Heart Shrine Prayer

By Sister M. Marcia Vinje

It was during Father Kentenich’s years in Milwaukee that the home shrine began to blossom. The realization that one could invite the Mother Thrice Admirable into one’s own home and from there receive the special pilgrimages graces especially enthused families. But what about those who did not have their own home? Father Kentenich’s answer to this was a poem he wrote in May of 1965 expressing that even one’s bedroom could become a shrine and then – even one’s heart.

In baptism each of us becomes a temple of the Lord, a sanctuary, a church, when the Blessed Trinity swoops into his beloved creation, not only to rest there, but also from the heart to carry on his continuous creative work. What a mystery that God the Almighty can rule the earth from within us, if we allow him to do so. The Heart Shrine Prayer fleshes out what happens when God takes over in a soul.

My room (heart) is your shrine, where you work to the glory of the Father.

Our Lady is first addressed, for the Schoenstatt Shrine is her throne. When she comes into our hearts and makes them other shrines, she carries on her ultimate mission, namely, to see that the Father God is glorified ever more.

There he transforms my entire being into the Trinity’s most beloved shrine.

Now the Father takes the reins from Mary and from the inside out changes everything. We are not only a shrine of the Trinity, but the most beloved shrine. How can we understand that? It is not meant in the sense of comparing ourselves to others, that we are loved more than anyone else, but it refers to the depth of the Father’s love. Truly each one receives the absolute fullness of God’s love, as much as we can hold.

The rest of the prayer describes what happens when the soul is transfigured by the divine presence:

Where the sanctuary light constantly burns and the glow of love never dies.

The eternally burning sanctuary light in a church assures us that the Lord is truly present there. The light in our hearts is a divine light signaling the presence of God that illumines the mind and warms the heart, as long as it is not dimmed by our personal turning away. His love is never-ending and ever faithful.

Where the fire of sacrifice upon sacrifice banishes all selfishness from the heart.

The fire of sacrifice refers to the temple of old where sacrifices to the Lord were burned upon the altar day after day, hour after hour. In our life the sacrifices offered to God, either of renunciation or of consecration, help us to prove that God is our one and all. This repeated turning away from self and our own wishes and turning toward the Father, gives us ever growing strength to put our attention on the other rather than ourselves.

Where roses adorn the altar and lilies never cease to bloom.

Roses are the traditional sign of love. For many of Father Kentenich’s spiritual children, they also symbolized surrender in the covenant of love. This stems from a group of couples in Milwaukee who had decorated the shrine with red roses for the occasion of their covenant of love. Father Kentenich then interpreted each part of the rose with spiritual significance. The lily calls to mind the immaculate purity of Mary and is her symbol in art. Mary remains untouched by sin because she is so filled with the presence of the Lord. We too want to decorate the shrine of our hearts with spiritual roses of love and lilies of Marian purity to give the Father joy and to express our gratitude for the presence of the Trinity deep within us.

Where paradisal breezes waft and raise heart and mind to heaven.

At the moment of creation the Holy Spirit moved over chaos like a mighty wind to bring about the order and harmony that culminated in the garden of paradise. Most often he breathes with just a gentle breeze into our souls to replicate the peace of paradise. With the presence of God in our hearts we have a taste of heaven which pulls our attention away from the mundane and helps us to see everything in a supernatural light, from God’s point of view. How grateful our hearts are to behold creation in all its splendor as the Father himself sees it.

Where the spirit of the world cannot enter as in the eternal city of Sion.

Mount Sion, the hill in Jerusalem where the temple stood, came to symbolize the presence of God among his chosen people. In the book of Revelation[1] the holy city reveals to us the new heaven and the new earth where the Father sits on the throne and the Lamb who was slain conquers all evil. Here on earth we want to be a colony of heaven[2] where we live in the constant presence of the Father and thus put aside our worldly cares in order to do his will.

Where peace reigns and happiness laughs because God’s angel keeps diligent watch.

Peace and joy are fruits of the Holy Spirit[3] and signs that one’s heart is filled with the divine. In the Home Song written by Father Kentenich, he shows us the cause of joy: “Do you know the land imbued with joy because the sun never sets there: where in possession of the eternal goods all hearts abide in tranquility.”[4] In our heart shrine we do possess the Eternal Good, God himself, and that brings us peace. Our guardian angel watches over us so we do not lose these precious gifts.[5] Or is it the angel that guarded the garden of Eden,[6] because now our heart shrine has become a little paradise?

Where Christ rules and is triumphant and leads the whole world to the Father.

This final line of the prayer sums up the victory of salvation which continues to play out in our daily lives. Our Lord relives his life in us. The final battle was fought and won in the paschal mystery. Christ is victorious over sin and death; he has accomplished all that the Father wished of him and now he takes us with him to our ultimate goal, union with the Father forever.

We see that the activity of the Trinity within us is capsulated in these lines. They contain the theology of the divine indwelling, that mystery that God longs to set up his home in his beloved children. There is no questioning of the truth of this invitation. And when we open our hearts to let the Trinity live and be active in us, this is the best vaccine against the spirit of the world which opposes the plans of God. Each of us carries this treasure within us, with the qualities that make us aware of our dignity as children of God. Let us open our hearts to these gifts.

[1] Chapter 21

[2] Cf. Philippians 3:20

[3] Galatians 5:22

[4] Heavenwards 160

[5] Psalm 91:11

[6] Genesis 3:24