History » 1914 - 1919 » The MTA picture

The MTA picture

2 April 1915 – Arrival of Mary’s picture

The chapel still didn’t have a large picture of Mary. Naturally all concerned wanted one. Fr Kolb, the Provincial Superior at the time, described the discussions in this regard and the course of events.

On 8 January 1963, while he was in Milwaukee, Fr Kentenich personally talked informally about the history of the MTA picture in the shrine.

Fr Heinrich Schulte wrote a precise report on the arrival of the picture in Schoenstatt. He recorded the day of arrival as Good Friday, 2 April 1915.

In a letter to Josef Fischer of 30 April 1915, Fr Kentenich wrote as though the picture had not been hanging in the chapel since about Easter, but had only just been put up:

Also our chapel is becoming more and more dignified. Just before the beginning of May we received a beautiful altar picture from Mr Huggle (Mother and Child). We want to intercede for Mary’s very special blessng on all her faithful Sodalists. That is to be one of the tasks placed before us this May.

In “Unter dem Schutze Mariens” (Under the Protection of Mary) an extract from Fr Kentenich’s letter to Josef Fischer of 12 May 1915 (p.334) is quoted.

In the short time since you left our chapel has taken on a very beautiful appearance. St Michael had to give way to a beautiful picture of Mary (Mother and Child – a gift from Rev. D. Huggle). He has been given a position on the Gospel side in the sanctuary. There he reigns as the guard of the Blessed Sacrament. The large arch has a most beautiful bead embroidery: Ave Maria. Brother Franz (Note: It is not clear which Brother Franz was meant, because at the time four of the 26 Brothers in the house were called Franz.) worked on it in his spare time for one and a half years. The joiner who framed it for us (for 17,50 Mark) estimated its value as between 300-400 Marks. This could be an exaggeration. However, we are happy about our chapel and feel more at home there than ever before. You should also be at home here. Naturally you will receive a large percentage of the interest from the capital of grace (this is the first mention we have of this concept) we have been collecting in May. This presupposes that you contribute something to the capital in your own way. You understand me ...

The following testimony speaks in favour of an earlier date for putting up the new picture of Mary in the Sodality chapel. It was given in connection with the question about the development of the Blessed Mother’s titles.

The Titel - Mater ter admirabilis

When the picture was fetched from Vallendar station on 2 April 1915 and unpacked from its box, it brought with it the title given to it by the artist, Crosio. The picture had been painted and named in Mary’s honour as “refugium peccatorum – Refuge of Sinners”. Whoever prays before this picture should invoke Mary under this title and in this way proclaim his trust in her.
It can no longer be clarified historically why the people in Schoenstatt felt inspired, justified or obliged to change the title of the picture, or to give it a new one. It is possible that on its arrival they did not know the title given to it by the artist, and that it became known only later.
For pedagogical reasons Fr Kentenich might not have wanted the title “Refuge of Sinners”, because his interest and aim was a pedagogy of ideals. For this reason he did not make use of the Ingolstadt regulation, which laid down that whoever was aware of having committed a serious sin, could inwardly no longer be a member of the Marian Sodality. However, it is not known whether this had any role to play when they were looking for a title for the picture.
Whatever the reasons were, we can be sure that the picture was given another title. The process, however, is amazing.
To start with, if Fr Kentenich had wanted another title, or if he had wanted to give the picture a different title, it suggests itself that he would have retained and continued his practice until then. In the Founding Document he had called the Blessed Mother ‘our Lady’. He used exactly the same title in letters to Josef Fischer, for example, on 30.4.1915:

“And you, what are you doing in the month when we honour our Lady?”
Of course, we could say that from the beginning the cloisters at Schoenstatt and its church were dedicated to the Mother of God. It was called “Convent of our Lady”. The Blessed Mother was honoured as “Our Lady of Schoenstatt”. So Fr Kentenich probably found it easy to use this title and speak about “our Lady”, because this was the custom. And it is probable that from the moment he discovered that the Chapel of St Michael was Mary’s special place and wanted to make it a place of special graces and a place of pilgrimage, he also felt the inner necessity – or at least the meaning – to emphasize the special character of the shrine. So in April 1915 it stood to reason that they should look for an independent title for the new picture.
In theory a number of other titles existed from which they could choose theirs. Besides the title “Our Lady of Schoenstatt” and “Refugium peccatorum – Refuge of Sinners), Pallotti’s favourite title, for example, “Queen of the Apostles”, or, “Mater divini amoris – Mother of Divine Love” also suggested themselves. On occasion Fr Kentenich had used another title from the Litany of Loreto with palpable warmth: “Mater amabilis – amiable Mother”. Yet nothing of the sort happened.

The decision to choose the title „mater ter admirabilis“ came as a result of observing the spiritual development of the boys, and not as a result of theoretical or dogmatic considerations. The process is an example of those principles of faith in Divine Providence, which Fr Kentenich later called the “law of creative resultants”. It happened like this: At the beginning of April 1915 when the picture arrived, the boys were so occupied with the Parallel between Ingolstadt and Schoenstatt (or Schoenstatt and Ingolstadt – both formulations were used) that the favourite title used there was also being discussed, and hence could also have been selected. The Ingolstadt title gave rise to an echo in the boys.

The most ancient testimony of the title by which the Blessed Mother was invoked can be found in an extract from a letter from one of the above-mentioned authors. It was printed on p69 of issue Nr 9/10 of the MTA magazine, fourth year of 30.7.1919.

The above-mentioned letter was dated 21 April 1915. It reported on the boys’ apostolate during the vacations. On Low Sunday the boys were still in Schoenstatt (acceptance consecration of the candidates for the Marian Sodality with Josef Engling). It isn’t clear whether they ahd to spend to weeks or longer at home because of food shortages. The house chronicle makes no note of vacations for this year. A year later, 1916, it was noted. At any rate the title MTA and “Mother Thrice Admirable” (printed as one word in German!) is mentioned in this vacation letter.

At the end of 1914 Fr Kentenich came upon a book by a Jesuit, Franz Hattler: ‘Reverend Fr Jakob Rem of the Society of Jesus and his Marian Sodality’ (Nationale Verlagsanstalt Regensburg 1896). In it he read an account of the foundation of the Colloquium Marianum in Ingolstadt by Fr Rem in 1594, and of the title for the picture of grace there: Mater ter admirabilis. Fr Kentenich took this as a reason to speak about a parallel between Ingolstadt and Schoenstatt. Fr Kastner’s book, “Unter dem Schutze Mariens” – Under the Protection of Mary – gives the details.

It is not known for certain when exactly, that is, on which day in which month, Fr Kentenich came upon this book. It is mentioned for the first time in the third talk following the Founding Document. The talk is entitled: “3. The particular examination” and can be found in “Unter dem Schutze Mariens”. In the talk Fr Kentenich referred in detail to the celebration of the feast of 8 December 1914, so it was probably held shortly afterwards.

Be that as it may, there was time enough until April 1915 for the Ingolstadt title for the Blessed Mother to become well known and considered suitable for our Lady of Schoenstatt.

Although Fr Kentenich liked and then decided to adopt the title of the Ingolstadt Madonna, his reasons are not to be found in the Ingolstadt tradition, but in the way it precisely expressed (in the sense of a creative resultant) what he had observed and experienced in Schoenstatt’s development. This is shown in a letter of 26 June 1915 in which he put an end to any ups and downs with regard to the choice of a title for our Lady of Schoenstatt.

These can be found in a letter to Josef Fischer.

It will probably remain Fr Kentenich’s secret on which of the five or six boys he had observed and experienced the above. We could think of Max Brunner’s inner transformation, because this is documented in his biography. For the rest it seems impossible to prove anything in this regard any more.

The MTA picture

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