Last week we saw that Mary appeared in Belgium during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Beauraing and Banneux were less than an hour’s drive away from one another yet the sensation in Beauraing had not affected Banneux, either because there was so much religious indifference, or because poverty and lack of instant communication kept people more isolated.
Something similar happened in Germany. After leaving Banneux in 1933, Mary allegedly visited two places in Germany, in 1940, a place called Heede, then in Marienfried in 1944. But whereas in Belgium the messages of Mary were gentle because the Faith was week, in Germany the messages were strong. Emphasis on penance and reparation was marked in the very persons of the seers. One of the four seers at Heede, and the only seer at Marienfried, received the stigmata.
Beginning November 1st, 1937 four young girls in the village of Heede began to see Mary at different locations: Margaret Gansferth (13) her sister Greta (11), Anna Schulte (15) and Susanna Bruns. In those days there was a special indulgence called “Toties Quoties” that could be gained as often as one entered a church from noon on All Saints Day through midnight of All Souls Day. The girls were on their way to church to say the prayers to gain this indulgence for the dead, when they passed by a World War I memorial. I saw many of these in France. Unlike generic memorial in the United States. the European memorials are usually inscribed with the names of the local boys and the day each had died in battle. It made war so heart-wrenching. Suddenly the Blessed Mother appeared near this memorial. She was holding the Divine Child in her arms. Both wore dazzling crowns and smiled kindly on the girls.
Mary encouraged the girls to offer up even more penances. The girls showed a dramatic change in their behavior, and ceased their usual childish amusements and instead spent many hours each day in prayer. Their seriousness and obvious impatience to see Mary again convinced the village and the pastor. Mary appeared multiple times, as at Beauraing, without really saying too much. By November 7th, several thousand people were present for the apparition. The girls would fall to their knees at the same instant.
Mary asked to be invoked as Queen of the Universe and Queen of the Poor Souls
She asked to be invoked with the intercessions of the Litany of Loretto
She asked that people pray the Rosary which “has immeasurable power”
She asked for prayer and conversion
At one point the children were arrested by the Gestapo and were taken to a lunatic asylum for a month, but after their release they bravely continued to go to pray at the apparition sites. Greta Gansferth received the stigmata in 1939. On Oct. 19th, 1940 Our Lady gave the four girls a secret intended for the Pope. The message was carried in a sealed envelope by Bishop Berning to Pope Pius XII. The girls said that Mary usually appeared solemn, stern and even shedding tears. She showed them visions of future catastrophes and a “minor judgment”. The final group apparition ended at 8:30 pm November 3, 1940. “Be good and faithful to the will of God. Pray often–especially the Rosary. Farewell my children, until we meet in heaven.” The children were heard to cry out: “Mother, we thank you!”
On July 23, 1942, Bishop Berning said in a homily:
“From Heede came a rich blessing. I could see that Marian devotion dramatically increased, and that the sacramental life has also dramatically flourished in this parish.”
In 1945 Greta Gansferth begins to see our Lord. She does not see Mary anymore but sometimes hears her voice. Jesus expressed displeasure about a dance that was scheduled for October 21st. The villagers believed and the dance was canceled. There are more and more healings. The Bishop of Onasbruch sent two priests to Heede to investigate, priests who were ill-disposed towards them, but their report was favorable. On March 7th, 1946, Bishop Berning authorized a statue of “Mary Queen of the Universe” to be made for placement in the church cemetery.
Greta received stern messages from Jesus:
Humanity does not listen to my Voice. They harden their hearts, they resist my grace. They do not wish to have anything to do with my Mercy, my Love, my merits; mankind is worse than before the deluge. Mankind is suffocating in sin. Hatred and greed rule their hearts. This is the work of the Devil. They live in great darkness . . .
My faithful souls should not be asleep now like the disciples on Mt. Olivet. They should pray without ceasing and gain all they can for themselves and for others.
Tremendous things are in preparation; it will be terrible as never before since the foundation of the world. All those, who in these grave times have suffered much, are martyrs and form the seed for the renovation of the Church. They are privileged to participate in my captivity, in my scourging, in my crown of thorns and my way of the Cross!
The Blessed Virgin Mary and all the choirs of Angels will be active during these events. Hell believes that it is sure of the harvest, but I will snatch it away from them. Many curse me now [for the scourge of the War], but these sufferings will come over mankind that they may be saved . . .
With a few faithful, I will build up my Kingdom. I will give souls a special light. For some this light will be a blessing; for others darkness. The light will come like the star that showed the way to the wise men. Mankind will experience my love and my power. I will show them my justice and my mercy. My dearly beloved children, the hour comes closer and closer. Pray without ceasing! For those who are not in a state of grace, it will be frightful!
After years of investigation, the Bishop of Onasbruch declared on June 3, 1959, “in the apparitions and messages of Heede we find nothing contrary to the Faith.” In the early sixties thousands of pilgrims were going there to pray, often staying through the night. But there doesn’t seem to be anything organized today. The case is different with Marienfried. Devotion there is on the increase. Marienfried is very rich in content, and in my opinion one of the most important apparitions. I’ve been looking forward to telling this story.
During World War II the parishioners of a little place called Pfaffenhofen-on-the-Roth, near Neu Ulm on the Danube, had solemnly vowed to Our Lady that they would build a chapel in gratitude to her if She would protect the parish from all harm in the war. Now it’s 1946 and the parish is ready to make good on it’s promise. Two offers of land had been made and
Marienfried: First Vision — April 25, 1946
On Easter Thursday, April 25, 1946, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Father Martin Humpf, his sister Anna and 22 year old young lady named Barbara [Baerbel] Ruess, went into the woods to have a look at both these property sites. Having seen the first site, they were walking toward the second. How would they know which site to choose? The conversation turned to the manner in which some shrines had reportedly come into being, namely by Mary indicating by a sign. Father Humpf expressed the wish out loud that they, too, might be granted such a sign. Then they recited the Rosary together for this intention. They looked at the second site then went back to the first site to start clearing the woods. Their intention was to attach a printed image of Our Lady to a tree and thus establish a wayside shrine as a first beginning for the future chapel.
The three had barely started clearing away the brush when Barbara said all of a sudden: “Someone called me.” Father Humpf suggested that it might have been Barbara’s little sister. However, there was no one to be seen. All of a sudden Barbara went into the shrubbery and from there called Father Humpf: “Please come up here and see what kind of a woman this is.” Father Humpf went over to Barbara but did not see anybody. He found Barbara talking to someone he did not see. He heard her ask: “But who are you? . . . How do you know that? . . . I don’t understand that.” Gradually it dawned on Father Humpf and his sister Anna that Barbara was experiencing a vision. The Lady disappeared, and Barbara returned to her work. But she was called over to the Lady a second time and a third time and on each occasion she talked with the Lady. Again she asked: “So who are you? How do you know that? I don’t understand that. Yes, that was six years ago! On the 13th of May, Monday after Pentecost! How do you know all that?” Then the apparition disappeared. Barbara firmly believed that Father Humpf and his sister had seen the lady, too, and had heard everything. When both denied this, Barbara became angry and said: “Well, I can’t help knowing what I’ve seen. There’s nothing wrong with my eyesight.” She was quite indignant when both claimed having seen nothing. Father Humpf asked Barbara the next day what the Lady had said. Barbara replied: “They were words which I don’t understand:
There where confidence is strongest and where people are taught that I can obtain everything from God I will spread peace. Then, when all people believe in my power there will be peace. I am the sign of the living God. I impress my sign onto the forehead of my children. The star will persecute my sign, but my sign will overcome the star.
As She departed, the Lady said:
The peace of Christ be with you three and with all who pray here.
Father Humpf told Barbara that this was the hoped for sign. Now he knew for sure that this was where the chapel was to arise. He then asked Barbara who the lady was. Barbara had asked the Lady her identity and received this answer.
If I did not have the veil you would recognize me.
Barbara said it was the same woman whom she had met once in 1940, on the 13th day of May, when going towards the woods. On that occasion the woman taught her what She called the “Rosary of the Immaculate.” To Barbara’s question what Rosary this was, She had replied:
Instead of the well-known Rosary mysteries, you pray the following invocations:
Through your Immaculate Conception, save our fatherland!
Through your Immaculate Conception, protect our fatherland!
Through your Immaculate Conception, guide our fatherland!
Through your Immaculate Conception, sanctify our fatherland!
Through your Immaculate Conception, govern our fatherland!
(Fatherland might be replaced here by some other intention.)
Father Humpf now said: “It seems to me that this woman is Our Lady.” Hearing this, Barbara became wholly beside herself, for she did not want to accept this at all.
Second Vision — May 25, 1946
A month later, early in the morning of May 25th, Barbara was summoned by an angel to go on that day to the site of the apparitions. This location will later be named “Marienfried” (Peace of Mary) because the Mother of God said: “I impart to you the peace of Christ. This angel often came to Barbara, especially in the mornings, and prayed with her. He also told Barbara the intentions for which she was to pray. He called himself the Angel of the Great Mediatrix of Graces.
After Mass, Barbara asked Anna to come along. In the course of the morning, however, she sent Anna a note telling her that she was not going to Marienfried, as she considered the whole thing to be a grave deception. Thereupon Father Humpf urgently admonished her to obey the angel’s instructions, as she had consistently done so far. Otherwise she would become most certainly at odds with herself. His admonitions finally prevailed upon Barbara but when went with a heavy heart. About 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the two women went out to Marienfried. They adorned the wayside shrine with flowers and prayed for some time. When Barbara’s father drove by in his car, Barbara said to Anna: “Come on, let’s ride home.” But Anna wanted to pray some more, so they remained. All of a sudden Barbara saw the angel standing by the tree and pointing with his finger to the right. When Barbara looked in this direction, she again saw the mysterious lady standing there. The lady was dressed all in white and had a white, cloak-like mantle on. Her hair was dark and parted in the middle; her eyes were likewise dark. There was a beautiful sparkle in her eyes and in her entire face, a clarity, purity and goodness which Barbara so far had not noticed in her before. Attracted and captivated Barbara exclaimed: “Mary!”
Yes, I am the Great Mediatrix of Graces. Just as the world can only find mercy with the Father through the sacrifice of the Son, so you can only find your prayers heard through my intercession with the Son. The reason why Jesus Christ is so little known is that I am not known. That is why the Father emptied his cup of wrath over the nations: because they rejected his Son. The world was consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, but this consecration has become a frightful responsibility for many. I demand that the world live this consecration. Have unlimited confidence in my Immaculate Heart! Believe that I can obtain everything from my Son! Put my Immaculate Heart in the place of your sinful hearts, then I will attract the power of God, and the love of the Father will newly form Christ in you to perfection. Fulfill my request so that Christ can soon reign as King of Peace! The world must drink the cup of wrath to the bottom because of the countless sins that offend his heart.
The Prince of the abyss will rage more vehemently than ever and will wreak frightful destruction, for he knows that his time is running out, and because he sees that many have already rallied around my sign. Over these he has no power, even though he will kill the body of many. But it is from this sacrifice made for me that my power to lead the rest of the flock to victory in Christ will come forth. Some have already had my sign impressed onto themselves, and they will become more and more numerous. To you, my children, I wish to say: Do not forget even in the bloodiest days that this very cross is a blessing, and thank the Father again and again for this blessing! “Pray and make sacrifices for sinners! Immolate yourselves and your actions through me to the Father! Place yourselves unreservedly at my disposal! Pray the Rosary! Do not pray so much for external goods! More is at stake today. Nor should you Expect any signs or miracles! I wish to work in obscurity as the great Mediatrix of Graces. If you fulfill my requests, I will impart to you the peace of hearts. It is only on this peace that the peace of nations can be built up. Then Christ will reign over all nations as King of Peace. See that my will becomes known. I will give you the strength you need.
Barbara objected: “I cannot memorize sill that, for I have a poor memory.” Mary replied that she should have confidence. At the proper time she would remember the right words. Then Barbara was told something about which she was not permitted to speak. The apparition said that she should keep this a secret: “Right now you cannot do anything with it yet have confidence, I will lead you. One day you will understand it.” Finally she received the instruction to return on the feast of St. William the Abbot.
As to the assignment given her, the apparition added that outwardly the devil would obtain such power that all those who were not firmly grounded in her would be deceived, for the devil was expert in so blinding men that even the best would be deceived. A time would come in which she, that is Barbara, will be all or completely alone and dreadfully slandered. But she should base her entire life on confidence. Wherever people did not base their trust in the Lady’s Immaculate Heart, the devil would have power. But where people put her Immaculate Heart in the place of their sinful hearts, the devil would have no power. He would persecute her children, however. They would be despised, but he could not hurt them.
To confirm to Barbara the reality of the apparition, the Lady told her to go up Kellerberg Hill: “There is a man in great distress there; go and help him. Send him down here; here he will be helped. This is to be a sign for you that you are not the victim of any deception.”
Concerning these frightful doubts Barbara had experienced that morning, Mary said:
This morning I left you wholly alone; my grace was not with you then. It will often be like that. I need sacrifices. The greatest graces must be bought with such sufferings.
After the conversation the Lady folded her hands. The angel, who was standing by, began to pray. Barbara was not able to memorize all invocations. Some of them were:
“Act as Mother of Grace….As threefold Wonderful Mother, work threefold wonderful graces….Oh, Way to Peace!…Mother, worthy of trust! . . . Salvation of Christianity! . . . Great and faithful Mediatrix of all Grace!” Barbara replied each time: “Pray for us! “
During this prayer of the angel, the apparition became indescribably beautiful, wholly bright and transparent. She extended her hands. The light which at first had been visible only in her face now took possession of her entire appearance. Her eyes had a splendor all their own. Above her head there were three layers of rays one above another, like a threefold crown. When the angel had finished his prayer, he said to Barbara and Anna: “Kneel down.” Thereupon the Mother of God raised her hand in blessing which She imparted in priest-like manner with the words: “I impart to you the peace of Christ in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
When Mary gave her blessing, She became transparent–like crystal and even brighter than a ray of light. Barbara was so blinded by this brilliance that she had to look away. When she looked up again the apparition had gone. Anna had neither been able to see, nor to hear anything of the apparition. She had only heard Barbara’s questions during the conversation.
Barbara then went to the hill and found a man there who by his manner of speaking seemed to be Polish. Looking thoroughly disturbed, he was hiding something under his garment. Barbara asked him where he was going. He replied: “Into the wood.” Barbara asked: “What are you hiding under your garment?” He responded: “Oh, nothing.” Barbara exclaimed: “You have a rope there!” He said: “It is so hard; can you help me?” “I cannot help you, but I will lead you to a spot where you will be helped.” She led him to Marienfried. There he said: “I can’t understand what’s the matter with me, why all of a sudden I am letting someone take charge of me.” He then remained alone at the wayside shrine. Later they found a rope hanging at the shrine. The man had found help.
Third Vision — June 25, 1946
Father Humpf and his sister Anna accompanied Barbara to Marienfried on the feast of St. William, as Mary had asked. It was half past five in the afternoon. En route they recited the Rosary. Anna embellished the wayside shrine. After they had prayed for a while, Barbara all of a sudden wanted to go home, as she had last time. Anna told her that there was no hurry. Immediately thereupon Barbara saw the apparition and exclaimed: “Mary, how beautiful you are!” Then the Lady began to speak:
I am the Great Mediatrix of Graces. The Father wants the world to recognize this rank of his maidservant. People must believe that I, as the permanent bride of the Holy Spirit, am the faithful mediatrix of all graces. My sign is emerging. God wills it thus. Only my children recognize it, as it reveals itself in secrecy, and they praise the Eternal One for it. Today I cannot yet reveal my power to the whole world. I must withdraw with my children. In secrecy I will perform miracles on the souls until the number of sacrifices has become full. It is up to you to shorten the days of darkness. Your prayers and sacrifices will shatter the image of the beast. Then I can reveal myself to the whole world for the greater honor of the Almighty One. Choose my sign so that the Triune One may soon be adored and honored by all.
Pray and make sacrifices through me! Pray always! Pray the Rosary! Ask everything from the Father through my Immaculate Heart! If it furthers his honor He will give it to you. Pray the Rosary of the Immaculata, the Rosary rich in graces, as I showed it to you. Do not ask with it for perishable goods but for graces for individual souls, for your communities and for the nations so that all may love and honor the Divine Heart. Observe the Saturday consecrated to me in the manner I wish it to be observed. Particularly the apostles and priests should all consecrate themselves to me so that the great sacrifices which the Inscrutable One demands specifically from them may increase in holiness and value when they are laid into my hands.
Make many sacrifices to me! Make your prayer a sacrifice! Be selfless! All that matters today is that honor be given and reparation made to the Eternal One. If you pursue this great goal without any reservations, I will take care of everything else. I will burden my children with crosses that are heavy and deep like the sea, because I love them in my sacrificed Son. I ask you to be prepared to bear crosses so that there may soon be peace. Choose my sign so that the Triune One will soon be honored! I demand that people soon fulfill my wishes, as this is the wish of the Heavenly Father and as this is necessary for his greater honor and glory, both today and forever. A terrible woe is announced by the Father to those who do not wish to submit to his will.
Mary instructed Barbara to make this message known. She said that this was her message to the world and that people should be told about it:
“I want people to learn about it the way I said it, word for word. You can memorize it.” Barbara asked how this should be done. Mary replied that people should be told that she had a new message for the world. External circumstances or details need not be told. The only thing of importance was that people should learn her will, which was the will of the Father. This message would set people apart from each other. A large multitude would be offended by it. A small group, however, would understand and appraise it correctly. These would recognize her will in it and would rejoice. This group had recognized her rank in the present era and had given her much joy. In many countries this group had its representatives who would help disseminate her message. Many from among this group had already been permitted to see her hidden wonders. They had recognized that She was the “Wonderful Mother” and were giving her honor under this title.
Then there followed a prolonged dialogue between the apparition and Barbara, who asked a variety of questions which Father Humpf and Anna had put to her. She asked the Lady for an outward sign so that people might give credence to her message. To this the Lady replied that
She would only grant signs when people fulfill her will. Then She would work greater miracles than ever, namely miracles in souls. She had already granted many signs and spoken so often to the world, but people had not taken them seriously. Large crowds had come because of the outward signs, but they were not concerned about the essential. Now humanity is facing a time in which all those would become confused who believed in her only because of the visible miracles. Outward signs would, to many, only mean more responsibilities, as they would not draw the consequences from them.
Barbara then asked if a chapel was to be built here. The apparition replied:
“l fulfilled your wish, now you keep your promise.”
Now Barbara asked what image should be taken for the chapel. The apparition pointed to the wayside shrine with its image of the “Thrice Wonderful Mother” of Schoenstatt, West Germany. Mary said that this image should be used because already many prayers and many sacrifices were made at Schoenstatt in front of this image. She had accepted these sacrifices and wished that many more people would be led to this image and, the sacrifices dedicated to her would give her the power to bring forth the kingdom of the King of Peace. If this group of people began to fulfill her will, She would work from here the first and greatest miracles. She would always do that at those spots where people would recognize and obey her message first. But the miracles would manifest themselves in secret and be visible only to her children. Mary invited Barbara to pray, saying:
“My children must praise, glorify and thank the Eternal One more. That is why He created them: for his greater honor!”
Many prayers were necessary for sinners. Therefore, many people should place themselves at her disposal so that She might give them praying assignments. Numerous were the souls who were only waiting for the prayers of her children. She also said that after each Rosary one should add the invocation: “O Great and faithful Mediatrix of All Graces! “
When Mary ceased speaking, there was suddenly a large host of angels around her. They were dressed in long, white garments, knelt on the ground and prostrated themselves deeply. They said a prayer of praise to the Most Holy Trinity. First they said a prayer of praise to the Father. When this prayer was finished, the angel invited Barbara to repeat it. This she did. After the “Amen,” the angel said: “O Great Mediatrix of Graces” Barbara replied: “Pray for us!” Then there followed a prayer of praise to the Son, which Barbara likewise repeated. To the invocation, “O faithful mediatrix of grace!” Barbara again replied: “Pray for us!”
In the same way there followed a hymn of praise to the Holy Spirit with the invocation: “O mediatrix of all graces!,” to which Barbara replied: “Pray for us! “ Whereas during Barbara’s dialogue with the apparition, Father Humpf and his sister heard nothing and merely saw Barbara moving her lips, now they could hear Barbara clearly and say the prayer of praise to the Most Holy Trinity:
Hail to you, Eternal Ruler, living God, forever existing, terrible and just Judge, always kind and merciful Father! To you be anew and forever adoration, praise, honor and glory through your sun-clad daughter, our wonderful Mother!
Hail to you, sacrificed Man and God, bleeding Lamb, King of Peace, Tree of life, our Master, Gateway to the heart of the Father, born eternally from the Living One, ruling in eternity with Him who is pure Being! To you be anew and forever power and glory and greatness and adoration and reparation and praise through your immaculate parent, our Wonderful Mother!
Hail to you, Spirit of the Eternal One, forever giving forth holiness, acting from all eternity in God! O, stream of fire from the Father to the Son! O, raging storm blowing strength and light and fervor into the members of the body eternal; unending fire of love, creative spirit of God in the living ones, red stream of fire from the Ever-Living One to the mortals! To you be anew and forever power and glory and beauty through your star-crowned bride, our Wonderful Mother!”
Then Barbara was invited to pray with the apparition the Rosary of the Immaculata. The apparition always said “Amen,” and prayed the “Glory be” all by Herself. In so doing She bowed down deeply, together with all the angels. The same occurred when the name of Jesus was mentioned. After the Rosary, the apparition gave a blessing as She had in May. She extended her hands for the blessing, saying, as She did so, a prayer to the Most Holy Trinity which Barbara could not memorize literally. For the Church She prayed that it might recognize her rank and respect the will of the Father. She prayed to the Triune God that He might bless the Church through her and grant it peace.
From the very beginning, Mary had appeared this time far more beautiful and radiant than in May. She was so good and kind. In her face there was something like a great pain. She complained about her children deserting her so that She was unable to lead them to the Savior. This was a great pain for her.
When the host of angels began to pray, the apparition became still far more beautiful, wholly bright and clear. The triple crown of rays above her head was so bright and large that it covered the entire sky. When Our Lady gave her blessing, She extended her hands like the priest does before the consecration in the Mass. At that moment Barbara saw numerous rays go forth from her hands, pass clear through the angels and through her, Barbara, and continue on toward heaven. Subsequently the rays also proceeded from her entire figure and penetrated everything around it, like a sunbeam shines through the window. The apparition had become wholly bright and transparent, She was so indescribably beautiful and pure. Barbara had forgotten everything around her. She only knew one thing: that this was the Mother of the Savior. Mary radiated a splendor which was incomparably brighter than the brilliance of the sun. Barbara was all but blinded so that she turned her head away. And at that very moment the apparition, and everything beautiful and bright accompanying her, disappeared.
+ + +
On Good Friday, 1947, Barbara Reuss received the stigmata. After the war, the Catholic clergy in Germany became more and more permeated by the ideas of Protestant scholars. Germany was, of course, the home of Martin Luther. The new attitude was that devotion to Mary might be a hindrance for ecumenical dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics. Pope Pius XII had received petitions from the bishops of dioceses throughout the world. He wanted to proclaim the Assumption as a dogma in the jubilee year 1950, but that announcement brought forth a clamor of protests from the clergy and professors of German universities.
Mary had tried to prepare Barbara for opposition and persecution. Did she buckle? She seems to have faded out of the public eye. Barbara eventually married and prayed that the stigmata be taken away. The visible stigmata would have lent much credence to this important apparition but, as Mary predicted, her faithful ones would still recognize its authenticity. The chapel and the devotion were persecuted, but it persisted.
In 1970 on the eve of the feast of the Sacred Heart, the tabernacle was robbed of consecrated hosts.
On May 31, 1971, on the feast of the Mediatrix of All Graces, a new altar was consecrated and inscribed with the title of “Threefold Wonderful Mother and Queen of Schoenstatt.”
On August 2, 1973 First Friday, the new wooden church was consumed by flames. Nothing was left except a carbonized crucifix.
On October 5, 1974 the new pilgrimage church (called the Marienfried Hall) and also the Marienfried House were consecrated by Bishop Dr. Josef Stimpfle, Bishop of Augsburg.
In 1976, the 30th anniversary of the apparition, 12,000 pilgrims gathered with priests and bishops.
For fifty years pilgrims came to this chapel officially built to fulfill a wartime vow. Finally on March of 2000, on the feast of St. Joseph, the Bishop of Augsburg gave approval for “faith expression.”
Why did Mary choose the Feast of St. William?
St. William was born in 1085. It was a time of great corruption in the church. Too many men became pastors out of greed to get a secure salary. They had no interest in living a priestly life and they openly took concubines. William combated this with spiritual weapons. He founded penitential monasteries: no wine, meat or dairy products.
Mary appeared April 25th, May 25th, June 25th.
April 25th was the feast of St. Mark who gives the most vivid account of the denial of Peter, reputed to be Peter’s personal testimony.
May 25th was the feast of St. Gregory VII – Hildebrand. He died the year William was born. He had spent his papacy fighting simony and wide-spread lack of priestly celibacy. His whole papacy was persecuted by Henry, the German Catholic Emperor.
May 25th is also the feast of St. Mary Magdalene d’Pazzi–Her main mission in the sixteenth century was to teach the value of reparation. During ecstasies she often dictated letters to prelates and aristocracy who needed reform.
We need to turn to these four saints, St. Mark, St. Gregory, St. Mary Magdalene d’Pazzi and St. William for intercession and inspiration in dealing with the Church problems of our day.
But what is this image of the “Thrice Wonderful Mother: Queen of Schoenstatt”?
The Catholic University of Ingolstadt was founded in 1472. It became renowned for its illustrious professors for disputations against the doctrines of Martin Luther. St. Peter Canisius established some Jesuits here at the very beginning when the Order was very fervent. St. Francis Borgia, Superior General in Rome sent them seven copies of the image of “Our Lady of the Snows” enshrined in the Basilica of St. Mary Major at Rome. This icon had saved the Romans during a plague so it was also called Salus Populi Romani–Salvation of the Roman People.
Mary’s image became a favorite place of prayer of a pious young Jesuit, Father Jakob Rem. Inspired by the recent rosary victory in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 he encouraged his fellow novices to love Mary. He joined a Marian Fraternity to deepen his devotion and many joined him. Its members would meet in the chapel where a copy of Our Lady of the Snows was enshrined. One day in 1604, Fr. Jacob Rem, together with the members of the Fraternity, were chanting the Litany of Loretto in Our Lady’s chapel, as they were accustomed to do at their meetings. Father Rem had been asking Mary to reveal to him which of the Litany titles were most pleasing to her. On this day, as the chanting continued, Father Rem was lifted from the ground in ecstasy and beheld the Mother of God in a vision. She made known to him that the title “Mater Admirabilis” summed up all of her graces and privileges. Thenceforth it was the custom to chant “Mater Admirabilis”, three times.
Because this ecstasy happened before that icon it was renamed as “Mater Ter Admirabilis” (“Thrice Admirable Mother”) and became very popular throughout the region. But fervor waned as the “Age of Enlightenment” crept in.
In 1896, the Jesuit Father Franz Hattler published “The Venerable Father Jakob Rem of the Society of Jesus and his Colloquium Marianum which reawakened the memory of the Thrice-Admirable Mother and Fr. Rem and his Marian Fraternity.
In 1912, a Pallottine Father, Joseph Kentenich was made spiritual director of the seminarians at the College of Schoenstatt Germany. In 1914, he founded a Marian Sodality and was surprised to see the enthusiasm. The outbreak of World War I brought a sense of urgency to people’s hearts. The Sodality was given the old St. Michael’s Chapel. On October 18, 1914 the students consecrated themselves to Mary and invited her to come and dwell in their little chapel. October 18th will thenceforth be the Schoenstatt founding day. Schoenstatt means beautiful place.
The next year someone donated a print from a Marian painting. The Sodalists immediately decided to rename the picture Thrice Admirable Mother. Father Kentenich presented the Sodalists with the spiritual doctrine of St. Louis Marie DeMontfort and his book True Devotion to Mary. Total Consecration to Mary would be the goal of the movement.
In 1933, when the Nazis take power in Germany and begin to close religious houses one after the other, Father Kentenich sends groups of the Schoenstatt Sisters to South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. He said that his mission was to reveal the inner emptiness of National Socialism, and thereby to defeat it.
Once in power, the Nazis are quick to classify Schoenstatt among the main opponents to destroy. After endless vexations, on 20 September 1941, Father Kentenich is summoned by the Gestapo. It’s tempting to relate his heroism and sufferings. After being sent to several prisons, he ended up in Dachau for three years. In April 1945 Dachau is liberated by the Americans and on 20 May, on the feast of Pentecost, we find Father Kentenich back to work at Schoenstatt. He wants to establish a barrier against those whom he considers the biggest dangers to the world: communism in the East, practical materialism in the West.
Mary appears to Barbara and wants to be invoked as Thrice Wonderful Mother, Queen of Schoenstatt. What consolation that surely meant to Fr. Kentenich! His work is truly international. He is giving one retreat after another and people are taking notes and publishing his insights. In March 1947, he travels to Rome and is received in private audience by Pope Pius XII.
But he and Barbara, are both becoming victims of jealousy and persecution in an atmosphere where Catholicism in Germany was deteriorating into the sterility of modernism. His Pallottine superiors assign him to a German speaking parish in Wisconsin, and he becomes exiled from Germany for fourteen years. Today his cause is opened for beatification.
The Schoenstatt Movement is a renewal movement in the church, offering a place to any Catholic interested in intense spiritual striving. It is made up of people of all walks of life, all states in life, all ages and cultures. They study the spirituality of their father and founder. They strive for everyday sanctity and try to serve the universal apostolate of the Church in the world of today. On the 18th of each month, the Schoenstatt family and pilgrims on all continents celebrate covenant day. They celebrate their covenant of love with the Mother of God.
Father Joseph Kentenich
Marienfried is intertwined with this Marian priest. Let’s take some excerpts from his thoughts:
Father Kentenich worked out a picture of Christ for the movement: “Our picture of Christ has three dimensions. It shines out to us from three main points of view. That is to say: We have fallen in love with our Lord’s fundamental relationship to his Father, to his Mother, and to immortal souls. We could also say: Our picture of our Lord is Marian and apostolic, while being oriented to the Father.”
Hail Mary, because of your purity keep me pure in body and soul !
Open to me your heart and the heart of your Son!
Give me souls and keep everything else for yourself!
1. We are members of the mystical body of Christ.
2. Mary is the Mother of Christ, also of his mystical body.
3. She is therefore our Mother, too, and patroness of the Church.
When the most recent popes present Our Lady as the patroness of the Church, they are saying that Mary is the patroness of the Church as the Mother of God. But if Mary is the patroness of the whole Church, [is she not] also [patroness] of each member and therefore my patroness, too? Does it not follow that Mary is the easiest and surest way to Christ? After all, that is her task as patroness. Does this not urge us to re-give the world to Mary, so that she can lead everyone to Christ again? This was the spirit which inspired us back when our sodalists went out into the barracks and battlefields to spread our Marian spirit. It is mirrored again in the letters and expressed in the prayer we had printed on our stationary:
Mother Thrice Admirable, Mother of Grace,
Teach us your enemies bravely to face,
Never regarding their number and might,
Spreading your love over the earth’s dark night,
So that the world through you made new
Pay to your Son his homage due.
Our soul longs for Christ. The Mother Thrice Admirable intensifies this longing. Many of us already have a personal relationship with Christ, but the longing to love Christ must also increase the intensity of our longing for Mary.
Is it one-sided to do this whole workshop on the Marian person? Wouldn’t it be better to talk about the Catholic person? This question is justified. But let me say that while every Catholic is devoted to Mary, not every Catholic is a Marian person. Whatever a Marian person does must be thoroughly Catholic, but it is not required of every Catholic to be as Marian as we should and must be. It is not one-sided because hidden threads connect the Blessed Mother to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These hidden threads reach into every circumstance of life and into the world. This is something a Marian person must know. There are many saints in the Church, but few are Marian saints per eminentiam
To conduct a whole workshop on Mary is not one-sided because someone who is Marian to such a high degree will be interiorly connected to the [whole] supernatural world.
The object of our workshop is not so much to get to know the Marian person as to form the Marian person.
De Maria numquam satis! [Of Mary never enough!]
It is a master stroke of God’s educational skill that he gives the Catholic faithful such a great love of Mary. God makes use of the need for a mother so that through Mary we are drawn closer to Christ.
If we are unhappy that so many devotional objects have found their way into the Marian devotion of our people, then we must remember that this is an expression of the interior attitude of the popular soul. People need the impulses which come from outward expressions. We should not cut them down as some priests do (to their own harm!), but use them to inspire a tender Marian devotion. Let us learn this from the greatest educator of all, God himself. To profoundly grasp this truth – that Mary is the Christ-bearer – we must tackle the resistance in ourselves and others.
The ascetical masters say that if I want to come to Christ, I must practice self-denial, humility, love of neighbor, etc. All of this is fine, but the Marian person says: If I want to come to Christ, I must go to Mary. What God has joined together, let no man rend asunder (cf Mt 19,6). Therefore, you will not find Christ anywhere except near Mary, in Mary, with Mary. The Marian person tries to grasp how the supernatural world is interiorly connected. He sees in Mariology the compendium of all doctrine. The Marian person not only does apostolate in the spirit of Mary, but also does apostolate that promotes Marian devotion . If Marian devotion is the best means for me to reach Christ, then it is also the best means to joining the world to Christ. Does this mean we should race blindly into Marian devotion? No, ease your way into it. If Marian devotion is the formal principle for the Marian person, then it is the formal principle for every stage of development.
Our entire confidence in our Blessed Mother rests in the fact that she is Co-redemptrix. We hear the invocation “Ora pro nobis” [“Pray for us”] in churches everywhere. But just as the life of the Marian person is deeper and broader, so too is his act of confidence. He has an unconditional, almost blind trust in Mary. “I even entrust to you the stockings which are hanging out on the line to dry. And so far not a single one has been misplaced.” This was a true Marian person.
Everyone who is even a little Catholic trusts in Mary, but the act of confidence of the Marian person is much deeper, broader, and more radical. Whoever trusts in Mary in even such small matters, will also have spoken with her about the greater ones. Recall, for instance, the discernment of one’s vocation, which some of you are still doing. Let us go to Mary, casting ourselves totally into her arms and expecting all things from her.
I know that when I receive graces, they come to me through Mary. The Blessed Mother will implore for us the pure life. And is not the pure lie the necessary prerequisite for every vocation? Let us turn to Mary with complete trust, and we see which grace attracts us. We are so unhappy because we follow so little our God-willed vocation. But if I do not lead a pure life, then God will not cooperate.
There are some seminarians who are not able to muster a firm faith in their vocation to the priesthood. They are plagued by great difficulties before ordination to the subdiaconate: will I be able to persevere in the sacrifice of celibacy? We then pray to Mary. I know, if I receive grace, it is through Mary. So, I go to her, so that I may preserve my purity or reconquer it. Priesthood and virginal purity cannot be separated. And this requires a constant struggle, also later as a priest. Holy purity is of such importance in keeping our spirit fresh and supple, especially in the years of preparation [for ordination]. The pure life is the best foundation for successful studies. When, some day, we become teachers or educators in a boarding school, and see how the productivity of the one or the other falters, we should not always suppose that the reason is laziness as much as it could be difficulties in the area of holy purity. Vitam praesta puram! How necessary it is to lead young people to [holy purity], especially today! If I want to form a holy clergy, then I must especially see to it that the youth preserves their holy purity.
And Mary even helps in one’s studies. Of the manuscripts of St. Thomas [Aquinas] one says that on almost every page is found the words Ave Maria. Did not Mary help him because he thought of her so much? Why should Mary not help us? Why should she not also enlighten our minds?
These apparitions of Mary are not history lessons. They are instructions from the heart of our Mother, our sister, our friend. She wants to reveal her heart to us in the hope that we will catch fire with the burning flame of the Holy Spirit and her love for the Father and the Son, and their love for souls. Sacrifice and penance are all about love. What good parent doesn’t make great sacrifices for his or her child? We must enter into the motherhood of souls, into that anxiety which puts the welfare of souls before our own temporary comfort and convenience. Lent is a good time to pay heed to Heede and to meditate on the deep message of Marienfried.