German Catholics seek gentle presence of Mary

  • Pieta in a lower chapel of St. Hedwig's Cathedral, Berlin.
  • Before the Mary altar at St. Martin's Kirche, Berlin.
  • Mary chapel at St. Martin church, Kaulsdorf, Berlin.
  • Mary chapel at St. Canisius church, Berlin.
  • Statue to Alfred Delp, S.J. and several other martyrs who opposed Naziism, Maria Regina Church, Berlin.

Catholicism in Berlin is relatively disenchanted, rationalized away from a world of saints who intervene on our behalf, or who should be prayed to, and instead focused primarily on the saints as role models, if that at all.

A statue of the Virgin is prominent in all of the Catholic churches in Berlin, but the saints are largely absent in the decorative scheme, or tend to be present as figures in the story of Jesus, not as independent persons to pray to. Based on the descriptions one commonly hears, saints are admired for their care for the poor and their charitable acts. Interviewees described them not as intercessors, but as role models. 

Mary does fill a greater role than the saints, even a mildly intercessory one, and interviewees described seeking her more as a gentle presence in their lives, even as their faith is mostly Christ-centered. That sense of presence, more than longing for miraculous intervention, seems to characterize Marian devotion there. By the time a church closes at the end of liturgy, the candles before the statue of the Virgin are glowing brightly.