As a result of the movement’s desire to experience a Covenant Mass, the doors of the Sisters House Chapel were opened for such a Covenant Mass for the first time since lockdown in March this year. On the 18th October the international Schoenstatt movement celebrated 106 years since its foundation. In Cape Town this occasion was celebrated on the 19th October during a memorable celebration. Twenty members of the local Movement gathered together and those who could not physically attend could join in via YouTube and Facebook.
On arrival, everyone was wearing their face masks temperatures were taken, hands sanitized and registration completed. Though the masks hid the smiling faces the joyful chatter and excited eyes spoke of the momentous occasion that it was. One couple told us afterwards that it was the first time in eight months since they had physically attended Holy Mass. As they left home, the children realising where they were going, also wanted to attend. Unfortunately, they were not pre-registered so had to say at home and join spiritually.
Resilient in these new times
During their October Weekend a few days before, the Schoenstatt Movement in South Africa chose the motto: Mary, transform us to be resilient in these new times! The word “Resilient” found a strong echo during the discussions over that weekend. In his usual vibrant manner, Fr Peter-John Pearson, placed special emphasis on this word. He reminded us that names, especially in Africa, signify a depth of meaning. He challenged us to look more deeply at the meaning of the name Joseph and its connection to resilience. With great clarity Fr Peter-John went on to compare Joseph of Egypt and Father Joseph Kentenich.
Their early childhood was very different. Joseph of Egypt was loved; he was the favourite child of his father. Father Kentenich had a very different experience. Both, however had huge challenges during their youth. Despite the challenges there was a strong belief in their personal mission – a sense of God’s calling in their lives. Both had a sense that they were called to something greater than their circumstances. They emerged as resilient characters because they nurtured the calling of God. Whatever our circumstances we are called to be resilient while we try to follow God’s path for us.
Another parallel that is so strong is that they both ended up in places of imprisonment. Joseph was imprisoned through the actions of his brothers and Fr Kentenich was imprisoned in the Dachau Concentration Camp because of his faith in a merciful God. Fr Peter-John explained that it was in their places of prison that they could understand the “Dreams”, the plans of God for their mission and task. Their places of imprisonment were the springboard that gave them the courage to be voices of hope. A lesson learnt from both imprisonments is that the helplessness of the situation forced ideas to emerge to survive the situation and thus give hope.
A third point of comparison of both Josephs is that while in prison both ended feeding others. Both were in a situation of famine. “Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.” Genesis 47:12. Fr Kentenich in the hell of Dachau began to feed others and to be a source of inspiration and for others.
Beginnings of resilience
Fr. Peter-John concluded that all three points are the stories of beginnings of resilience. We begin a new spiritual year and are challenged to look at what it means to be a resilient person. Learning from the two Josephs, resilience can mean three things for us, namely, to allow difficult moments to be moments of hope. During these times of difficulty, to gently and quietly listen to what God is doing in our hearts! Finally, for us resilience means to be the bearer of the word that feeds others.
Renewal of the covenant
At the end of Holy Mass Fr. Peter-John invited the participants to process to the Shrine to renew the covenant of love. This moment of renewal was significant. It had been many months since a group was gathered at the Shrine to give themselves and all their intentions to our Blessed Mother. In the silence of the evening many accepted the challenge to grow a little more like Mary, a resilient woman in times of challenge.
Usually after Covenant Mass there is a gathering, a cup of tea and some freshly baked cake. On this night it was very different but nevertheless heart-warming. There was tremendous joy in seeing each other after so many months. Words of gratitude for the protection of God during this pandemic were spoken; as also words of thankfulness for the accompaniment and the reality that even though we were physically separated in our home and heart shrines we were united. And last but not least, there were words of hope for a future of resilience and joy.