I would like to tell you what I experienced in Schoenstatt on 5 July 1951. It was a great event. My father and I happened to be in Schoenstatt just during these July days. While I took part in a retreat for the League, my father stayed in a private house. He tried to discover more about Schoenstatt’s secret and often prayed in the original shrine. So it happened that we experienced the great day of the mission for the East together.
The day opened with a solemn Holy Mass according to the Eastern Rite in the Pilgrims’ Church. The celebrant was Fr Mitnacht, an Augustinian from Wuerzburg. He told us that he had lived for many years in the East and had got to know the mentality and customs of the Russian people well. The old Pilgrims’ Church was festively decorated. There were a number of most beautiful and colourful icons in the sanctuary. The seminarians were to the right. We were in the centre. The church was packed. Mass started with many psalms and hymns. The Blessed Mother, the angels and all the saints were repeatedly invoked. The sacrificial gifts and the icons were repeatedly incensed as a sign of special devotion. The whole celebration inspired you to be recollected and prayerful. Besides this the students at the College, who were preparing themselves for their mission in the East, sang the hymns and chants of the Eastern Church. It was a musical feast. We were deeply touched when we were allowed to receive Holy Communion under both species. It was like an experience of Maundy Thursday, and one felt one was back in the Upper Room. At the end of the service all the Faithful were given blessed bread. My father was present for the whole service. He kept the bless bread for years as a precious memento. It was already midday as we left the church and made our way to the Retreat House.
That afternoon the Cross of the East was solemnly blessed. This was connected with sending out the students who had committed themselves to working in the East. During this celebration, Fr Turowski, the General Superior of the Pallottines, and our founder, Fr Kentenich spoke to us. We heard the latter for the first time. He spoke with great enthusiasm about the covenant of love with the MTA (the Mother Thrice Admirable). He said that the Blessed Mother wanted to set out on a march of victory in East and West, and that she wanted to convert the Russian people. It was worth our while to give ourselves completely for this objective. We have to go the Way of the Cross with our Lord, and with him hang on the cross. To underline his words, Fr Kentenich stretched out his arms wise. His gesture shook me rigid. His love for the cross frightened me. He lived it as an example to us. His whole life was a life of loving self-surrender. I am sure he also made his contribution for the conversion of Russia. At the time we did not guess what a difficult situation our founder was in. Soon afterwards his way of the cross began - fourteen years of separation from his work.
The celebration had reached its climax. Once the Russian cross had been blessed, it was carried in solemn procession to the original shrine. Fr Mitnach, wearing a cope, carried the Cross of the East as he led the procession. He was followed by Fr Turowski, Fr Kentenich, a number of Pallottine Fathers, the Sisters of Mary and the rest of the Faithful. As this was happening, my father saw Fr Kentenich close by and was profoundly impressed by his priestly personality. He was very proud that he had met him. This is how I experienced Schoenstatt together with my father.