María de los Ángeles Muñoz Reinoso

Age 38 years; Designer and Architect; Chile
Institute of Our Lady of Schoenstatt

What experiences have shaped you as a woman?

When I look at my personal life story, I can say that the really meaningful experiences for me as a woman were the experiences of the cross and suffering; combined with the special experience of a place, the shrine. At the age of 11 I got to know the shrine in Campanario and with it the Schoenstatt Movement. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had cast a spell over me. With a personal bond between us, she had “conquered” me. At the age of 12 I was certain of my vocation to the Institute of Our Lady of Schoenstatt. The community in Campanario was a great reference for the lifestyle around the sanctuary. I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to belong to it. Particularly noteworthy are my educators on the formation path within the community. They showed me in Mary the ideal of woman in all its greatness. Had it not been for this, without this striving for the noble, as it is shown in Mary, I would not have decided on this lifestyle, this way of life.

At a time when everyone tries to avoid any painful situations, experiencing these realities became a growth and maturation process for me, that of course lasts a lifetime. I mean, it is a woman’s quality to carry the cross of life in a sensitive and dignified manner. A great role model and educator in this sense is Mary, our beloved “Mater” – as she stands before us on the cross of unity. The cross gives us women strength, resilience and flexibility. It strengthens the character; gives the heart more objectivity and orders affectivity without hardening the heart. Suffering makes the heart bigger. It gives women understanding and compassion.

Mary, guide within, soul. This experience of inner formation (which affects the outer) is for me also completely connected with the shrine and the message of our Father and Founder. For me and in me it would not have been possible otherwise. The great gift that I was able to receive in the shrine is that life has a meaning, that pain and suffering have a meaning, that one’s own and other’s limitations have a meaning and that it is God who guides history. Ultimately, under his guidance, everything will contribute to the redemption of the world. This interpretation of history, including the history of the Schoenstatt Family through Father Kentenich, gives clear guidance: we can walk in his footsteps. I am very grateful for all of that, for this awareness of history and this understanding of God. In his providence, God directs everything. It gives us security to move on and to face today’s challenges.

At what points did you experience God in your life?

The great God experience of my life happened in the Schoenstatt Shrine. And not in the strictly physical sense, as if one were to say that only in the shrine one experiences God’s action, but through the experience of grace that we receive through Mary’s intercession in the shrine. In this way we can see and experience God’s actions with greater clarity in our personal history, in the people around us and in world events. We can deepen our sacramental life because it is she, our Lady, who leads us deeper into the mystery of her Son Jesus.

This world opened up to me in Schoenstatt, especially through Father Kentenich, our father and founder. It is about not separating God from life, not separating God from our human bonds, from the events, from consciousness, from the experiences of life etc. In this respect I can confirm that I have experienced God in my life, especially through “people, things and events” – through “secondary causes”. God speaks to us daily and with clarity through these secondary causes. God is close to us in everyday life.

What challenge do you see for women today?

I think the big challenge has always been – and it is to this day – as we say in Schoenstatt, to be a “little Mary”. Which does not mean anything childish or simple.

The personality of women is more and more distorted, masculinized and leveled out. The essence of women, the “eternally feminine” is called into question from all sides. In the spirituality of Schoenstatt I was able to deeply and vividly recognize the “eternally feminine” that God intended for us women. Christ and Mary in their togetherness, in their unity: a great anthropological certainty. Father Kentenich showed us the nature of Mary and her position in the work of redemption as the great companion and helper of Christ. I believe there is no greater or more beautiful challenge than to work with Christ in salvation. This happens through my virginal vocation as a member  of the community, through my work, through my personal ties, through my standing “in the midst of the world” and through bearing the sufferings of this time.

The great challenge is to rediscover the greatness of womanhood – as it is revealed in Mary – to love it and to preserve it by making it my own in my life. It is important to show that this feminine ideal is contemporary and essential for the redemption of the world.

What would you like to change in this world through your life?

I want to help transform modern slavery through the love of freedom and I want to replace the current relativism with a love of clarity. With a way of thinking and acting that is in accord with the spiritual legacy of Father Kentenich.

It was a gift for me to be in contact with and work with female students from various fields of study. I would love to help them exchange fantasies for ideals. I want to help young people to see the path to real freedom through a sincere and serious search for the truth; ultimately a search for God. I would like to convey to them that one can be completely transparent before God, that no mask is needed, that he loves us as we are and that he himself wants to answer all of our doubts, insecurities and pains.

I want to convey to them through my life that everything leads to Jesus, the Christ and nothing happens apart from and without him. Everything, our work, the people we live and work with, the music we listen to, everything! Finally, I would like to pass on to them that HE is the one who truly loves people and their human heart. That he offers and wants to give his love, mercy and the fullness of his presence to all.

From this perspective, I want to contribute in my work to changing the way a city is built. In this area of ​​my work, too, God has a lot to say to us! When we speak of “organism” in Schoenstatt, we include everything, including the place where we live and the house we live in. Architecture and urban planning should also contribute to being able to discover God in the built world and to be able to develop an organic life. Correspondingly, dignified spaces that draw us “upward” should be planned. There should be green spaces, footpaths and good local shops. Spacess that allow togetherness and at the same time enable independence and private life. Churches and places for social and family life are needed.

Cities that respect their natural surroundings and interact harmoniously with them.

What a miracle! The “City of God”, the ideal city – to build it means work and a challenge for a lifetime.

And as I learned in Schoenstatt, ideals are not only there to dream about, but to fill them with content and to gradually realize them. And to dedicate myself to this.