December 27, 2022

Children Discover Schoenstatt

Sister Mariette Bruns
Germany, Schoenstatt

Children’s hearts are open

and hungry 

The Pilgrim Center in Schoenstatt, Germany, offers its own events for children and First Communion children. In order to become a personality strong in faith, children need a foundation that allows their faith life to grow and gives them support. Discovering the treasure of faith and thus finding the source of strength for life is an important task, especially in our often godless times. Children’s hearts are open and hungry for this and that is good!

Groups of First Communion children experience Schoenstatt

 Five buses with expectant children and catechists from a diaspora parish in the Diocese of Cologne set out in two groups for Schoenstatt. There, the Good Shepherd–a popular image–permeated the entire program.

In the midst of a world far removed from faith, the children learn to live the faith, learn to pray, meet Jesus, tell him just what is important to them at the moment, and deepen their friendship with him, because, as they learn, he knows everyone by name: He knows me personally! Coming to this realization is one of the goals of these events.

It was not surprising that the children sang very loudly the song of the “Good Shepherd” the entire way back from Mt. Schoenstatt to the valley, or that it was very important to them that the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that they were allowed to make for themselves personally, would have a place of honor in their home: It was their remembrance of the experiences in the shrine.

It was touching to see how seriously the children went along with everything that was new for them: the children’s Stations of the Cross, first in pictures, then with vivid materials such as the crown of thorns, the cloth of Veronica, large nails and a huge hammer. Things to touch and marvel about!

During the night hike, the troop marched past the Stations of the Cross in the terrain and immediately a drama ran through the heads of the little ones. A real discussion took place among them: Why did Jesus have to die? They knew the explanation—the answer that Jesus gave to the disciples on the way to Emmaus: “Didn’t Jesus have to die so that he and we could go to heaven?”

Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Children from various parishes came in several buses to make their First Confession – this included, of course, deepening their preparation. Their last very personal preparation took place in their favorite place in church.  The children took this literally and before the catechetical team knew it, the children were spread throughout the church. One of them used the kneeler of the pew as a writing table for notes (in preparation for Confession). Two friends wrote almost lying on the altar steps and were totally absorbed. Another one chose his place directly beneath the tabernacle—actually the nicest place.

After receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation – and after the thanksgiving, which included the ringing of the bell of the small model shrine – there was joyful and visibly relieved flag-waving.

During the evening prayer a candle was passed from one to the other. Each child could say something for which they were grateful—for many of the children one thing was not enough. They begged expectantly for a second round, because they could think of so much.

ONE thank you is not enough – feedback from the children

“My big brother told me that we wake up with guitar songs. Is that true?” – Yes! And also a good night song to fall asleep to.

To our cook in the Youth House, Sonnenau, who serves pancakes with cherry compote or Nutella as an evening side dish: “Are you a 5-star cook?” “No, but I like to cook.” – “To me you are a 5-star cook!”

 “These were the two best days of my life! It is so nice here!”

“I want to stay here forever. Too bad it’s already over!”

Upon the revelation of her cousin that she is not Catholic but, nevertheless, volunteers for the days here: “I come in addition to my confirmation class because I heard it was so great here!”

 “Is there a shrine like this in Italy, too?”

The same question was asked by children whose families came from Poland, Croatia, France, the Czech Republic, Vietnam…General amazement when they learned: There is a chapel like this in 80 countries. And where there is not yet a shrine made of stone, there is the so-called “pilgrim shrine” made of wood, which travels from family to family. It is small so it can be used in a private prayer corner of the home.

One mother: “I would like to see more of these events for my children.”

The children also make a rosary and learn to pray it in a way that is appropriate for children. There are the Stations of the Cross for children and they have palms for Palm Sunday … In the summer they can look forward to Bible Camp for children.

Events at the Pilgrim Center for the year 2023 can be found on the homepage: