August 9, 2023

Discovering God behind everything

Sister M. Alena Engelhardt

It is not I who strive for the dear God,

but he strives for me

“Behold, your God! He himself is coming and will save you.” (Is 35:4)

Through contact with a priest who writes regularly for Vatican Magazine, I was asked if I could write a personal-spiritual contribution for the series of articles “Under the Skin”.

This series is about a passage from Sacred Scripture that – although often read or heard – suddenly touches you in a completely new way. This can be due to a certain life situation or an experience, through which the Word of God takes on a completely new, deep meaning for you.

I gladly accepted, even though it was a challenge for me. Yes, for me there is such a passage and I wanted to write about it.

Discovering God behind everything

It is not I who strive for the dear God, but he strives for me

In the first year of the Corona pandemic, the texts of the Advent liturgy came closer to me than hardly ever before. It was all spoken into the time as we were experiencing it. Again and again in these months, in my private environment and in my professional life, there were experiences that really challenged me. The words from Scripture that we hear every year are real moments of confidence. One passage in particular from Isaiah, Chapter 35, got under my skin: “Behold your God! He himself is coming and will save you.” What a promise!

When I was able to offer oasis days for women again in our Schoenstatt Center in Friedrichroda/Thuringia in November 2021, after a year’s break from Corona, I invited the participants to a Bible discussion on this scripture passage from Isaiah (Is 35:1-10). I felt that the text hit exactly into the life situation of the women.

I was especially touched by the testimony of one woman. She was there for the first time, coming from Brazil and has lived in Thuringia for 30 years. Through her mother, she knew the Schoenstatt Shrine with the picture of the Mother Thrice Admirable in Sao Paulo. She came to Germany for professional reasons, met her husband here and stayed. Her mother often persuaded her to go to Schoenstatt/Vallendar to visit the first Schoenstatt Shrine and the place of origin of the Movement. But for her it was always too far. Then she found herself in a very difficult family situation where she simply did not know what to do. Whom should she turn to? Who would understand and help her? All of a sudden she had the feeling:

“I need Our Lady. I need to go to her.
I need to go to a Schoenstatt Shrine.”

Schoenstatt itself was still too far away for her, but through Google she found the Schoenstatt Center in Friedrichroda with the Marian chapel. For her, a gift from heaven.

Exactly what I needed.

Exactly what she needed and exactly at the right time. When she sat in the chapel, she was just happy. She asked one of my fellow sisters, whom she met there, for an image of Mary to take home. Since then, she told me, something has changed: In her and also noticeably in her family. In the meantime, she has joined the Schoenstatt Movement for Women and Mothers in Thuringia. The friendships that have developed there give her a lot of support and strength, because she still has many challenges to overcome.

Experiencing how God intervenes to save this woman has strengthened my faith anew:

God is there, in the midst of our lives.

Actually, this feeling of life has accompanied me since childhood.

There is an incident in the life of my grandfather that was often told at family celebrations. It was a story of incredible divine care that left its mark on him. He was a prisoner of war in a camp in France during World War II. One night there had been a great storm, and in the process the roof of one of the quarters was destroyed. The next morning all the prisoners had to go to a field to set mines. My grandfather, who was a carpenter by trade, had to stay in the camp and re-tile the roof.

No one came back from the mine fields that morning. My grandfather survived because he had to re-tile the roof. He had to cope with many traumas of the war experiences later. There was no psychological care for those returning from the war. They had to cope with everything themselves. But his faith and trust in God were deep in him. This is how we were able to experience him as grandchildren: a kind, deeply believing grandfather.

To experience such an extraordinary sign of God’s guidance is impressive.

Big and small “rescue packages.”

But it is not always big events and huge rescue packages through which God makes Himself known. Much more often it is small everyday things.

On my way home from an event, my car stopped from one moment to the next. Nothing worked anymore. At first it was annoying, but then I thought: What luck. It wasn’t on the highway, but on a country road, about 200 meters after a bend, on a stretch of road that was easy to see. There I could safely stand for an hour until the towing service came.

Of course, you might think with something so banal, you really don’t need to trouble God. No, I don’t trouble God, He troubles me. In situations where I am overburdened with work and don’t know how to manage everything, I suddenly have to cancel an appointment. In the company of a person, where I do not know any advice, and I can simply give help by my listening and prayer, just that is gratefully accepted by the other person. It is these small everyday experiences that show me how attentively God cares for us.

“Secret encounters with God in our lives.”

It is important to discover the “secret encounters with God in our lives,” says Father Joseph Kentenich, the founder of our Schoenstatt Movement. He himself lived from this. In the darkest situations of his life, this was his strength. “God himself comes and will save you,” an experience that came to him through his attachment to Mary. It opens our eyes to the closeness of God in our lives, and that changes many things.

In my task with the Pilgrim Shrine project, I often have the joy of experiencing this.

In this worldwide initiative, a picture of the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt travels from house to house, from family to family, in the form of a Pilgrim Shrine.

The encounter with Mary and her child in their own homes gives many the experience: God comes close to us, he comes into our everyday life, he accompanies our family and everyone personally.

How many times have people said:

It came at just the right moment!

In our lives, not everything always turns out well. There are so many incomprehensible things, some things really remain in the dark, do not simply resolve themselves. But faith in divine providence gives us inner confidence: there is someone who cares about you, who is interested in you and the smallest things that make up your life. He carries you. He wants you to trust him, to courageously take his hand and go with him. Yes, he wants you to dare to go with him.

In a song, written in Schoenstatt in 2021, it says:

“When the clouds carry rain, when it gets dark around you.
When the view ends in fog and no way leads you further.
Then have courage! I am there. Have courage! I am here.
Trust in my light. I am here.”

I see my personal vocation in this. To live more and more from this faith myself, to discover God behind everything, to give him my yes and to make him tangible for others. To show through my life that God lives:

“Behold, your God!

He himself comes

and will save you.”


Article published in: Vatican Magazine, Volume 17 / Issue 7/July 2023