At times like this, the echoes of several Schoenstatt children resound: “Thank goodness we have the home shrine!” Yes, thank also our father and founder for the reality of the domestic church, the first and most important apostolate we have!
The precautions measures during the epidemic may go on for weeks and will keep us from worshiping and praying as a community, in our parishes, and daughter shrines. However, our network of home shrines is spread throughout the world with a pandemic character and it allows us to stay connected with God and with each other. The first invitation to take Mary into our homes and give her a place of honor came from Father Kentenich in 1948 in his letter from Santa Maria, Brazil. In 1963, when Father Kentenich proclaimed and established, with foundational character, the reality of the home shrines as part of the network of shrines, a new source of grace opened for the faithful. Today, if we include the heart shrines and the pilgrim MTA shrines as part of this network, we can say that every state of the USA is connected to this web.
Couldn’t we take these days of Lent, these days of lock-down, and have a counter-quarantine of contributions to the capital of grace enforced through the network of home shrines in the USA? From our home shrines, we can apply gentle force on our MTA to keep us under her protection. Our prayers and sacrifices, the attitude and love with which we offer the sufferings and mortifications of everyday life may help redeem our world, may help souls. Isn’t that what is at stake? The greatest threat for our people is to face sudden death without faith, without repentance or proper preparation. Our contributions to the capital of grace can turn this tide. Do we believe this?
Do we believe that our greatest apostolic deed is to draw Mary down among us? A continuous chain of contributions to the capital of grace offered by Schoenstatt children from their home shrines can help our people face this and any other danger. These quiet, pent-up days are an opportunity for a counter-quarantine from our network of home shrines. It will only be effective as long as our home shrines are directly connected to the original fountain of graces by keeping the spirit of the Original Shrine alive. Our connection to the closest daughter shrine is also decisive in this regard. How has our connection to the daughter shrines been so far? How have we kept the flow between our contributions to the capital of grace and the graces streaming from the shrine? Have we kept alive up to this point our practical faith in Divine Providence, believing in the power of the covenant of love in our lives?
Just as the MTA protected Schoenstatt and the Original Shrine, during World War II, couldn’t she protect the network of home shrines, and those we pray for, during this time of need? Couldn’t we be the praying power of the Church and resemble our Mother and Queen in her intercessory power? Couldn’t we increase our efforts just as the founding generation did? The faithful fulfillment of our duty, the selfless manner in which we care for those entrusted to our care, the daily and quiet renunciations of small things, or simply stepping out of our comfort zone and giving joy to someone at home, are some of the ordinary ways we can prove our love for the MTA. These may increase the flow of graces from our home shrines out into the world.
As you may know, the President of the USA, Donald J. Trump, has declared March 15 as a National Day of Prayer. Tomorrow, third Sunday of the month, we would have come together to renew the covenant of love by our International Shrine. Instead of gathering at the Father Kentenich Hall, Waukesha, we will renew our covenant in our home shrines and wherever we are, implore God’s protection from coast to coast. By strengthening the life of our home shrines and creating this counter-current of faith, hope, and love from our domestic churches, we can bring about many hidden miracles of grace in the hearts of people.
It is not the first time in world history that God uses misfortune to help humanity come back to faith or strengthen it. But, we need reminders. September 11, 2001, when the pastor of a parish very close to the Brooklyn Bridge, NY, heard about what had happened in Manhattan, he thought some people crossing the bridge may want to come in and pray for the victims. He simply unlocked the doors of the church during the morning. Later, when he came back to see if anyone had come in, to his surprise, he found the church full!
In 1918, during the pandemic of Spanish flu which took the lives of thousands and thousands of people, a missionary priest arrived in Wichita, to a quarantined community where a sixteen-year-old had just died. This priest insisted in ministering to sick stricken by the illness. After some time, he also collapsed. Short of breath, before dying, he gasped: “Keep your hands and hearts clean!”
It is interesting that the origin of the Paschal feast, the highest liturgical celebration at the end of Lent, is connected to an epidemic which affected the first born on the land. The Lord, based on his covenant with Israel, requested that every God-fearing and faithful household marked their lintels and let others know that they feared him. “For when the Lord goes by to strike down the Egyptians, seeing the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and not let the destroyer come into your houses to strike you down” (Gen. 12:23). Our homes, too, bear the mark of Mary’s presence and with that, of Christ’s power reigning in them. The blood of the lamb, that is, our daily sacrifices should mark the doorposts of our family life. For the world and for our people!
In the last eighteen hours, five more people have died from the virus and a couple hundred more have been infected here in the USA. The viral, intense, and fatal effect of this illness turns our thoughts into prayers. We pray for protection, wisdom, calm, caution, endurance, and prudence. We also pray for those who are affected—some may even be part of our families. But, one more prayer ought to be offered and that is for humility, deep within the human soul. It is what we call childlikeness before God. May it break through in the hearts of everyone now and any day of our lives! May we take this time to truly have a forty-days period of reflection, repentance, and spiritual growth—a counter-quarantine from the network of our home shrines!
 Terry Mattingly, article In Times of Plague Priests Do What They Need to Do, University of Mississippi, March 12, 2020.