Fr. Joseph Kentenich: Founder of the Schoenstatt Movement & Friend of the Rosary

The Servant of God Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968) was born near Cologne, Germany, and joined the Pallotines in 1904. As a spiritual director and teacher at the Pallottine seminary in Schoenstatt, Germany, he was inspired to found the Schoenstatt movement in 1914. The Schoenstatt movement is essentially an education movement with a very strong Marian dimension. As an educator of youth and a zealous promoter of the Catholic apostolate, Fr. Kentenich sought to bring about a spiritual, moral, and anthropological renewal in the world through Mary.

In 1941, during World War II, Fr. Kentenich was arrested by the Gestapo and put into prison. In 1942, due to medical reasons, he was given the opportunity to avoid time in a concentration camp, but he made a resolution to offer up his suffering for the Schoenstatt movement. He spent three years in Dachau. His suffering for the movement proved very fruitful, and continued even after he was freed.

Father Kentenich’s apostolic work was ahead of his time and would only be fully appreciated after the Second Vatican Council. During his lifetime, his intentions were often misunderstood. At one point, he was forced to surrender control of the Schoenstatt movement to others and was transferred to a Pallottine house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Before he left for the United States, he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii to entrust everything to Mary. During his time on administrative leave in Wisconsin, he had nothing to do with Schoenstatt for 14 years (1951-1965). Unfortunately, during his exile in Wisconsin, he was the subject of unfounded suspicions and was stripped of his faculties to offer Mass publicly for one week. Pope Paul VI ended Kentenich’s exile in 1965, and he was able to return to Germany. Once he returned to Europe, he left the Pallotines and became a diocesan priest. He died on September 15, 1968 (the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows). On his tomb are the words Dilexit Ecclesiam (“He loved the Church”). That is all he wanted written on his grave.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Fr. Kentenich’s death (1968-2018), my confrere Fr. John Larson, MIC, and Sr. Danielle Peters, ISSM, STD (a Schoenstatt Sister) will be publishing a book on Fr. Kentenich titled Mother Thrice Admirable: An Introduction to the Mariology of Fr. Joseph Kentenich.  It will be a tremendously insightful work on the Marian thought of Fr. Kentenich and I have been asked to write the Foreword. The book will be published through Marian Press in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and available sometime in 2019. Be sure to keep an eye out for it in 2019!

Marian Devotion

When he was nine, Kentenich’s mother had to make the difficult decision to leave her son at the orphanage of St. Vincent in Oberhausen, Germany, because she was unable to care for him. Before a statue in the orphanage that depicted Our Lady giving the rosary to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena, his mother consecrated him to Mary and begged the Blessed Virgin to educate her son and be his mother. This event made a lasting impression on the young boy. Throughout his life, he uttered the famous Pallottine phrase Mater habebit curam (“Mother takes care”) in reference to the maternal assistance of the Blessed Virgin.

Through learning and living the Marian spirituality of the Pallottine community, Kentenich came to understand Our Lady as the great missionary, educator, and teacher. As a novice, he read True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by St. Louis de Montfort and was greatly influenced by it. As a seminarian, he thoroughly studied de Montfort’s works and, once ordained, he preached many conferences on the Montfortian method of Marian consecration. He was a zealous promoter of the Marian Sodality, as well. On October 18, 1914, during his talk to the Marian sodality at the minor seminary in Schoenstatt, he asked Our Lady to erect her throne in that place in a special way. This event marked the beginning of the Schoenstatt movement. In the same year, 1914, he also read an article about the zealous apostolic work of Bl. Bartolo Longo in Pompeii and was strongly inspired to turn Schoenstatt into an international movement.

Mother Thrice Admirable

The special characteristic of the Schoenstatt Marian movement is the covenant of love the members make with the Mother Thrice Admirable, giving her a blank check, which means that Mary can do with them whatever she desires. The Schoenstatt form of Marian consecration is lived out by the members loving, imitating, and invoking Mary, as well as by the various apostolic works that they undertake. All members of the movement are called to be apparitions of Mary in the world and lead people closer to Jesus by being an altera Maria (“another Mary”). Father Kentenich compared the members of Schoenstatt to the star of the Magi, leading people to Jesus and Mary.

In the brilliant mind of Fr. Kentenich, the Marian dogmas of the Church were understood to be a compendium of all the great truths of Catholicism. His anthropological Mariology was a precursor to St. John Paul II’s theology of the body. Father Kentenich perceived Mary to be the most beautiful bait that God uses to catch human hearts and bring them back to Christ. Mary, in essence, is a magnet for souls, and God desires to draw her triumphal chariot onto the battlefield of today’s crisis-filled era in order to obtain peace and the restoration of all things in Christ.

Friend of the Rosary

Spending three years in the concentration camp of Dachau gave Fr. Kentenich a keen sense of the very real and ongoing spiritual battle between good and evil. He understood Mary to be the great Victress in this battle over all demons and heresies, and always insisted that the rosary is our friend in this battle. The rosary is the choice weapon that Mary gives to her soldiers and knights on the battlefield. A man of his times, Fr. Kentenich compared the rosary to an atomic bomb, noting that the rosary is much more powerful than even the greatest of man-made bombs. He taught that a child of Mary has nothing to fear on the battlefield since she is the victorious Queen and triumphant Mother of God. He would often boldly proclaim: Servus  Mariae Nunquam Peribit! (“A Servant of Mary will never perish!”).

Father Kentenich taught that Mary is our great educator and her classroom is the rosary. By means of the rosary, she teaches her children to avoid anything and everything that brings sadness to our heavenly Father. The rosary is not only our friend in times of battle, but also in times of joy, since it helps us avoid sin. In 1950, in order to advance a new effort of evangelization through the rosary, an apostolate known as the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign began in Brazil. It spread quickly and, by 1976, extended to other countries in South America. In 1985, for the celebrations taking place to mark the centennial of Fr. Kentenich’s birth, the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign was launched on a global scale and began to spread all throughout the world.

Rosary Gems

The great remedy of modern times which will influence the events of the world more than all diplomatic endeavors and which has a greater effect on public life than all organizational ones, is the rosary.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

In the Middle Ages the Cathar sect [adherents to the Albigensian heresy] spread like wildfire. Kings fought to destroy it. It was overcome by the rosary.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

The Hail Marys [of the rosary] transport us into the sacred space of Mary’s heart.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

The rosary is a sort of machine gun and atomic bomb, namely a weapon that is far superior to all the weapons of modern warfare in overcoming the enemy of God.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

The rosary has proven itself as a friend in the life and work of great men.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

The rosary is a good friend in joy, but an even better friend in battle. Today the drums continuously beat for battle. Our lives are one big battle. We are dependent on loyal, good friends. The rosary is such a good friend in the big battle of our time.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

The rosary is our good friend. Being familiar with it configures us to Christ. Through the rosary we become apparitions of Christ and encounters of Christ. How important a good friend is! A friend gives a child a sense of being sheltered even in a strange place. A good friend is a great treasure and a great rarity. Oh, the beautiful things that have been said and sung about friendship! And we may say and sing all this of the rosary, our good friend!

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

What fruits the world and the Church owe to the rosary!

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

Those who pray the rosary do more for the benefit of the whole human race than all the orators and deputies, more than all the organizers, secretaries and writers, more than all the capitalists even if they would make their entire wealth available to the Church.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

Let us immerse ourselves into the ocean of love which the rosary allows us to drink in richly, and let the glowing love of Christ and his Mother inflame our weak sacrificial spirit.

~ Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC


Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, has been a priest for 15 years and currently serves as Vicar Provincial and Vocation Director for the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. He is the author of eleven books, a popular speaker at conferences, and frequently leads pilgrimages to Marian shrines around the world. To find out more about his books and pilgrimages, go to

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