The beatification process was initiated in the diocese of Trier, Germany, on February 10, 1975.
Father Eduardo Aguirre, postulator in the beatification process for Father Joseph Kentenich since 2017 (see photo on the right) gave an insight into the status of the process in an interview in May 2020. A recent addition in view of the July 2020 publications in some media outlets can be found at the end of the article.
The beatification process for Father Kentenich is already in the final phase of the diocesan stage (in the diocese of Trier, Germany). This means that the investigation of his life and work has largely been completed:
- Around 32,000 documents have been catalogued from his published and unpublished writings (letters, lecture notes, personal writings, etc.), which comprise almost 100,000 pages. Research was carried out in 110 Church and civil archives in different countries.
- About 200 people who knew Father Kentenich personally and who worked with him were questioned as witnesses.
- His “reputation of holiness” is widespread. So far, people from over 90 countries have contacted the Father Kentenich Secretariat in Germany. Almost two million answers to prayer are documented.
All of this required an enormous amount of work, which has now been going on for 45 years. Some aspects of this research have not yet been fully completed, so that the diocesan phase cannot yet be concluded. Soon it will also be possible to research the archives of the Holy Office – today's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – which have only recently been released and opened for study. It should not be forgotten that Father Kentenich lived in exile for 14 years due to administrative measures taken by the Holy Office.
After completing the diocesan stage, the Vatican or Roman phase follows, in which all these extensive documents, writings, records, etc. of the process are sent to the Congregation for the Beatification and Canonization Processes in Rome, where these documents are examined, confirmed, and evaluated. This can also take several years. The purpose of this congregation is to verify that the Servant of God (as the person being examined during a process is called) has heroically lived the Christian virtues and attained holiness. Then the Congregation can propose to the Holy Father to declare the Servant of God “worthy of veneration.”
The next step would be the beatification of the Venerable Servant of God. For this to take place, a miracle that happened on Father Kentenich’s intercession must be acknowledged. If a possible miracle is reported, it is necessary to start a new process to investigate the case. This also has a first phase in the diocese where the miracle happened, in which all documents, testimonies, and relevant studies are collected. Then there is the Roman phase, in which the documents must be checked and confirmed in order to reach a final judgment. When the miracle is confirmed and approved by the Congregation, the Pope can beatify the Venerable Servant of God.
For a “Blessed” to be canonized, that is, honored as a saint in the worldwide Church, a second miracle must be acknowledged.
Canonization means the acknowledgement and confirmation on the part of the Church that Father Kentenich lived the Christian virtues in an exemplary manner, that he became holy in following Christ, that he was compliant and ready for the work of the Holy Spirit, and that he faithfully and consistently carried out the will of God in his life. As such, the Church can present him as a model of holiness and show the example of his life as a way to holiness for the people of today.
Likewise – and this seems particularly important to me – the Church would recognize the importance and timeliness of the charism that Father Kentenich received as a gift and task from God for our time. In this way, the Church can open herself even more to accept and appreciate Schoenstatt’s message, spirituality, and pedagogy, which we are to give to our modern time.
For the Schoenstatt Family, the beatification and canonization of the founder would be a strong incentive to work harder and more responsibly to bring Father Kentenich’s charism to life in the Church, to follow him on his way to holiness, and to fulfill the mission God has entrusted to us through him. Every founder who has a prophetic mission needs successors and disciples who identify with his charism, embody it, and carry it forward in the Church and world so that it becomes fruitful.
We also hope that with the canonization of Father Kentenich, Schoenstatt’s source of grace – the covenant of love with Mary connected with the shrine – as well as its spirituality, its pedagogy, and its various apostolic initiatives, will be acknowledged as an enrichment for the Church.
The holiness of Father Kentenich, his heroism in view of the Christian virtues, flows from his awareness that he is the bearer of a charism that God has entrusted to him. The conviction that he was called by God for a secular mission constantly impelled him in his striving for holiness. This mission consciousness motivated him to surrender himself entirely to God and urged him to consume himself completely for this mission. It is an apostolic holiness: living in a holy way for the sake of the mission in order to sanctify the world and to lead it upward to God.
From this attitude, Father Kentenich lived the theological virtues heroically and in an exemplary manner – those virtues which form the foundation of all other Christian virtues. In order to demonstrate this, we need to get to know his life (biography), his writings, and his work more closely... In this way we can ascertain that he was a deeply supernatural priest, a man of faith, a man who with all the strength of his heart loved God, people, and the mission that God entrusted to him. For this reason, he committed his life without fear and with the daring that flows from hope in the victory of the risen Christ.
This subject would require more time and study, but I can briefly mention a few characteristic features of how Father Kentenich lived the theological virtues:
- Faith: Father Kentenich lived and taught a specific way of living every day by faith. In Schoenstatt we call this “practical faith in divine providence.” It’s about faith in the God of Life, who constantly meets us on our way of life, who writes history with us, and who leads humanity – and specifically every individual – according to a plan of salvation, love, and wisdom. It is the living God who manifests himself in the great events of history as well as in the small events of our daily life.
At the same time, Father Kentenich’s faith was characterized by an unshakable childlike trust in Mary, in the covenant of love with her and in the power of the shrine as a fruitful source of grace. Father Kentenich always saw himself as an instrument in Mary’s hands; as such, he committed himself throughout his life to serve the Mary’s mission as the permanent companion at Christ’s side in the work of salvation.
In Father Kentenich’s life we also find a deep childlikeness towards God the Father. He experienced himself small and humble before God and thus deeply secure.
- Hope: Father Kentenich is a man who was free from fear, supported by faith, and who risked everything to do the will of God and to fulfill the mission he received from God. He stood firmly in hope because he was sure of God’s victory. He was able to overcome the Nazi persecution, the concentration camp, the confrontation with the Holy Office, the incomprehension of his superiors, and the 14-year exile with determination, dauntlessness, and confidence.
- Love: The deep experience of the reality of the covenant of love with God, with Mary, with the Schoenstatt Family was the source of strength for Father Kentenich’s life and work, and specifically for his self-giving to the people whom God had put on his path. His love for the Church also flowed from this source. It is telling that he wished to have the words, “He loved the Church,” inscribed as his epitaph.
In connection with the above, we could also highlight his sensitivity and his prophetic sense, which was shown in the face of the challenges and upheavals of our time. He is someone who – as he himself said – lived with his “hand on the pulse of time” and his “ear on the heart of God”; with his glance set toward a Church on the “new shore,” on new horizons.
Also to be emphasized is his strong intuition and pedagogical instinct, which made him an outstanding educator of free personalities who are able to respond to the trends and challenges of the time.
It can be said with great certainty that the worldwide Schoenstatt Family is praying for the canonization of the founder. In addition, there is the loyal commitment in the covenant of love with Mary for the mission of Schoenstatt. Through prayer and knowledge of Father Kentenich’s life story, a personal bond with him grows, trusting that he is in heaven and can intercede for us.
In countries in which Schoenstatt has reached a certain level of development, a “Father Kentenich Secretariat” is established with the aim of spreading his reputation of holiness. This is done through the publication of prayers for his canonization, novenas, newsletters, and other materials. In addition, the secretariat receives prayer requests entrusted to Father Kentenich’s intercession and collects reports on “answers to prayer.” The central secretariat is in Schoenstatt, Germany. It is run by the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.
In the past three years, prayer circles or groups connected by WhatsApp have been created in 13 countries and already include more than 1,400 people. Through daily prayers, visits to the shrine, times of adoration, and the like, they engage themselves for the progress of Father Kentenich’s beatification process. These prayer groups are in contact with the respective secretariats in the different countries.
In general, Schoenstatt’s organized communities promote the study, elaboration, and dissemination of Father Kentenich’s intellectual heritage, and initiatives are continually being developed to implement it in concrete works that contribute to the realization of his charism. In this way, social projects, schools, pastoral and apostolic activities, books, etc. have come into being in the various countries in which Schoenstatt is present.
So that his charism for the Church of the new times will be accepted and fruitful. What is important to us is not so much the recognition of Father Kentenich’s personal and individual holiness, but together with that, the appreciation and acceptance of Schoenstatt’s contribution to a pedagogy of faith that responds to the pastoral needs of the new evangelization in this third millennium. It is about forming a “new person” in a “new community” in the covenant of love with Mary, our Mother and Educator – a real Christian with a pronounced apostolic spirit in a Church that is meant to be the “Family of God” and is “on the move,” as Pope Francis would say.
Father Kentenich wanted to form personalities who are able to unite the natural reality with the supernatural reality. They should exemplify a Christianity that is able to integrate the human and the divine and to create a new cultural synthesis that bears the seal of Christ. Faith is not something separate from normal life or a variable option that can be dispensed with without major consequences. In our Christian vision, which flows from the truth of Christ, our attachment to Christ must give meaning to family life, work, friendship, economic activities, science, art, and politics ... and everything that makes up our existence, and animate all these areas.
It is in this spirit that Father Kentenich wanted to make a contribution through Schoenstatt. He wanted to form Christian leader personalities who with the spirit of the Church are committed to a new evangelization in the midst of today’s world.
The acknowledgement of Father Kentenich’s charism would make it more possible to offer the covenant of love with Mary connected with the Schoenstatt Shrine as a fruitful source of grace and as a gift for the whole Church. In this way, Schoenstatt could contribute even more decisively to the Church’s mission for the new evangelization in the new millennium.
At the beginning of July of this year, alleged accusations of abuse of power and immoral behavior by Father Kentenich toward the Institute of the Sisters of Mary, of which he was the founder and director, were published in some media outlets in Italy and Germany, in a surprising way and as a result of the opening of the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from the reign of Pope Pius XII. These accusations were made through the press and without any further foundation, and they were intended to show that this was the reason why the founder was separated from his foundation and sent into exile in the USA.
These accusations and the way in which they were made have caused pain – and in some cases, confusion – in the Schoenstatt Movement. At the same time, the question arose regarding Father Kentenich’s beatification process.
In view of the accusations that were made, I would like to refer to some explanations and answers that were given by responsible and representative authorities of the Schoenstatt Movement:
Further articles and statements can be found on www.schoenstatt.com
The Bishop of Trier, who is responsible for Father Kentenich’s diocesan process, has announced the creation of a commission of historians to examine the archives, which until a few months ago were still under lock and key. This is a normal part of the process of investigation regarding the cause of Father Kentenich.
As is evident from the statements of the General Presidium of the Schoenstatt Movement, initiatives have also been taken within the Schoenstatt Family to investigate, clarify, and make more transparent everything that has to do with this period of Schoenstatt’s history, with the person of the founder, and with the reasons for his involvement with the Holy Office.
We are completely confident that all these controversies will ultimately help to shed even more light on the person of Father Kentenich, so that we can better understand his charism and mission which led him into confrontations with the pre-conciliar Church. In this way we will recognize and accept his holy life as a gift from God even more.
Fr. Eduardo Aguirre