Why a Book on Fr. Kentenich? It Had to Happen.

In the following article, Fr. John Larson, MIC, discusses the new Marian Press book he co-authored, titled Mother Thrice Admirable: An Introduction to the Mariology of Fr. Joseph Kentenich.

Although I grew up in Wisconsin, I don't remember hearing about the Servant of God Fr. Joseph Kentenich and the Schoenstatt Movement there, despite the fact he lived in Milwaukee for 14 years. I was in Northeastern Wisconsin around Green Bay, and the movement has centers only in southern Wisconsin.

It was actually in Tallahassee, Florida, at a Legion of Mary meeting back in 1993 that I heard some of the members praise Fr. Kentenich and the Schoenstatt Movement. It was around this time I learned about the Marians through some Marian Helpers magazines left for the taking in the room we met in.

In that same room, there were some small pamphlets about Schoenstatt and Fr. Kentenich that I briefly looked at, but they didn't attract me, and in those days before the internet, I couldn't easily find out more.

After I joined the Marian Fathers, I had the opportunity to visit the Marian Library in Dayton, Ohio, where Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, was taking courses towards his Mariology doctorate in sacred theology. It was 2003. The next summer I took one course. On the faculty was a religious sister from the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, Jean Frisk. I would occasionally talk with her. I didn't know at the time that she had worked for Fr. Kentenich years prior.

I would occasionally run into some articles or books written by Schoenstatt Sisters. I have to admit I found them rather intimidating and academic. There is even one in Fr. Donald Calloway's The Virgin Mary and the Theology of the Body entitled "The Anthropology of Father Joseph Kentenich and the Image of Mary." It's rather technical. It gave me no further incentive to study anything about Fr. Kentenich's Mariology.

It wasn't until the summer of 2014, when I was taking a course at the Marian Library in Dayton called "Mary and Theological Anthropology," that I actually read something by Fr. Joseph Kentenich himself on the Virgin Mary. Immediately my attitude changed. Here was simple, honest, practical, and yet intense Mariology. I could see he should be in the "top 10" list of writers of Mariology in the 20th century. Yet, his writings are not promoted in English outside of the places where Schoenstatt centers exist, and thus hardly anybody knows this.

In less than a month, I was convinced something had to be done. Father Calloway was quoting Fr. Kentenich in Under the Mantle and Marian Gems. He would later make Fr. Kentenich one of the "Champions of the Rosary" in his book of the same title. I decided a book of longer texts from Fr. Kentenich on various aspects of Mariology needed to be put together. I naively thought this would be a fairly easy task that I could do myself, but decided to contact an expert on Fr. Kentenich, the Schoenstatt sister Danielle Peters, just to let her know I was going to try this out. She suggested we work together, and I thought that would make it all the easier.

I worked hard on introductions to initial chapters, but at some point the task of being superior of the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio, along with a lot of ministerial tasks, caused me to basically abandon the project. Danielle was also quite busy, but since her doctorate had been partially based on the Mariology of Fr. Kentenich, she was able to do a lot of the work that remained.

In 2016, we had a first draft manuscript. Marian Press had too many projects on the burner to look at it at the time, but eventually, by the end of 2017, it became an active project. A lot of editing was required, but now the text is available for purchase. We published it within the 50th anniversary of the death of Fr. Kentenich (Sept. 15, 1968).

The best parts of the book are, without a doubt, the actual texts from writings, talks, and sermons of Fr. Kentenich himself. You almost don't need the introductions. His words are the driving force of the book.

Father Kentenich writes about Mary from both a theological and devotional perspective. He writes as one who has been, as he puts it, educated by Mary, but he did not claim any sort of apparitions. Her influence was simply there in some profound way he could not explain. She guided his life and he in turn made a "covenant of love" with her. This was his way of expressing consecration to Mary, which is something covered in the book.

The book has some value as an apologetic resource on devotion to Mary, because Fr. Kentenich was already dealing with objections to it, even within the Catholic Church, in the early 20th century. He has his own bold approach to defending devotion to Mary. It is fairly original, but rooted in the history of the faith.

The book is probably not a starting point for people to learn about Mariology, but rather something to continue in the development of an understanding of the topic. It does, however, introduce the approach according to the Schoenstatt Movement, which grew out of a Marian Sodality. While such sodalities have all but disappeared, mainly because they were suppressed by the Jesuits and other religious communities in 1967, the ideals of the Marian Sodality live on in Schoenstatt spirituality.

I hope that the text will contribute to a better understanding of Mary among Christians, and particularly among Catholics.

To order Mother Thrice Admirable: An Introduction to the Mariology of Fr. Joseph Kentenich, visit ShopMercy.org.

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