History » 1920 - 1934 » 1934 Blessing of the Altar

1934 Blessing of the Altar

There is a report on the blessing of the new altar, which we have taken from the magazine “Altara Maria”, May 1934, Nr 2, p. 38 ff.

It is always the same with us women, we love what exists so much that we suffer when we have to give up something to which we are attached by thousands of bonds. Even when the new thing is far more valuable and artistic and worthy, we have to get used to it. This is sometimes very difficult for us, because we have to let go of what we love and know with all our hearts. It takes a time for us to feel at home with what is new and our hearts have found contact with it. This contact attaches us all the more firmly to it the more profoundly our hearts can relate to what is new.

I am sure that many of the women of the Federation felt as I did when we knelt for the first time before the new altar of our beloved Mother in her shrine in Holy Week. To begin with I felt something like estrangement and a little confused. I felt exactly like this once when I was a child and waited for my beloved mother to return from a journey. Instead of her usual simple dress, she was wearing a lovely new one in the latest fashion. My heart objected. “That beautifully dressed lady cannot be my mother!” But when I heard her voice and looked into her beloved face, and felt her gentle hands, I knew that this was my mother after all, the same mother who had gone away and now returned looking beautiful, ever so beautiful!

In all of us there is more or less of a child in the secret corners of our hearts, because I felt the same as I did at that time. First there was a feeling of estrangement … and then finally the joyful recognition: ‘I am still with Mummy.’

Yes, despite the new altar, this wonderful new dress, the heavenly Mother smiles as kindly and lovingly as before, almost more kindly and gently, because she knows that her children kneeling before her are suffering from homesickness despite their joy, and have to overcome their feeling of estrangement. But the silent and overflowing joy that we can again be at home, all feelings of strangeness disappeared slowly. Our hearts were again at home with their Mother, and a tired child was able to leave behind the loud and restless streets of life to come home to peace once more. Our soul broke the bridges to the turbulent events in the world and walked again on holy ground, sinking into the sacred silence of the supernatural world. It again breathed in the grace-filled atmosphere of the shrine, and forgetting the world around, set sail on the boundless billows of grace for the mysterious bliss of God.

Our next visits to the shrine helped us to take leave of the past and attach the fibres of our hearts in a new way to those hours of grace we had experienced there. The main thing was that the picture was the same – that simple picture of Mother and Child that our hero sodalists loved so much and that became to them the epitome and visible symbol of Mary’s place of grace.It does not matter that our picture is so childlike and without artistic merit, we have loved it from that hour of grace when we were led by our Mother’s hand deeply into into the supernatural wonder world of our shrine. The greater the graces we received, the more we loved this picture; the more deeply we have understood Schoenstatt, and the further we have been allowed to see into the supernatural world, the more warmly we are attached to this picture of grace.

The old altar

We loved the old altar, because our memories were connected with it. No matter how plain and valueless it was, we loved it. This is both the weakness and the strength of women. They are profoundly attached to tradition. We loved the altar just as we loved the simple working clothes of our mother, because in it she had worked and cared for us. The old altar was only a primitive construction out of boards, and it wasn’t worthy of safeguarding our picture of grace. It was as simple as the picture itself. But because it had witnessed that great event that gave us Schoenstatt, it was valuable to us. We loved it because our hero sodalists had knelt before it, and because their clumsy boyish hands had decorated it so tenderly and movingly for their Mother. We still hear on occasion how carefully clumsy Joseph Engling had collected flowering branches from the forest in order to pay her homage in the beautiful Spring days twenty years ago. ...

The new altar

Now Sister Sacristan has less to do to decorate the altar. The new altar is rich and a work of art even without much decoration. It is a wonderful baroque altar with rich carving and angels with wings. (Next to the tabernacle there were angels in adoration to the right and left. These were replaced with the figures of the Apostles more than a year later.) The leaves and fruits of the vine decorate the tabernacle doors above which we find the picture of grace. The effect is somewhat overpowering in our lttle chapel; I would have preferred something a little gentler. The flickering light of the candles and the golden radiance of the spring flowers paint a warm, golden tone against the dark oak carving.

It is strange, and a work of Providence how they arrived at the present form of the altar. The artist who designed it recognized part of the centre of a former altar in the former communion rail. The richly carved communion rail always seemed rather strange in the simple chapel. No one knows where it came from, but the coat of arms carved into it will enable us to find out where it was made. This communion rail, where our hero sodalists and all our dear departed knelt so often, and where they received her Child under the form of bread, has now been given a worthy place on the altar of grace. All those who find it difficult to get used to the new altar love this fact and find it easier to embrace it with their hearts.

So this altar is not altogether new and without a soul. It has a history, our memories form a garland around it. The more often we kneel before it, the more it will become our very own. It is as though its dark wood has first to become saturated with all the fervent prayers of countless hearts. It must first become worthy of being honoured, so that it is more than just a beautiful work of art. We will find the golden bridge to it in the well-known part incorporated into it, and with which we feel so much at home.

The windows

Also the windows, which until now have been really primitive, have been meaningfully and beautifully restored.

The window to the left next to the altar (on the Gospel side) shows a symbol of Christ. The window to the right opposite it shows the letters MTA in an artistic form. They tell us that Christ and Mary have to be seen together. Just as they were inseparable in life and were united in a close communion of life, love and destiny, so we may not separate them when we honour them. “Through Mary to Christ!” – that is the message of these windows.

In the window to the left near the door we can see the shrine standing on a sword. The shrine symbolizes grace, the sword our battle against our passions and the evil in the world, that is, our co-operation with grace. So it is a symbolic representation of the Apostolic Movement.

In the oppostite winder we see the symbol of the Pallottine Fathers, the cross with the radiant star. The light of the cross shines into the dark world. The symbols of the Apostolic Movement and the Pallottine Fathers have to be seen together, because they are meant to co-operate. The idea our Movement is trying to embody carries out what Vincent Pallotti wanted. His idea has been enlarged, continued and adapted to the needs of the times in ours.

The blessing

It was planned that the 9th April, which this year brings us the feast of the Annunciation, should be the day when the new altar is blessed. At the same time the shrine, which until now has been dedicated to St Michael and ‘rented’ by the Blessed Mother, is to be consecrated to the Blessed Mother under the title of Maternitas Mariae, as Fr Provincial told us in his address.

In 1931, on the 1500th anniversary of the day in Ephesus when Christ was solemnly proclaimed ‘truly God’ and Mary ‘the Mother of God’, our Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, ordered that the feast of Mary’s Mother should be celebrated on 11th October. The octave day is for us the anniversary of the foundation of the capital of grace, the 18th October. It is a festive week that will have a special meaning to us in the time to come.

It was a wonderful Spring morning when the large festive community gathered around our shrine on 9th April. A fine mist covered the Rhine valley. The mountainsides were clothed in tender green. The fruit trees in bud leant against the grey convent walls. Violets and Easter flowers surrounded the shrine, and the beds were covered with pansies. The rising sun spun a golden net around the mountain tops. A solemn silence rested on the large field beside the shrine where Sisters of Mary and the Women’s Federation had gathered with many guests. The bell in the little tower rang out into the morning air as the birds twittered and a few doves cooed, and the call of the cuckoo echoed through the silence.

Fr Baumann, the Provincial, moved in festive vestments to the shrine surrounded by the Fathers and some diocesan priests. Accompanied by the singing of the priests and the Church’s ancient words of blessing he dedicated the new altar and the little shrine to the praise of Mary’s motherhood. Holy Mass, a solemn High Mass, began and the choir of priests vied with the little singers in the trees around. Human beings and God’s other creatures joined in praising the Almighty.

After the Gospel, Fr Provincial came to the temporary pulpit erected in front of the shrine. He led us back into the distant past of this holy place, the time of the ancient Convent in Schoenstatt. We heard extracts from the chronicle of this little shrine for the first time – that in 1319 the pious servant of the Prior had left three vineyards to the Convent in her will, so that Holy Mass could be celebrated there in the time to come. So it was a caring woman who took an interest in this tiny chapel. The golden grapes from her vineyards had to pour in future into the saced chalice on this altar and be transformed into the precious Blood of our Lord. The grapes on the tabernacle doors of the new altar remind us permanently of this pious gift. Involuntarily I was reminded of the beautiful Epistle of the feast of Mary’s Motherhood: Like a vine I bring forth sweet fruits, and my bloosoms carry noble fruits …We also heard that this shrine had been destroyed in the Thirty Years’ War, only to be destroyed by the French in 1912 after it had been re-built.

(Note: This is a very inaccurate statement and gives a false impression. In 1812 there were no French troops anywhere near Schoenstatt, but in 1813/14 German troops used it for other purposes without actually destroying it.)

Yet it was always rebuilt on the old foundations. Divine Providence and Mary’s motherly care gave it to the Pallottines and hence finally to the young hero sodalists, who on 18th October 1914 entered daringly into that wonderful covenant with the Blessed Mother. It is so unique and has become so fruitful that today we can be nourished by it, and must also increase it every day, so that this shrine will be preserved for us and coming generations as it is today – the mysterious place of grace of the Mother Thrice Admirable.

The solemn celebration of the Word of God came to an end. For some of us it meant that we had to leave quickly. It was a good thing, because a rapid leave-taking is often not so difficult. We took a last look at the shrine and greeted our beloved Mother. It was as though she had given us a message to take along with us from the Epistle of her feast: ‘I am the mother of fair love and of fear, of knowledge and of holy hope. … Come to me all who love me and be filled with my fruits.’

’Come to me!’ our Mother called out after us. These words sing and resound in our souls and accompany us with their gentle melody in everyday life. Whoever has met our Mother at her place of grace in an hour of grace will never be left alone. Her hand will always accompany them, she will call our again and again to return to her shrine.

O Mother Thrice Admirable, bring us ever closer to Christ and lead us one day to our home in heavenly Schoenstatt, and into eternal peace.

It remains to be added that the new windows in the shrine were made by Prekel in Cologne, the wooden frame and glass were made by Albert in Pfaffendorf, the iron structure was made by Wertgen in Vallendar. (According to Fr Muehlbeyer) the new windows cost 112 Mark at the time. When the new altar was blessed on 9th April 1934 the new windows were already in place. Fr Joseph Klein researched these details and wrote them down in a letter of 4.3.1984.

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