Marge-FenelonI can just picture him, sitting across the table from me, doodling words and symbols on his notepad and with a playful glint in his eyes. I’m in a snit about one thing or another, indignantly raging about something gone wrong in my life, and looking for justification, direction and rectification. My spiritual director smiles, sets his pen down, leans back in his chair, and looks me in the eye.

“Who’s in charge?” he asks with perfect calmness.

This isn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. I heave a deep sigh.

“She’s in charge,” I answer.

“Who’s in charge?” he asks me again.

I sigh even harder this time.

“She’s in charge,” I answer again.

“Who’s in charge?”

“She’s in charge.”

The round of question-sigh-answer repeats multiple times, until I’m almost to the end of my rope.

“She’s in charge!” I exclaim.

“Good,” Fr. Jonathan placidly responds. He sits forward, picks up his pen, and starts thoughtfully doodling again. “Now, where were we?” he asks with a huge, warm grin.

We’ve played this scene countless times over many years – in his meeting room, bumping into each other at events, and even via email once he’d been transferred to another location. Somewhere intertwined in our greeting and small talk would emerge, “Who’s in charge?” “She’s in charge.” My email messages would be pages long; Fr. Jonathan’s response might be anywhere from a paragraph to a page or so long, but somehow he’d manage to squeeze in, “Who’s in charge?”

This was Father’s masterful way of working with me, of helping me to live to the fullest the Covenant of Love I made long ago with our Blessed Mother through the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt. When we make a covenant with someone, we surrender ourselves completely, permanently, to the other.

On May 15, 1977, Mary and I surrendered to each other, and from that moment on, I’ve put her in charge of every aspect of my life. Fr. Jonathan knew this, and he also knew that the key to helping me get through anything was to remind me that I’d put our Blessed Mother in charge of everything and that she’d take perfect care of me with her powerful intercession, if only I’d take a breath once in a while and let her.

Crumbled apostolate? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge. Betrayed or defamed? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge. Health or financial hardships? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge. Uncertainty ahead? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge. Misunderstood by superiors or loved ones? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge.

Fr. Jonathan wasn’t trying to put off my concerns; in fact, he charitably validated them. The doodling always ended up to be some kind of little chart or diagram that would visually represent the situation and act as a reminder for me over the coming weeks. His goal was to get me to see that everything — everything that happens is in God’s plan and that, with Mary at the helm, my ship will sail unperturbed in even the most turbulent waters.

He used this method to remind me that, because of my covenant, my successes belong to our Blessed Mother, too.

New book published? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge. Nailed that presentation? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge. Tricky problem solved? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge? Discord mended? Who’s in charge? She’s in charge.

So, now, as I face some of the biggest challenges I’ve yet to face, I’m finding myself running an on-going, internal chant: ‘Who’s in charge? She’s in charge.” Fr. Jonathan, having lost a battle with lung cancer some months back, isn’t here to echo the lines with me. Nevertheless, I can still see the glint in his eyes, the pen doodling on the pad, the warm smile spreading across his face. And I can still hear his voice, clear as ever. “Who’s in charge?” She’s in charge. She’ll always be in charge.

(Fenelon, a mother of four, and her husband, Mark, belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Visit her Web site: