in a reliable version. This will result in a text that can serve as a basis for further scientific analysis. In order to achieve such a version, it is necessary to compare the existing texts and identify concurrences and divergences. The following texts were taken as a basis for this work: the original text found in the archives of the Diocese of Trier, a copy of the original found in the Vatican archives of the Congregation of the Holy Office/Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which became accessible in March 2020, and finally another copy found in the archives of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary on Mount Schoenstatt, Vallendar, which is called “a transcript originating from the hand of Father Kentenich”.

On the basis of these so-called “mediums of transmission of the text”, both editors are working to clarify the history of the origin and the impact of the text. Their wish is to publish it, ideally in the first half of 2022, in an authentic version, where all divergences are carefully recorded.

In the cross-referencing of the versions, special attention is paid to the so-called “user markings”. Such markings, e.g., underlining and highlighting, question marks and exclamation marks made with a rough colored pencil, are already visible on a first version of the original text. Other critical comments made in ink by a more knowledgeable reader can be seen on a second level. It was surprising for the researchers to find that the handwritten remarks in the original were transferred in the same handwriting to the existing copy in the Vatican archives. That would certainly indicate that it is safe to assume that the original addressee’s version had been sent to those in charge among the Vatican authorities.

Identification of sources

A historical-critical edition also requires identifying sources used in the redaction of a text. In this regard, detailed footnotes are cited in the text. In addition, an extensive list of bibliographies should be compiled so that the original sources can be easily located in the ongoing scientific work on the text. Professor Söder’s explanations, shared by his colleague who was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts, indicate to what extent Father Kentenich was familiar with the bibliography available at the time on theology, pedagogy and psychology, and could therefore make reference to these at certain points or differ from them at other. In this sense the editing work brought to light interesting transversal connections.

Study editions of documents on the history of the Schoenstatt Movement

The historical-critical edition of the “Epistola Perlonga” is planned to be published as volume 5 of the series “Documents on the history of the Schoenstatt Movement” by Editorial Patris. In this series, the “Reports of the Episcopal and Apostolic Visitations from 1949 to 1953” have already appeared as Study Edition I and the “Discussion with the Holy See- Epistolary Correspondence between Father Kentenich and Rector General Turowski SAC”, as volume I Study Edition 3.

Epistola Perlonga
Study series: Documents on the history of the Schoenstatt Movement (photo: Brehm).

Joseph Kentenich Institute (JKI), Annual Conference 2022

The JKI Workshop was preceded by the JKI Annual Conference 2022. During the latter, Günter Niehüser (05.11.1953-04.10.2021), Father Georg Egle (06.30.1939-04.17.2021), Prof. Fr. Dr. Joachim Schmiedl (12.18.1958-12.10.2021) and Rudolf Gerber (10.04.1932-03.06.2022) were remembered as part of a retrospective look at the years 2021/2022. During this period, these four members of the JKI were called to the Father’s house, leaving a great void (each in his own way) in the Institute. A retrospective look was also taken at the Congress “Why the need for formation?”, which took place in October 2021, and at the offering of a course in the area of “Spiritual Accompaniment”. Finally, the key term “Connection” was used as a basis for discussion about cooperation with the international research group promoted by the Schoenstatt Movement, and the “Berlin Campus of Theology and Spirituality”, a new type of faculty of religious orders and communities, with which the Joseph Kentenich Institute is actively participating in the preparation of the “Berlin Year of Study” (beginning fall of 2022) and the “Cross over” (beginning fall of 2023).

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