In September this year (1954) we discovered a brief notice in the „Deutsche Tagespost“ (a newspaper) about the planned celebrations in Rome on 1 November for the proclamation of Mary’s Queenship. All the Marian shrines throughout the world were being asked to send a flag delegation to take part in the ceremonies. On this occasion our Holy Father was to crown the Roman picture of grace, “Salus Populi Romani”. In remembrance of this solemn act, the Holy Father wanted to adorn the shrine flags with a medal specially struck for the occasion.
Now there have been spiritual currents in our Schoenstatt Family for a long time to recognize and crown the Blessed Mother as our Queen. So our joy was great that our Holy Father himself wanted to crown her solemnly. Understandably many also felt the wish to take part in the celebrations as representatives of our shrine.
To our great regret we did not have a flag for our shrine. The Sodality banner does not show a symbol of the place of grace. The Movement flags can hardly be called representative of the shrine of grace. Each is an expression of the ideal of a section or community belonging to the Movement. So the leader of the Movement, Fr Kastner, came to a decision in Rome when he heard about the celebrations on 1 November.
At the end of September the Rector of the shrine, Fr Josef Hagel, remarked that we should make every effort to get a shrine flag that could represent our Schoenstatt shrine in Rome on 1 November. This flag would have to symbolize Schoenstatt: the front could show a crowned MTA picture and the title MATER TER ADMIRABILIS; the back could depict the shrine and the graves, and the title SANCTUARIUM SCHOENSTATTENSE.
The Sisters of Mary in the vestment section were unable to accept the commission because there was too little time to embroider a large flag. So on 21.9.1954 an approach was made to a vestment and flag factory in Krefeld to find out whether they would be able to make the flag by 26.10.1954. The firm accepted the commission. However the representative of the firm only came to Schoenstatt on 2.10.1954 to discuss the details. In order that the MTA picture could be a authentic as possible, we asked for the MTA picture from the house chapel on Mount Schoenstatt, since it was the best colour reproduction of the original. At first the Sisters hesitated to give up the picture for such a long time, because the house was going to be inspected on 24.10. However, since they wanted to do their share towards making the shrine flag beautiful, the placed the picture at our disposal, on condition that it was returned on 23.10.
The firm in Krefeld set to work on 3.10.1954. To start with the designers had to design the flag. The embroiderers began with their work on 14th. According to the employer, 12 needlewomen worked in shifts from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. in order to complete the flag in time. At the earnest request of the firm the delivery date was postponed until Friday evening, 29.10. The picture from Mount Schoenstatt could stay until then, because the inspection of the new house had had to be postponed.
In the meantime the top of the flagpole was completed. The Brothers of Mary had received a number of orders that had to meet a deadline, and were overburdened with work. So the order had to be given to a firm in Koblenz. The shaft is enclosed in a metal casing which ends in a crown surmounted with the MTA insignia.
On 13.10 we received word from Fr Bonfada, a member of the Pallottine General Council in Rome, that an invitation of the local bishop was required if we wanted to take part in the ceremonies on 1 November. Fr Burggraf, who had come with Fr Kennedy, the Vice-Superior General, to the October Week in Schoenstatt, had the details.
The Fathers arrived from Rome on 15th. That same day a letter was sent to the Bishop of Trier in which the Rector of the shrine asked for an invitation to Rome. A week passed without an answer arriving from Trier. We could not lose time, because we still had to apply to the Committee of the Marian Year in Rome. Without it we would not be admitted. A telegramme from Rome urged us: “Agreement of the bishop required. Apply personally.”
The Sisters of Mary in Trier managed to apply for an audience for Fr Hagel, the Rector of the shrine, with the Bishop. This was granted for Thursday, 28.10 at 9.30 a.m. Fr Hagel had to conduct a course for a pilgrimage from Augsburg at that time. However, it happened that this pilgrimage was to take part in a morning service in the Eastern Rite that Thursday. So Fr Hagel was free until the afternoon and could travel to Trier. There he learnt that the bishop had only received details about the formalities of the ceremonies on 1 November a few days before from Rome, so he was able to give the invitation. A telegramme was immediately sent off to Rome: “Invitation of bishop received.”
Fr Bonfada had already made a conditional application to the Committee for a flag representation from Schoenstatt. Once he had received the telegramme, he was able to obtain the admission tickets.
Now, however, we were worried about the flag. News had come from Krefeld that they still had a lot of work to do to complete the flag. A great deal of prayer and sacrifice was offered up in these weeks. The MTA would personally have to see to it that the flag was completed. We waited tensely for new from Krefled. In the end a telephone conversation confirmed that the flag would be finished by Friday morning, 29.10. It arrived in Schoenstatt on Friday afternoon at 1.30 p.m. The journey to Rome could go ahead.
It was decided that besides Fr Mosbach, two Sisters of Mary would accompany the flag to Rome: Sr M. Annetrud, superior of the Wasserburg to represent the Pilgrims’ Movement, and Sr M. Aloysiana from the Retreat House to represent the sections of the Movement. The blessing of the flag took place in the shrine on Friday evening at 8.30 p.m. Fr Hagel gave a short talk and read out the Bishop’s invitation (a German translation):
With the agreement and approval of the Bishop of Trier, undersigned, in whose diocese the shrine of the most Blessed Virgin Mary of Schoensatt is situated,
Rev. Fr. Mosbach
is being sent to Rome. Together with some companions (confreres) he is to represent the above-mentioned shrine at the ceremonies taking place in the coming days in Rome to honour Mary, and to carry the shrine’s flag.
Given at Trier, on 28 Oct. 1954 Gegeben zu Trier, am 28. Oct. 1954
(signed) + Matthias
Bischop of Trier.”
Shortly afterwards, at about 11.30 p.m., the flag-bearers and companions traveled to Koblenz with our shrine flag. At around 12.24 a.m. they caught the Holland/Italy Express to Rome. In the night of Saturday/Sunday, 30/31 October, our flag delegation arrived in Rome.
The great procession was to take place in Rome in the afternoon of 31st. The ancient Roman picture of grace, “Salus Populi Romani” (Salvation of the People of Rome) was brought from St Mary Majors to St Peters. The flag delegations of the Marian shrines from all over the world were to take part. 45 nations with 480 flags were represented.
The delegation from our shrine in Schoenstatt was considerably strengthened in Rome. Fathers, Brothers and Seminarians of the Generalate and international Pallottine College joined them. So the following nations were represented as they accompanied our flag: Brazil, Ireland, Spain and Germany.
Before our delegation set off for St Mary Major, they all gathered once more with the flag in the little MTA chapel near Pallotti’s grave. We sang as a greeting “Mira il tuo populo, bella signora ...” (Look down on your people, beautiful Lady …) and prayed the “Salve Regina”.
We then set off for St Mary Major. It took almost an hour to organize the huge procession. The first part was made up of the flag delegations organized according to nationalities. Our delegation joined the representatives of the German shrines. While the procession slowly made its way through the streets of the city we prayed the Rosary and sang Marian hymns. Every now and again it was possible to glance forward and back. Far ahead of us there were flags, far behind us the delegations with their flags in colourful variety. The crowds lined the streets to watch. The clerics followed the flag procession, then came the festively decorated coach with the picture of grace. One could feel that the whole world was taking part in Mary’s triumphal procession. We were happy that we were allowed to carry the banner of our Mother Thrice Admirable and Queen of Schoenstatt through the streets of Rome.
The following morning brought the climax of the tribute to Mary: the proclamation of the feast of the Queenship of Mary and the crowning of the picture of grace “Salus Populi Romani”. The flag delegations were specially invited to attend. Our flag was carried into St Peter’s by Fr Mosbach, Brother Baltes (Rome), Sr M. Annetrud and Sr M. Aloysiana. There a forest of flags belonging to the shrines of the Blessed Mother from all over the world surrounded her picture a meaningful expression of her worldwide sovereignty, but also a public and enthusiastic recognition of her dominion.
At 11 a.m. our Holy Father came in procession over St Peter’s Square accompanied by the cheers of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Cardinals and about 250 bishops accompanied him.
First of all our Holy Father accepted the tribute of the Cardinals. It was a sign that they agreed with what he was about to do. Then he proclaimed the new feast and addressed a solemn act of homage and petition to the Queen of Heaven and Earth.
The Holy Father then blessed the newly minted medals for the representatives of the individual shrines. He personally attached the medals to some of the flags, the rest received them at the end of the ceremonies.
The crowning of the picture of grace followed. Our Holy Father blessed the two crowns one for the Child Jesus, the other for the Blessed Mother and personally attached them. An indescribable jubilation filled St Peter’s at this honour paid to the Blessed Mother.
The crowning of the picture of grace followed. Our Holy Father blessed both crowns one for the Child Jesus and one for the Blessed Mother and personally attached them. Indescribable jubilation filled St Peter’s as the Blessed Mother was honoured in this way.
After the solemn Te Deum our Holy Father gave us his apostolic blessing.
The crowned picture was then carried to the Loggia of the Basilica. Our Holy Father showed it to all who had gathered in St Peter’s Square and gave the blessing “Urbi et Orbi”.
The delegation from our Schoenstatt shrine proudly received the commemorative medal and attached it to our flag. We may regard it as a recognition of our shrine, for which we may be happy and proud.
At first our flag will remain in Rome. A group of pilgrims belonging to our Movement (Family Branch and Pilgrims’ Circle) will be coming here in two weeks’ time.
On 18 November, our Covenant Day, there was an audience for everyone in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo an unforgettable moment for all of us who were privileged to be present. We had brought our flag along for the Holy Father to see and bless. We also gave him a large MTA picture.
Our greeting, which we called out to our Holy Father made more impressive by the many men’s voices in our Schoenstatt group of pilgrims was: “Schoenstatt greets the Holy Father! Loyalty! Hail!”
Our Chilean Seminarians who have their Novitiate in Switzerland, had a special suggestion: the flag should be brought to Fribourg, to the newly dedicated shrine, and from there travel from shrine to shrine as an expression of the connection between the original shrine and the daughter shrines. However, the flag with the new medal must first be brought to the original shrine. On 20 November the Schoenstatt pilgrims brought the flag from Rome to Schoenstatt. It arrived on the feast of the Presentation and was carried in solemn procession across the Pilgrims’ Place to the shrine. It is to remain there until the end of the Marian Year as an expression of the attachment of the whole Schoenstatt Family to our shrine, and remind us of the great mission given to us from the Schoenstatt shrine for the universal Church.