(firstly) this really is guess work that from the beginning, that is, since 1912, a profound love for Mary was at work in him (the Spiritual Director, Fr Kentenich), not just personally, but also in the way he educated:
secondly, that his devotion to Mary, to which he led us and introduced us, was already attached to a place.
I see the first sign of this relationship to a place in the little cardboard box filled with good resolutions, that stood on the altar in the chapel. Later these became contributions to the capital of grace for our Blessed Mother in the chapel. Parallel to this was the conviction that developed: Here is a place of grace! This came up already in 1914.
Actually it would have been possible to have this little box somewhere else. However, the fact that this box was placed on the altar showed the tendency to go to the shrine, a tendency to go to the Blessed Mother, a tendency to make what was later called contributions to the capital of grace.“
Details about his observations in 1970 from 70-year-old Fr Menningen:
“The capital of grace was already hinted at in the box with good resolutions in the service of self-education, which we made in May 1915. We returned from Ehrenbreitstein after Easter 1915.
I saw the little box on the altar on my return. It stood on the altar on the “Margarine box”, as we often called it. It was a temporary altar. It had been knocked together in a makeshift way. We always said that they had pulled a few margarine boxes to bits and made an altar out of them. By the way, the coal store with which Fritz Esser and Josef Hagel heated the chapel was under the altar. They took their supplies secretly from the old house and often joked: With special permission of the Blessed Mother; or: He (Josef Hagel) did it behind Fr Auer’s back, and said he was specially commissioned by the Blessed Mother. He had stored the coal there so that the chapel was always warm and visitors would be attracted to it.
Let’s return to the little box. When we returned from Ehrenbreitstein, I noticed the changes. …
I noticed the changes already in October 1914, because I often visited Schoenstatt during the holidays. I was most curious about what was going on. So I went to Br Massmann, or to someone else who was wounded and being nurse there, and I was probed: ‘Please lead me to those soldiers who have experienced many things, or to officers who have been decorated for bravery, or who were in the battles. I would love to hear what they have to say.’
I often walked from Hillscheid to Schoenstatt. And during one of these visits I went into the chapel and was totally amazed by the changes that had taken place. The walls had been mended, the missing stones replaced. Everything looked so orderly again. It is not as though people thought that if had to be done, otherwise the chapel would collapse. Actually it was not re-plastered the old plaster was still there but redecorated. The roof had been repaired. There were no longer any puddles in the floor. But what amazed me most was the sky blue sanctuary with golden stars. We loved it. It was trashy enough, but for us it was an uplifting sight. It was sky blue. And the stars in this sky blue background glittered with gold. It was all copied from a genuine Marian chapel.
These changes were amazing. However, I did not know why all this had been done. I thought to myself: Oh, well, the old chapel had to be repaired. Now they have simply given it a somewhat valid appearance.
Und da stand nun auf dem Altar ein Kästchen. Während der Besuchungen fiel mir auf, daß die Älteren ich habe gesehen den Max Brunner, den Nikolaus Wilwers, den Albert Langner, den Albert Eise und noch einige andere nach vorne gingen zu dem Kästchen; sie zogen ein Zettelchen, steckten es wieder hinein und gingen wieder fort.
And there on the altar stood a little box. During my visits I noticed how some of the older boys Max Brunner, Nikolaus Wilwers, Albert Langner, Albert Eise and others went to the little box, drew a slip of paper, put it back, and went out.
I thought to myself: I’ve got to find out what it all means! So I waited until no one was around, and I examined the little box and read the little slips of paper. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I read: I kept silence in the study hall; treated the Prefect, Fr Auer, respectfully; got up punctually; prayed the Sodality prayers well. They were a whole collection of sacrifices.
I could make no sense of it. Why did they collect these good resolutions in a small cardboard box and put it on the altar?
We had only experienced the foundation of the Marian Sodality on 19 April 1914 from a distance, and the older boys drove us away when we tried to attend the founding celebration. Later we were told that Fr Klement was prepared to testify that Joseph Engling went in, because he such a tall boy. I am not sure whether this is true.“
Remark about Engling’s presence: The tradition that Joseph Engling was present at the foundation of the Marian Sodality on 19.4.1914 can be traced back to Fr Klement, but he has confused it with the foundation of the shrine on 18.10.1914. According to Fr Andreas Schaefer, who came from the same region as Joseph Engling, Joseph was definitely not in Schoenstatt on the latter date.
„At any rate we were driven away, however, as the junior boys we were eager and inquisitive to find out what Fr Kentenich had been up to. When we returned from Ehrenbreitstein at Easter, the course above ours, that of Joseph Engling, had been received into the Sodality on 11 April 1915. They were already meeting under the Prefect of the Junior Sodality, Alfons Haendly. We heard that they gave talks, took part in discussions, and that they came to decisions at the Sodality meetings. We found out about all this and naturally made us curious. We wanted to know more, but we also objected to it. I can still remember clearly how I spoke to Paul Reinhold: ‘Paul, you don’t give the talks, do you? You have copied them from books.’ Paul, ‘No, I write them myself!’ I: “Well, who leads the discussions?’ Paul, “Joseph Engling!’ I: That can’t be true. He trips over his own tongue; how can he lead a discussion? And what does Fr Kentenich do?’ Paul, ‘He sits in the corner at the back.’ I, ‘He sits in the corner? He has nothing to do there! He has to give the talk and the instructions …’
It all seemed so incredible to me. And what about the little box?
I went to Fr Kentenich and asked: ‘What is all this about the Sodality? There are talks which the Sodalists say they wrote themselves; there is supposed to be a discussion, and we have heard the rumour that Joseph Engling conducts them. And down in the chapel the Sodalists from the Senior Sodality go to a little box and draw resolutions.’
He listened to all this with a smile. He was very happy about the questions and said: ‘Wouldn’t you like to ask Joseph Engling about it?’
That was a blow!
‘With him? Never!’
Fr Kentenich was not to be moved; he didn’t tell me a thing. On the contrary he said, ‘Just have a word with Joseph Engling about it!’
So the episode ended with a disappointment, but I could not settle down. During the customary confession, Fr Kentenich didn’t return to the subject; he didn’t ask whether I had spoken to Joseph Engling. … I couldn’t settle down. One day I approached Joseph Engling, and I immediately noticed how he immediately took it up when I asked: ‘Listen, can you explain the Sodality to me?’
Later I discovered that Fr Kentenich had almost “set” him onto me, and Engling had waited ages. So when I approached him, he immediately struck home. He explained the Sodality to me.
One day during confession I told Fr Kentenich that I had spoken to Joseph Engling. ‘What did you talk about?’ ‘The Sodality.’ ‘Oh! And what did he say?’ I must have given him a lively and enthusiastic account. …
I have never forgotten what happened…“