History » 1914 - 1919 » Love for Mary » Menningen's Reminiscences

What Fr Menningen saw

I guess, first of all, it is a guess, that from the beginning, (that is, since 1912), love for Mary had become a function with him (Fr Kentenich, the Spiritual Director), not jus personally, but also in his way of educating; secondly, that his love for Mary, to whom he led the boys at the time and which he introduced, was already related to a place.

I see the first sign of its relatedness to a place in the little box with resolutions on the altar in the chapel. Later this became contributions to the capital of grace for the Blessed Mother in the chapel. Parallel to this the conviction developed: This is a place of grace! This started already in 1915.

… Actually it is possible that this little box had also stood somewhere else. The fact, however, that they placed this little box on the altar shows the tendency to go to the Blessed Mother. It is a tendency that later came to be called the contributions to the capital of grace.

Further details about his observations were related in 1970, when he was 70:

The capital of grace was already hinted at by the little box with the resolutions relating to self-education, which we drew up in May 1915.
We returned from Ehrenbreitstein after Easter in 1915. On this occasion I saw the little box at the front of the altar. It was placed on the altar, the “margarine box” as we often called it. It was a temporary altar. It had been very roughly constructed. We always said that they had taken some margarine boxes apart and turned them into an altar. By the way, the coal supply was kept under it. Fritz Esser and Josef Hagel heated the chapel with the coal stored there. They fetched it secretly from the supply for the Old House, and often said jokingly: With the special permission of the Blessed Mother. Josef Hagel also said that he went behind the back of Fr Auer and started a coal store there so that the chapel would always be nice and warm and hence attract visitors.

But to return to the little box. When we returned from Ehrenbreitstein, I noticed this change …

Already in October 1914 I noticed the changes, because I often visited Schoenstatt in the vacations in order to get to know about the war in the field hospital. I was terribly keen to know about it. I then went to Brother Massmann, or to one or the other of the wounded lying there, and went on begging: ‘Please take me to the soldiers who have experienced many things, to the officers who had received medals, or to others who were on the battlefield. I would love to hear what they have to say.’ –
I often walked from Hillscheid to Schoenstatt. During one of these visits I went into the chapel and was struck with amazement to see what had changed. The walls had been plastered, the missing stones had been replaced. It again looked tidy, although this didn’t mean that if it was left alone, it would collapse. It hadn’t been re-decorated, the old paint was still there, but it had been sealed. The roof had been mended. There were no longer little puddles on the floor. However, what really amazed me was the bright blue sanctuary with golden stars. We thought it was wonderful. It was in bad taste, but we found it really uplifting. Blue, sky blue. And the stars in this sky glittered with gold. It was all just like a real Marian shrine.

Note about the floor: At this time the floor was made of compressed clay without any firm stone or wooden covering. A stone floor was put in only in 1916, and it was then replaced by a wooden floor in 1924.

Note about the sanctuary: Fr Menningen’s words make it seem that the sanctuary was painted an even sky blue and decorated with golden stars. A photograph contradicts this. It clearly shows an ornamental pattern, so we have to make a distinction.

The changes were amazing. However, I did not know why they had been made. I thought to myself: The ancient chapel had to be repaired. They have simply given it a somewhat valid appearance.

And now a little box stood on the altar. During the boys’ visits I noticed that the older ones - Max Brunner, Nikolaus Wilwers, Albert Langner, Albert Eise and some others – went to the front to the little box. They took out a slip of paper, put it back and went out again.

I thought: I’ve got to find out what it all means. So I waited until no one was around, examined the little box and looked through the slips of paper. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I read: Keep silence in the study room; pray the Office well; be polite to Fr Auer, the Prefect; pray the Sodality prayers well. They were a collection of sacrifices. I couldn’t make head or tail of it all: Why collect the resolutions in a little box, a cardboard box, and place it on the altar?

We had only experienced the foundation of the Marian Sodality on 19 April 1914 from a distance, and were driven away by the big boys when we wanted to attend the foundation celebration in the house chapel. We were later told that Fr Klement was ready to swear that Josef Engling was there, because he was a very tall boy. I am not sure if that is correct. At any rate, we were driven away. As the junior boys we were curious to find out what Fr Kentenich had been up to. When we returned form Ehrenbreitstein at Easter, they had just accepted the previous course, Josef Engling’s course, into the Sodality on 11 April 1915. They were already conducting meetings under the leadership of the Prefect of the Junior Sodality, Alfons Haendly. We then heard that they gave talks, and these were followed by a discussion, and during the Sodality meetings they made resolutions. All these things filtered down to us and naturally aroused our curiosity, and even our opposition. As a result, I can still remember it well, I objected to Paul Reinhold: Paul, you don’t give your own talks, you have copied them from books. – Paul: No, we write them ourselves. I: Who leads the discussions? He: Josef Engling! I: That’s impossible; he trips over his own tongue. How can he lead a discussion? And what does Fr Kentenich do? He: He sits in a corner at the back. I: He sits in a corner! He has no business to be in a corner, he has to give the instructions and talks.

Note regarding Josef Engling: We can trace the tradition that Josef Engling was present at the foundation to the testimony of Fr Klement. He has mixed up the foundation of the Marian Sodality on 19.4.1914 with the foundation of the shrine on 18.10.1914. According to the testimony of Fr Andreas Schaefer, a fellow countryman, we can be certain that Josef Engling was not in Schoenstatt for the latter date.

It all seemed incredible to me. And now there was this thing with the little box! So I went to Fr Kentenich and asked: What is all this about the Sodality? Talks are being given which the Sodalists are supposed to have prepared themselves; this is followed by a discussion, about which a fairy tale is circulating that Josef Engling is leading it. And down there in the chapel the Sodalists belonging to the Junior Sodality go to a little box and draw resolutions.

He listened to it all with a smile. He was really pleased with these questions and replied, ‘Wouldn’t you like to talk to Josef Engling about it?’

It had the effect on me of a cold shower.

With him? No, never!

Fr Kentenich did not give in. He didn’t answer my questions. On the contrary he repeated: Yes, have a word with Josef Engling about it.

I was disappointed, but I knew no rest. And during the customary confession Fr Kentenich never returned to the subject. He didn’t ask me whether I had spoken to Josef Engling.

I knew no rest. One day I did sidle up to Josef Engling, and I noticed that he immediately responded to my question: Listen, couldn’t you explain the Sodality to me?

Later I learnt that Fr Kentenich had warned Engling, and he had waited a long time, a very long time, so when I came, he immediately responded. He explained the Sodality to me. During confession I told Fr Kentenich: I have spoken to Josef Engling. About what? About the Sodality. Did you? And what did he tell you? I must have replied in a very lively and excited way.

I have never forgotten this incident.

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