Three Models of Living In Covenant with Mary

If we want to know what it means to live out of a covenant of love with Mary, we only need to look into the lives of three Josephs: Saint Joseph, Father Joseph Kentenich, and Joseph Engling.


Below three reflections on each of these men who lived saintly lives. Can we imitate them, today?

St. Joseph

With great humility and trust, Saint Joseph lived out of a covenant with the Blessed Mother. He was the first one to live in a mutual relationship with her. 

His life, hidden to the public eye, protected the treasures of Jesus and Mary. This just man, as we know him from Scriptures, devoted his life to the two great personalities that changed the course of history. In persecution and in trials, in doubts and incomprehensibilities, Saint Joseph remained faithful to his covenant with Mary.

After she had said yes, and after the Savior was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, Saint Joseph noticed that something had happened, and he was deeply troubled. In a certain sense, the first disharmony in the house of Nazareth! The Blessed Mother was silent. What God allowed to happen to her is incomprehensible. Of course, then he helped her; he sent an angel who said to Joseph, “Joseph, fear not to take Mary, your spouse, home.”4 Are these not incomprehensibilities?


Then, the Son of God was born in a stable, and he had to flee from earthly princes, after the angel had said: “His kingdom shall have no end.”


At the age of twelve, Jesus preached in the temple. Mary and Joseph found him there after searching for him during three days of painful suffering. He was not only disobedient; with head held high he stood before them and said to them, “Why did you search for me? Did you not know that I have to be about my Father’s business?” It is almost as if he would turn his back on Mary and Joseph.5


Again, no rose without thorns. Think of the life of our dear Blessed Mother, – how many thorns there were!

There were also thorns of poverty. The Savior was born in a stable in extreme poverty. We know that Joseph and Mary brought the offering of the poor when they presented Jesus in the temple (Father J. Kentenich, OME, #1, 171).

4Comp. Mt. 1:18-25.

5Comp. Lk. 2:41-52.


The mystery that unfolded before Joseph’s eyes demanded of him steadfastness and a brave spirit of endurance. To remain quiet in the face of doubt requires strength, from within. This is what Joseph embodies throughout his life. His unpretentious spirit certainly helped Jesus remain hidden for 30 years.


More than a skillful hand, he had a wise heart. Along with Mary, he, too, pondered in his own way the will of God made flesh in the child Jesus. In his love for Mary, he learned to embrace God’s plan for him and his household, even when it meant the most difficult sacrifices. In covenant with Mary, Saint Joseph became the revelation of God’s fatherly features for Jesus here on earth. In his bond of love with Mary, he has made possible for us to contemplate the model and ideal of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The fact that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were so distinctly chosen by God for their particular missions caused difficulties. Often Saint Joseph was left in darkness. In his life, we see that his love for Christ and Mary was always greater than the challenges and sufferings he may have had to endure.

  • Today, when we venerate the memory of Saint Joseph, we ask him to intercede for us the strength to remain faithful to our covenant with Mary and welcome into our lives, with calm and at peace, God’s incomprehensible demands.

Father Joseph Kentenich

Father Joseph Kentenich was the instrument chosen by God to found theSchoenstatt Movement, out of a covenant of love with Mary.

He was born on November 16, 1885, in Gymnich, near Cologne, Germany. He deeply loved Mary and the Church. At the age of nine his mother consecrated him to the Mother of God. At that point, he placed himself entirely under her protection until then and throughout his whole life. A particular moment of grace in his life was when his mother consecrated him to Mary on April 12, 1894. We could say that at this point, God conferred upon him his charism (cf. Elizabeth Parodi, Vínculo al Fundador, 2011). This significant moment of his childhood consecration and the powerful event of October 18, 1914 opened a path for many others to live out of a covenant of love with Mary. Including his joys and sorrows at home and entering the orphanage, we see Father’s life reaching a climax when he became a priest and later on a founder. All of these events formed his personality. God gave Father a great capacity to take in the individual and the community. He had a great pedagogical capacity to help others find their way into the supernatural world, while remaining attached to the things of earth in a healthy measure. He was also orientated toward a metaphysical way of thinking. He went forth from central principles and ultimate truths to the particular applications or questions. All of these elements have given way to a monumental source of life and strength for the Christian soul: the covenant of love with the Mother of God.

Attentive to God’s designs, Father Kentenich knew how to interpret the signs of the times. Along with a small group of students, he sealed a covenant of love with Our Lady in the little Schoenstatt chapel on October 18, 1914. This was the beginning and the foundation of Schoenstatt. Today this movement of life continues to spread throughout the world.

During the period following 1914, more and more people came in contact with Father Joseph Kentenich. Over time, he founded several communities for priests, families, men, women, youth, children, and the sick. These are organized into the Secular Institutes, Federations, and League branches of the Schoenstatt Movement.

Every epoch of his life was marked deep suffering. His incarceration during the time of WWII and the time in which the Church tested the authenticity of the Schoenstatt work are among the most outstanding. During World War II, he was a prisoner of the National Socialists. He spent more than three years in the concentration camp of Dachau, in Germany. From 1951 – 1965, he was separated from his work by Church authorities and was sent to Milwaukee, USA.

Obedient to the Church and faithful to his founding charism, he accepted this time of testing as a  form of personal imitation of Christ. For him everything, including the cross, was an expression of God’s merciful love. He himself became a father to many, announcing, and living this reality in a convincing way. Throughout his life and in his time of suffering, he wanted to serve the Church and in this way prove his deep love for it.

After the end of the Vatican Council II, he was received in audience by Pope Paul VI. At that time, the Pope expressed his gratitude to him and to the Schoenstatt Family. Father Kentenich continued to guide the different communities and branches of the Schoenstatt Family to be at the service of the Church.

After celebrating the Holy Mass on Sunday, September 15, 1968, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Father Kentenich died in the church of the Most Holy Trinity in Schoenstatt. His last resting place is found at the same place where he died. Father Kentenich died with the reputation of sanctity. Through his example, he tried to inspire in each member of the Schoenstatt Family what he chose to be written on his tomb: Dilexit Eclessiam; He loved the Church!

The process of his canonization was opened on February 10, 1975. Annually, thousands of people visit his tomb, located in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity on Mount Schoenstatt, Germany. There they confidently present their petitions and signs of gratitude for the graces received through his intercession. Father Kentenich is seen as the third point of contact in the covenant of love, because of his fatherly character. From the founding moment of October 18, 1914 on his position as founder has been a source of blessings for the entire Schoenstatt Family.  

In 1982, Cardinal Ratzinger, later Holy Father, Benedict XVI, said:

May Mary, the Mother of the Church, through her faithful servant, Father Joseph Kentenich, teach many people the way of love for the Church so that the strength and joy of faith may penetrate our people and our nations!

Love for Mary should lead us to imitate her as our example in life and that love for her should be reflected in our lives. The prayer of the founder of Schoenstatt written in the Dachau prison camp, during World War II, should also be our prayer to Mary:

Let us reflect your image and walk through life entirely like you:

strong and noble, simple and kind, spreading love and peace and joy.

In us go through our times and make them ready for Christ (Heavenwards)[1].

Today, when we remember him on this feast of Saint Joseph, we ask that we may learn

[1] Heavenwards is the book of prayers written by Father Kentenich in the concentration camp of Dachau (1942-1945).

  • Today, when we remember him on this feast of Saint Joseph, we ask that we may learn from him how to live out a covenant of love with Mary. In this bond, Father Kentenich learned to embrace his fatherhood toward the family God brought into existence through him. As parents of our families, how can we rely much more on covenant of love with Mary to fulfill our duties?

Joseph Engling

In Joseph Engling we have the first model of the complete Schoenstatt life.  This young student was the first of the seminarians in Schoenstatt who understood the covenant of love and took it seriously.  Born in 1898 to a large family of farmers, he started school in Schoenstatt at 14 to become a priest. 

Large, awkward and struggling with a speech impediment, he did not let these things define or stop him from becoming a leader of the other boys and a courageous apostle among them.  He welcomed humiliations as sacrifices, and demonstrated lessons of formation in the small daily tasks of everyday life.  His example brought many others to a deep love for the shrine and the Blessed Mother.

Even as a soldier in World War I he was apostolic, carrying a little library of books in his knapsack on the battlefield.  After offering his life to the MTA for the spread of Schoenstatt and its spirituality on May 31, 1918, he was killed in action near Cambrai on Oct. 4, 1918, only a month before the armistice.  He was buried near where he fell in France, although the exact place remains unknown.  A memorial stone was placed in his honor behind the Original Shrine, and at most of the Schoenstatt shrines around the world.

The offering of one’s life for the fruitfulness of Schoenstatt is today known as the Joseph Engling act.  This dedication on his part was not the rash act of a zealot, but the natural extension of his devotion and his formation in Schoenstatt.  While many in the first group of Schoenstatt boys struggled to grasp the edges of the ideas Father Kentenich presented about a place of grace, the capital of grace and formation as everyday saints, young Joseph understood and, as with all great ideas he came upon, he put them immediately into practice in his life.  He championed self education, the daily spiritual order and the particular examination.  He focused on building the capital of grace, and inspired his classmates as their leader to strive to do the same.

His covenant of love was the commitment of his life to the Schoenstatt ideals.  His motto best expresses the role he assumed:  “All things to all men and Mary’s very own.”  He was a strong enough leader and a compelling enough apostle to aspire to forming his own life and guiding those around him.  He did not shrink from committing himself and his full abilities to this goal, with Mary’s help.

Joseph Engling’s work continued beyond his death.  His memory inspired those who had known him.  Excerpts from his diary and his biography influenced many to consider him a Schoenstatt pioneer and true saint, entrusting to him their prayers to God.  It seemed to fulfillment of the goal for his life that he was led to solemnly commit to his diary years before:  “I want to become a saint.”  The formal process for beatification and canonization was opened on the anniversary of his death in 1951. 

A shrine was built near the site of his unknown grave and dedicated by the Archbishop of Cambrai six days before the 50th anniversary of the Schoenstatt founding, on Oct. 12, 1964. It was accompanied by a fervent petition to Our Lady to reunite the founder, living in exile in Milwaukee, with his family.  The very next day came the telegram calling Fr. Kentenich back to Rome.  Joseph Engling placed great faith in the capital of grace as a means to help those who need it, made possible by the sacrifices and offerings deposited by those striving for everyday sainthood.  This intercession was a perfect extension of all his striving, of his love for the Blessed Mother, and of his great desire to serve others.

  • In covenant of love with Mary, Joseph Engling discovered his calling and his mission. As a Schoenstatt child, he assumed in a remarkable way the ideal, the apostolate, and the practical implications of his aspirations. Are we able to imitate Joseph Engling in his total dedication to Schoenstatt through the covenant of love with the MTA?