There are two reports that show how already in May 1915, and also later, a cardboard box (or even two cardboard boxes) stood on the altar in the shrine. They had a special role to play.
The first report is drawn from Fr Alex Meinningen’s reminiscences. At the same time as the Mission Association was transformed into the Marian Sodality for the senior boys, the Senior, and the Junior section of the Marian Sodality arose for the younger boys from the Educational Association in the third class, Alex Menningen was one of the youngest boys in the first class. Much later he became Fr Alex Menningen, who was so important in Schoenstatt. He was one of Fr Kentenich’s closest co-workers. He entered the College boarding school in September 1913 as a member of the first class. He could only observe from a distance what the older boys were doing in their Association.
Even before the First World War broke out 2 August 1914 everything changed. On 31 July 1914 the directors of the boarding school sent the boys home. On 4 August the College was taken over by the military and turned into a field hospital. As a result, not all the boys were able to return to Schoenstatt after the summer vacation of 1914. The two most junior classes had unwillingly to take an extraordinarily long summer vacation from July. Government propaganda spread the expectation that the war would quickly come to an end with the victory of the German army, then life would continue as before. However, this never happened. So the school heads decided to re-start the school before the end of the war. The senior classes were able to return in October; the junior classes only returned on 11 November, although not to Schoenstatt, but to the old college in Ehrenbreitstein. This is where the young Alex, along with 60 other boys, spent the first part of the second school year until Easter 1915.
When Alex returned to Schoenstatt after Easter 1915, he was surprised to see the changes that had taken place there. Later he repeatedly recounted what he had observed.
Alex Menningen was amazed by many things, and above all by the Chapel of St Michael, the Sodality Chapel. The senior boys were zealous in visiting it. In particular he observed something important, which he talked about in 1970, for example.
The second report comes down to us from the memories of Alfons Weber. He later became a Pallottine Father and spent the largest part of his life in Argentina. He related many things from the past, and once again that small box in which it seemed that self-education, devotion to Mary and the community work of the Marian Sodality converged.
When he wrote his memories he was 68 It was obvious that a number of details had impressed him deeply. A comparison with the list of May Blossoms, which originated a year later, that is, in 1916, suggests itself. The original document has been preserved and is at present in the archive of the Schoenstatt Fathers.
Very closely connected with collecting May Blossoms as an expression of love for Mary is the origin of the concept and life process known as contributions to the capital of grace.
The concept, capital of grace, appeared for the first time as far as we know, and has been remarked already in a letter from Fr Kentenich to Josef Fischer on 12 May 1915.
“We are very happy about our chapel and feel even more at home there than before. You will also be at home here. You will naturally receive a large share of the interest from the capital of grace we have collected in May, on condition that you contribute to it in your own way. You understand what I am saying …”
We can prove that Fr Kentenich did not take over the concept, “capital of grace”, from anyone or any source, at any rate it does not come from a written source. In 1970 Fr Menningen described what happened.
Until now we have only come across the concept ‘capital of grace’ in three places in Church literature, that is, with Alphonse Liguori, Tanquerey and Scheeben, but Fr Kentenich did not know any of these sources. Alphonse and Tanquery wrote in Italian, Scheeben lived much later, and, according to Fr Kentenich’s testimony, he had not yet read his works.