History » 1914 - 1919 » Period of Development » No Changes 1917 and 1918 » Esser's Attachment to the Shrine

Fritz Esser’s attachment to the Shrine

From Fr Klein’s biography on Fritz Esser 1954

This longing was closely connected with the chapel in Schoenstatt. Ever since it had become the Sodality shrine on 18 October 1914 Fritz had felt particularly attracted to it. He not only visited it repeatedly in his spare time in order to pray there, he was also zealous in decorating it with flowers, cleaning it and making it more homely.

He already felt at that early date that attachment to the shrine guaranteed a genuine spirit of striving for the spirit of the Sodality, and was a yardstick for it. Once, when he noticed that one of the other Sodalists had not visited the chapel again for twelve weeks, he felt it was important enough to tell the Prefect and to consult him on what could be done about it. What he had observed led him to the conclusion that the boy concerned had become negligent in loving Mary, and that he had given up striving for the ideal.

He was acting in accord with his unspoken conviction that the MTA had untied herself in a special way with the shrine, and that as a result special graces were to be obtained there.

Even after years Fritz Esser was touchingly concerned about the shrine. For quite some time he and another boy boy were entrusted with the office of sacristan. He planted a little garden to the right of the entrance. He ensured that the chapel could be heated in winter, because it hurt him when others were put off by the cold and damp from visiting it. A small tin chimney that passed through the chapel’s roof made it possible to heat the place. Even in the poorest winter of the war Esser managed to find sufficient coal to keep the fire going. He insisted on getting the very best coal, because he said, ‘Only the very best is good enough for the Mother Thrice Admirable.’ He had no better place to store and hide the coal than under the altar. To his childlike nature it made not the slightest difference that Holy Mass was celebrated above this black treasure.

When he saw a crowd of Sodalists bursting into the chapel, he used to clap his hands joyfully and call out, ‘Look at that! That must make our Mother happy!’ Once, when children from a neighbouring village who had made their First Holy Communion came to visit their heavenly Mother, Fritz nearly burst with joy. All these little things revealed his fervent love for our Lady of Schoenstatt.

Note about his longing: This refers to Fritz Esser’s longing during his fatal illness to be able to return to Schoenstatt once again.

Note about the boy who helped him as sacristan: The second sacristan was Josef Hagel, later a Pallottine Father and for a time the priest in charge of pilgrims to the shrine.

Note about the garden: This can be seen on a photo, although it was in a rather neglected condition after Fritz had left Schoenstatt.

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