Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas in Austria..

We went to the Byzantine Rite Liturgy today (for the 4th Sunday of Advent). We had quite a surprise...it was in Romanian! I can say for certain that was the first time I have ever prayed in Romanian. It was beautiful...

The neatest thing happened at 3pm this afternoon. We borrowed a small hurricane lamp, that just holds a small tea candle, and headed down to the Parish in Gaming. Every year, a child from Austria is selected to go to Bethlehem and light a candle at the Church of the Nativity. They bring the fire back to Vienna where other candles are lit. Then, the fire is taken across Austria via train. At 3pm today, the fire was brought to the Church in Gaming on horseback. We lit our candle and headed home. Now, we will keep it burning for the entire 8 days of the Octave of Christmas and light every other fire or candle in the house from this holy light. I will post a picture as soon as I can.

May your Vigil of Christmas be holy as we await the coming of our Savior!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stillness...


The Franciscan students left last week and most of the ITI students will leave today. There has been a profound quieting - a stilling that has occurred here. It is appropriate as we prepare, in the stillness of our hearts, for the coming of the King. We simply cannot receive him in noise or activity. The hustle and bustle surrounding Christmas can be the greatest obstacle to Christmas. Our hearts must be like that cave 2000 years ago - still, receptive, listening. On that stille nacht, heilige nacht of so long ago the entire universe waited in silence for the advent of the One. Waiting, watching, longing to receive the Son of God made man. So must our heart be. Let us not forget that without this humble babe we would still be lost in our sin - slaves with no hope to receive what is our deepest desire - union with God.

It is ok that the cave of our heart is dirty and smells. Our heart is the very place he chooses - wants - to be born. He knows he is not coming to a palace. He could have been born in one if he so desired...He chose a humble cave. The point here is not to wait until your heart is a palace to invite the King. he wants to be born in the humble confines of your heart. There he can make it into a fitting palace for himself.

Once born in our heart, we must bear him to the world. Our Lady becomes our example here. With her deep love of God and her humility, she was the "handmaid of the Lord" ready and accepting of all that her loving God had for her. How many people want to ride a donkey nine months pregnant? How many would be willing to bear their child in a stable? When you knew how special the child was? And yet, if Jesus was born in a palace, it would be very difficult to call him my Savior since I wasn't born in a palace. God desired to reach down to the lowest - to save all. Mary's suffering came from God asking her to let him reach down to the least brethren through her. For God to reach all, he needed Mary to ride that donkey and give birth in that stable, and, later, to immolate herself at the foot of her Son's Cross.

See, God asks of us, the baptized and confirmed, to do the same thing! He asks us to love him and trust him enough so that he can "reach down" into humanity through us for the salvation of the world. To do so, we must expect there to be trial and suffering just like Our Lady as we bear Christ to the world.

So let us then prepare our hearts, this Christmas, for the coming of the Savior with silence and stillness resolving that when he is born in us we will bear him to the world no matter the cost.

Winter in Gaming...

This winter has been amazingly warm and dry here in Gaming. We have had temperatures into the 50s quite regularly. Finally, we are getting some snow (as I write). We are hoping for a white Christmas but the weather report is not too favorable. Here are a couple pictures of the Kartause Maria Thron from different angles.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

YAY!!

FINALS ARE OVER!!
FINALS ARE OVER!!
FINALS ARE OVER!!

(Now, hopefully, I didn't flunk out! 8^>)

DEO GRATIAS!!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Switching,,,

Please be patient as the whole family finishes finals. In addition, we are switching to the new blogger software so it will take some time to fix the template.

Thanks!

Gifts from God

Isn't it funny what we see as gifts from God. We often look for blessings only in things we want to see them in. It is easy not to see the forest for the trees. Since we have arrived in Austria I have seen the huge miracles that God has always done for Mike and I. Helping us get a home in Kuna, bringing me to Christ when I was in utter darkness etc.

But it is often that we miss the miracles that come our way, that to us don't seem extraordinary. Maybe its that we only look for extraordinary things to be miracles, but miracles happen each day for all of us. The miracle that we have a job and we get to go to work everyday and this is how Christ provides for our family. Or that God has placed certain people in our lives that keep us afloat when we otherwise might just sink straight to the bottom of whatever crisis we seem to be having at any certain moment. In my case the miracle that I still have the ability to tie my shoes at 7 months pregnant. HaHa.

But the point is that we often miss the gifts Christ gives us right before our eyes. I full realize that on any given day, that Austria is truly not my home in my heart. Yet, I am realizing that it has been a true gift because I was in a place in my life that the security, comfort, and almost a complacency had come over me sitting in at my comfy home in Kuna. This wasn't a good place to be for my spiritual growth and my walk with Christ. Maybe even to the point of my salvation being at risk. Although realizing what a gift it is may not ease my heart in the suffering of missing all of you that I love and my home in Idaho.

It does make me realize that we are all on a journey and that Christ's gifts come in all types of packages, just like presents under a Christmas tree. Some are simple gifts that we take for granted. Others are tougher gifts that stretch us beyond ourselves and our comfort. These are the gifts that help us grow in our faith and in Christ himself. Some gifts are unexpected, undeserved, and beyond our wildest imaginations. But these are all pure gifts and I am trying to look for all of them and be thankful for each and everyone of them.

So for all the beautiful people that Christ has put in our lives, thank you for the love and Christ's presence that you have shared with us. As for the gifts that Christ gives that allow suffering or stretching I am thankful to Him for them, at least for today. (I am sad to say, tomorrow may be a day I grumble about them :) I just pray as we all go into this most beautiful, blessed season we can see things clearly and see the miracles and gifts all around us. For we all are so blessed, by every kind of gift that He has so preciously given to each and everyone of us. May our most priced gift this holiday season be the one we most need from Christ, placed neatly under our Christmas tree!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Study Break!!

I had to pop in for a minute and share a story. Hang in there...I know you stop by everyday just hoping, pleading that I posted something...yeah right....ok, anyway, I have a bunch of stuff that I am storing up for blogizzard (that is a 'storm' of posts) once the semester is over. However, this one was just too amazing to pass up.

I admit. I am a sucker for a good conversion story. I never tire of hearing about the wondrous works of our God. I found this story first over on a first-rate blog The CurtJester and was absolutely enthralled by it.

I had never heard of Mr. Wright before. I discovered he is a semi-famous (no offense Mr. Wright) Sci-Fi writer. Please see his Wikipedia page. Mr. Wright sounds as if he was a committed, devout atheist. Then he met the Holy Trinity and all that changed drastically. I am going to post a couple excerpts here but please, please, please, please, O please, go read this for yourself. The beginning of Advent is a perfect time to read something as beautiful as this. The link to the entry is: http://johncwright.livejournal.com/59241.html#cutid1.
Why I am not a Deist.
I was asked a good question:
"I suppose I still don't really understand why you flipped from fervent atheist to Christian. Not Deist, but *Christian*. Meaning you went from not even believing in God - and I assume all supernatural elements - to believing in a very specific story about Jesus."

Well, I don't like talking about this, but it would be dishonorable if I avoided answering. I am Christian because I had a religious experience with specifically Christian elements in it, albeit the mystical unity of other religions was not absent. What I saw was as simple as Love itself, and as mysterious. It was not some vague light or misty sensation I met, but people to whom I spoke, a ghost, an apostle, the Madonna, the Paraclete, the Messiah, and the Father. The Holy Spirit entered my soul, I felt it happen, and something changed inside me: grace was poured into my like wine into a tin cup, alchemic wine that turns tin into gold.

I was taken on a journey outside of time, and saw the fine structure of the universe, encountered a mind infinitely superior to my own, as well as infinitely loving, and also was shown the secret roots of thought, the somewhat Platonic place ideas live before they pop into human awareness as ideas. I have had prayers answered. I saw millions of spirits, a choir as large as a galaxy and as intricate as a formal dance, bending all their efforts to save just one soul. The list just goes on and on. I should say experiences. Plural. Not one, but six, over a period of months, and continuing to the present day. I have seen visions and experienced miracles, seen prayers answered, and had things even stranger happen. One supernatural event would be enough to convince an honest atheist that there was something in the universe which could not fit into the materialistic, scientific model. I have had half a dozen such experiences, each one different in nature, duration, and kind from the other: An embarassment of evidence; overwhelming; overkill...

snip

You might think all this was some great privilege or awesome experience.

It was totally humiliating.

So much evidence of the Christian religion was given to me so abundantly that it is an embarrassment to me. Other Christians, who have faith, do not need to be hit over the head with the blunt instrument of obvious supernatural events, one after another after another. I was visited not because I was wise or smart, but because I was foolish and stupid.

You might wonder why, if God can convince atheists to worship Him merely by dropping by for a visit, He does not do it more often. The reason is that it does not help, not at all, not a bit. When I suffer doubts, when my faith gets weak, my faith in my memory gets weak too. Faith and faithlessness have NOTHING TO DO with evidence presented to reason or senses. It has to do with a humble will and an upright heart. If God presented evidence to skeptics, all that would happen is that skeptics would doubt their evidence. If God gave a logical argument to prove His own existence, all that would happen is that skeptics would doubt the power of logic to prove anything. Skepticism pretends it is all about open-mindedness and evidence. Not so. Skepticism is about suspicion and pride and self-will. It is about pretending you are smarter than people who, if you only knew, are actually wiser than you and your sneering questions and foolish word-tricks. The only place we ever see a humble skeptic is in the physical sciences, because scientists are willing to let their conclusions be ruled on by nature.

Once I was touched by the Spirit (I, who did not until that moment even believe the word 'spirit' had any meaning) everything else fell into place...

snip

So I am not a Deist because Deism is not a satisfactory model for my experience. I did not meet a generic god, the god of the philosophers, or some nondenominational new age Being of Light. I met the three persons of the Trinity, one after another.

And Mary. I spoke with her. I wish I could tell you of her kindness, her simple, unaffected goodness of heart. She is more celebrated now than any queen, and lives where joy lives forever, and bright spirits like votive candles surround her, but I wish I could do something, anything to undo the sorrows she knew in life. Poor woman. Poor, poor woman.

If this was all hallucination, if this was all madness, I tell you truthfully that I would believe it nonetheless, just on the smallest chance I might see her again in heaven, and hold her hand again. Hers was the callused hand of a working woman.


Those last lines were some of the most beautiful I have ever read. Yes, we so want to hold her hand and to feel the arms of her Son wrapped around us welcoming us home...Marana tha!!!! Come Lord Jesus!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!


We had a wonderful day! Of course, they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Austria so we had a full day of classes and activities. Then this evening all of the ITI gathered at a local restaurant. We had an authentic Austrian turkey dinner. It was funny the turkey was cooked just like a veal cutlet...good but strange. The kids went to a dance and had a great time.

We are so grateful to the Lord and all the wonderful things he has done for us. He is so good, faithful, and loving! We give him all thanks, praise, and honor!!

Furthermore, we are so very grateful for all of you. The love, support, and prayers have been a crucial aspect of us being here. In fact, we wouldn't be here without your prayers and generosity. Please know that we lift all of you up to the Lord in prayer everyday. We pray that the Lord would bless you and keep you!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

In the Meantime...

I am very excited that the "Into the Deep" podcast with myself, Brent Brown, and Mike Engelsby is back in production!! YAY!! If you would like to check out our previous shows, please go to http://catholictruth.net/ct/IntoTheDeep/Podcast/index.html. We talk about prayer and other topics of the interior life. Furthermore, we did a series of shows on the Church. Currently, we are recording shows about growing closer to Christ. They should start in the first week in December. The Into the Deep website and blog are going to change addresses in December. (If you want to listen now, please go to the link above.) The new address is www.deepcast.org.

Thanks!!

SORRY ABOUT THE BAD LINK FOR THE PODCAST. I FIXED IT. THE deepcast.org SITE WILL NOT BE UP FOR A MONTH OR SO. YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE PODCASTS AT THE catholictruth.net LINK ABOVE.

Light Blogging Ahead...

It is that time of the year that every student can't wait for...the end of the semester with all its papers, exams, and final exams. I am buried even more than normal. Thus, I will be scarce around the blog for the next month or so. (Not like I am posting everyday, anyway 8^>). I'll see if I can't get some of my cohorts to post. We will definitely be putting up pictures of Gaming at Christmas time. Right now it is 55 degrees out! I am sure winter is biding its time.


Please have a blessed and holy Thanksgiving!! We are grateful to the Lord for each and everyone of you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Offering Ourselves...

I know most of you come to this blog to find out about my kids and Debbie, and what we are doing over here. I hope you don't mind my reflections. I don't do them as "teaching" - like somehow I've got this all figured out and am living it (yeah, right) and now am informing you. Absolutely not the case. It is the case that I am writing about the things I am thinking and struggling with. The things that the Lord is speaking to me about. I hope by sharing that someone else may hear the voice of the Lord. I make no pretense that I am any closer to God than anyone else or that somehow I have a direct connection or something. I am just thinking and talking to God out loud here.

With that said...Lately I have been thinking a lot about my own lukewarmness - about my fears, lack of love - all the things that keep me from living the life God wants for me. But, also seeing that it isn't about my efforts alone. Anyway, I was meditating on Christ being the center of my life. I realized that so often I pray, worship, and serve God and serve others when it is convenient for me - for when I have time or am in the mood. It struck me that there is no way Christ Jesus is truly the center of my life if my life revolved around me, and he is relegated to "when I have time for him". How many times have I not prayed because I didn't feel like it or was too tired. How many times have I hit the snooze on my alarm rather than get up and pray. How often have I complained inwardly about helping someone when it intruded on my agenda. Sure sounds like someone who is at the center of their existence!!

Then, I tried to imagine what it would mean to have Christ truly at the center of my life. It would mean that I would pray everyday unless God-given circumstances prevented me. No more snooze buttons, unless it would hinder my service of God that day. No more only-when-it-is-convenient kind of spirituality. It would mean being ready at any given moment to do the Lord's bidding no matter what my "agenda" told me I was supposed to do that day.

If I am at the center, then my will, my convenience, my preferences, my recreation, my free-time, my sleep, or whatever would be first in priority. All the things of God would be relegated to the bin of when-I-can-get-to-it. In other words, the things of God fall into the category of secondary importance behind everything that "I" want to do. Wow, that sure sounds like I am at the center of the universe!!

If Christ Jesus is at the center, then my concerns are offered and sacrificed for his. In most cases, those concerns are the same - take care of the family, love the spouse, to a good job at work. However, it radically re-prioritizes them and especially re-prioritizes my agenda. I make time for prayer, even if it costs me sleep. I serve my neighbor, even if it costs me internet time. I become oriented to him and him alone. How selfish I am! How self-centered I am! I must turn from myself, my desires, my wants and turn to Christ - turn to love!

I read this Scripture: "Brothers, I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship." (Rom 12:1) Here is the exhortation I must heed. To offer myself as a living sacrifice. The Greek word paristanai is translated 'sacrifice'. The Greek word means to place something at the disposition of another with a nuance of offering or presenting (Fitzmyer, Joseph. "Romans" Anchor Bible pg. 639). Thus, I am called to put myself at the disposition of Christ by offering myself to him!!

I must pray for the grace so that my will might be strengthened so I can choose against my own desires, laziness, and agendas. It is only then that I will begin to live the life that he is calling me to.

How about you?!!?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Finally...

We finally got to the doctor on Tuesday for Debbie's pregnancy check! I am so relieved. She hadn't been to the doctor for about 4 months. It was consoling to see that everything is ok. Of course, we had to have a bunch of drama getting there. We borrowed a van from the ITI to drive to the village where the office is, and we ran out of gas on the way there!! I was really lucky that I was able to limp the van another 400m down the road so I could get to a pull off. Fortunately there was a payphone where we pulled off. I was able to call the ITI office and get someone to drive out with a few liters of diesel. We were not very happy. They gave us the van out of gas. When I looked we were a needle's width above empty, but alas that wasn't enough!

So we finally got the doctor and everything was fine. They did an ultrasound and gave us the due date of 2/18. We did find out the sex of the baby.

















Here are the ubiquitous ultrasound pictures. On the right, is a picture of the side of the little person. The picture on the left shows the sex. Yes, at the arrow are boy parts!! WOOT!! The Lee house is always in need of more testosterone!! (I don't think Felicity would agree 8^>) We don't have a clue for a name...

Thank you for all your prayers!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Gut Check...

Today was the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is hard to believe, but there are only four Sundays left in this liturgical year. The Gospel reading at Mass will begin to speak of the final things when the Lord will return to take his own to himself.

Another year has past...are we closer to the Lord? Are we loving more deeply, more sacrificially? Are we more like Jesus today than a year ago?

I think it is time for a radical re-thinking of our Christianity. Everyday the world becomes more hostile to the Church, the Bride of Christ. Everyday we have to make more and more deliberate decisions to believe. But I can't help but think that for most of us, including myself, the most important thing to us is convenience and ease. We believe...as long as it doesn't cost us anything. We have this misguided notion that to be a disciple is to live a middle-class American existence with few if any bumps in the road to our financial, career, and family goals - that somehow our lives are supposed to tend ever upward to nicer houses and cars, better behaved children, and more friends.

We have completely forgot that the Christian life is a downward spiral to death. The death of our ambitions...death of our disordered desires...death to ease and convenience...death to riches...death to position...death to our very selves so that we might live in, for and with Christ Jesus. Resurrection only comes after death!

What will we equivocate on to save face? What will we deny to keep our selfish pleasures? What will we ignore so that things are stable, easy, and comfortable?

In these last days, it is time to muster our courage through grace and lift our eyes to Christ on the crucifix and see our future in this life...so that we can have his future in the next.

It just seems like there is not any need to get....crazy about this religious stuff. I mean you don't want to take it too far! People might think you are a freak!

We must remind ourselves of the Lord's words when we hear that voice of the Evil One in our head...
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and him with me...He who has an ear, let him hear that the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:17-22
In a presentation on October 19, 2005 Bishop Bruskewitz had these words that are worthy of much reflection (go here for the entire text):
What then should be the method by which we face the rises in the Church at this time? There must be, I think, a supreme effort to recapture our Catholic faith in all its orthodox splendor, and to take a stand for Christ as in the olden days. The Church has ever been counter-cultural. She has always and ever been that which stands against the age because she is the custodian of the Deposit of Faith, inherently and intrinsically conservative, as Pope Paul VI observed, because she to maintain the integrity of that faith without distortion or mutilation down through the centuries. It is important that we see the truths of our Catholic faith as liberating realities, and not as some kind of constraint, and that true freedom is linked with truth, and that truth trumps freedom and that unless one is in possession of the truth, one is not actually free. The words of Jesus are always appropriate to every age, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."...

In summary, a laity that will be the salt, the leaven and the light that will penetrate our world. Initially, there were only twelve apostles, largely shabby fishermen from Galilee, who were able, with the grace of God and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to bring the light of Christ to 2000 and more years of human history. Why should we think we are any less capable, provided that we are people of prayer, dedication and devotion, of doing something similar in our time and place. Let it be our prayer that God will give us here and now, the ability to dare to be different, and to stand for Christ whatever the cost, and to convince our world that our Catholic faith is so beautiful that all people would wish it to be true, and then to inform our world in the most certain terms that it is true. Thank you very much.
With that said, we have to remember why we were created. We were created for union with God so that we might share his very life! EVERYTHING that we ever hoped for, that is good, is found in Him: love, truth, beauty, goodness, life, joy, and security. Our hope is that we might, through the Resurrection of the dead, live with him for eternity. We have to keep our eye on the prize!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fall in Gaming..

Here are a few beautiful pictures of the Gaming area shot right outside of the house. The first is a picture when we got here. The next one is the same shot from today. Then next two are views moving left to right from the Kartause toward downtown Gaming. This is just not going to format right...apologies.












































Monday, October 23, 2006

Encouragement...

I don't know about you, but when I read the lives of the Saints and their strength and valor in becoming holy; I can be quite discouraged. I see their strength in comparison to my weakness. I see their great love next to my selfishness. I see their sanctity next to my sin. The Evil One can use this against us and make us think that since it is impossible for us to become a saint; why even try?

I ran across a few statements recently that lifted my spirits and gave me a great deal of hope. I hope and pray in sharing them with you that you will be encouraged to abandon yourself to God's great mercy!
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Romans 8:1, 32

We live in the age of inventions now...I must find an elevator to take me straight up to Jesus, because I am too little to climb the steep stairway of perfection...You, my Jesus, are the elevator which will take me up to heaven. There is no need for me to grow up; on the contrary, I must stay little and become more and more so. St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Story of a Soul, pp. 140-141

but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The mansion of my soul is too narrow to receive you; let it be enlarged by you. It is all in ruins; be pleased to repair it. It has within it such things as will offend your gaze, but who shall cleanse it? To whom besides you shall I cry out, "From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of the others spare your servant(Ps 19:13-14)"? St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 5.

One thought strikes me. All the means of sanctification which the preacher proposes and develops require a strong soul...I will not profit from exercises designed for strong souls. O my God, show me the exercises designed for feeble souls...Yet even if the Saints did not think of these poor souls...You, Lord, my mercy, have not abandoned them. You yourself, Good Master, have burdened yourself with them. I know better than anyone. I am one of those poor souls, and I bless you for having revealed to the weak and the little ones what you do not always accord to the valiant and strong. Maurice Maignon in I Believe in Love by Father Jean C. J. d'Elbee

Be encouraged today in your walk with the Lord. He hasn't forgotten you or abandoned you. Quit relying on yourself and surrender yourself to his mercy, grace, and love!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr..


Today is the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr. He was martyred in a Roman persecution in the very early 2nd Century (about 107-111). On the way to Rome to die, he wrote letters (find here; scroll down) to the seven Churches in the world. He was the first known to use the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός) to refer to the Church. He was an amazing man. Below is the reading from the Office of the Readings from the Divine Office. Please read it. He really expresses the opposite of the sadness that we referred to in the post below. He lives totally for Christ with no reference or care for the world.

I write to all the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless ye hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable goodwill towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God.

All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. "For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?'' Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me.

Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened. The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God. Let none of you, therefore, who are [in Rome] help him; rather be ye on my side, that is, on the side of God.

Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet set your desires on the world. Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you; nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be ye persuaded to listen to me, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you. For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me desiring to be fed; but there is within me a water that liveth and speaketh, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father.

I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life. I no longer wish to live after the manner of men, and my desire shall be fulfilled if ye consent. Be ye willing, then, that ye also may have your desires fulfilled. I entreat you in this brief letter; do ye give credit to me. Jesus Christ will reveal these things to you, [so that ye shall know] that I speak truly. He is the mouth altogether free from falsehood, by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray ye for me, that I may attain [the object of my desire]. I have not written to you according to the flesh, but according to the will of God. If I shall suffer, ye have wished [well] to me; but if I am rejected, ye have hated me. From the Letter to the Romans.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Happy Belated Feast Day!!

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, more commonly known as St. Teresa of Avila. She was the founder of the Discalced Carmelites and the one whom God chose to teach us how to progress in the way of perfection. She was a Saint of great sanctity and an amazing prayer life. However, she was not always so. In her younger days, she was quite "worldly" (in the terms of her times, not ours). She eventually entered a Carmelite Monastery when she was 20. She then entered a long period of spiritual mediocrity that lasted 18 years, mainly because she had a strong desire to be appreciated by others. She finally let that go and began the mystical time of her life.

I would recommend reading anything that you can get your hands on from her. Don't read what others say about her....read her. Her collected works can be found here. They can also be found on the internet here. (scroll down a bit). A couple exceptions - Fr. Thomas Dubay and Ralph Martin.

She is simply amazing and very real. She struggled with so many things and was so honest about it. I think all of us can identify with her struggles. She did, however, have a great determination to be close to God and would let nothing get in her way. Let us have that attitude!

St. Teresa, only you know what you mean to me. You have helped me, guided me, and walked beside me long before my conversion and ever since. It is becoming so clear. I am so honored to call you mother and sister and Saint. I owe to you my life with Christ, my life of prayer...Please always walk beside this wayward son teaching him to pray, to persevere, to love. Please help me imitate you and to walk in your ways!

St. Teresa of Jesus, ora pro nobis!!

Sadness...

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22
I have always loved this particular Scripture because it really strikes at the heart of our possessiveness. Here the young man was a "good person". He did all the basics, and Jesus even looked upon him with love. Then came the thunderous words that rocked the young man's world! "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

WHAT?? SELL EVERYTHING??? DON'T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE?? WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF ME?? WELL, I NEVER ASKED TO BE A SAINT!!

The question that Jesus asks so subtly but so clearly is: "Am I enough? Will you give up all things for me and find all your fulfillment in me? Who is more important to you...me or yourself? Me or your things? Me or your comfort?

The young man went away sad because he considered his possessions, his security, himself more important, more fundamental to his life than Jesus. He didn't go looking elsewhere. He knew that Jesus was the One to give the answers. That is why he went away sad because he knew he was walking away from Life...

Today let us take the opportunity to look deeply into our own hearts. Where are we refusing the Lord for our own self-centeredness? We all are, you know. It is important to recognize those places so we can bring them before the Lord for healing. True love demands a total gift of self with no reservations or anything kept for one's self. Do we love the Lord like that? What are we holding back? If we have given much to him, are we sad for doing so? Is there a part of us that is sad because we have given and wished it weren't so?

It is time for all of us to realize that there is no life in the things of the world. There is no life in money, possessions, or stability. There is only life in Christ Jesus. He is the one, and the only one, that can unequivocally state: "I am the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25)

Therefore, let us rouse up our courage and faith and risk that he is all that he says he is. Let us reach out in faith and love to the One who died and rose for us. If not, our going away sad may lead us to losing eternal life. We know that there is no other. We either ignore the question or, in sadness, turn to the temporary things of this world in an attempt to feel better all the while lying to ourselves that we are a "good person". Please...today is the day...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Faith and Reason...

I have been thinking for some time now about trying to post something other than pictures and descriptions. I am by no means a theologian. I hope and pray that that is what I become by being here.

Anyway, I thought I might ramble on a bit (and you KNOW how I can do that...wow, I just realized I haven't had the opportunity to ramble on for like 2 MONTHS!!! I am surprised I have lasted this long 8^>).

What has been on my mind for the longest time is the relationship between faith and reason. Moreover, our obligation as Catholics not just to blindly believe and obey but to understand with our intellects. We are supposed to think, apprehend, and comprehend our faith. Faith isn't just believing for believing sake. It is the assent of our mind and will to God's truth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
150 Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived". So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit." Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind".

157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives." "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."

158 "Faith seeks understanding": it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens "the eyes of your hearts" to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God's plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. "The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood." In the words of St. Augustine, "I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe." (emphasis mine)
Pope Benedict made this point very clearly at his Regensburg address. He said, "...not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature." God is infinitely reasonable. We have been led to believe that God can do anything he pleases even to the point of contradicting himself or his nature. This is nonsense. The arbitrary God, which so many believe in, that is a caricature of the true God, is diametrically opposed to the True God who eternally begets the Logos. Pope Benedict stated:
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the λόγος". Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.
So Christ is not only the eternal Word (λόγος), but it is correct to say that Christ is the eternal Reason (λόγος), in the sense that Christ is eternally proceeds from the intellect of the Father. This doesn't mean that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is just a thought in the mind of God. When God imagines himself it becomes the full Image of himself. In other words, this is the eternally begotten Son.

Back to my point...our faith and reason must join. It is no longer acceptable to "just believe". We must begin to come to a deep knowledge of God. Sure, it takes effort, but isn't he worth it? We humans were created for truth. We need it. As we feed our intellect with God's truth it disposes us to love him more. We, as Catholics, must move from a certain fideism (faith without reason). We claim to believe and say that we don't need any reasons...we just do. But is that enough? How do we engage a worldview that is so anti-Christian? How do we explain our beliefs to others? How do we overcome a crisis of faith when challenged with reason? I think there are many Catholics that don't believe God is reasonable; that Christianity is just a blind belief. This is to completely misunderstand faith and the role of our reason in our relationship with God. (See Catechism references above.)

We, as Catholics, have 2000 years of intellectual theological tradition to rely on. We need to dig in and find the beauty of our beliefs and feed our intellects the truth. So how to begin? First, get a Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium, a good Bible, and a couple beginning books on theology. I recommend The Catholic Vision and Theology for Beginners. Of course, to deepen our understanding of God we must commune with God. Thus, prayer is indispensable to theology as it is to our lives.

So....what are you waiting for??.....DIG IN!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An Excerpt from the Letter to Diognetus.


I came across this text in a Church History class I am enrolled in. It was written by an unknown author during the earliest centuries of the Church before Constantine. This is just an excerpt from the entire letter that can be found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. It is written as an explanation/defense against many of the accusations against early Christianity in the Roman Empire. This particular section is beautiful and worthy of our reflection today...

For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.

This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do. Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man's lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.

They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are "in the flesh," but they do not live "according to the flesh. They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They still pay due respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life. They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; and all the time those who hate them find it impossible to justify their enmity.

To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world. The soul, which is invisible, is kept under guard in the visible body; in the same way, Christians are recognised when they are in the world, but their religion remains unseen. The flesh hates the soul and treats it as an enemy, even though it has suffered no wrong, because it is prevented from enjoying its pleasures; so too the world hates Christians, even though it suffers no wrong at their hands, because they range themselves against its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and its members; in the same way, Christians love those who hate them. The soul is shut up in the body, and yet itself holds the body together; while Christians are restrained in the world as in a prison, and yet themselves hold the world together. The soul, which is immortal, is housed in a mortal dwelling; while Christians are settled among corruptible things, to wait for the incorruptibility that will be theirs in heaven. The soul, when faring badly as to food and drink, grows better; so too Christians, when punished, day by day increase more and more. It is to no less a post than this that God has ordered them, and they must not try to evade it.
Texts such as this really lay down a challenge for us modern Catholics. It demonstrates so clearly how we are to be "in the world" but "not of the world". Although the author carefully points out the similarities between Christians and the Greeks of their time, he is very quick to speak of the differences. These differences, in this section of the letter, speak to moral issues. Early Christians were not some esoteric, weird cult, as the Greeks believed, however NEITHER did they do the immoral things the Greeks did...because of this the Christians were hated as a soul to the body.

The question is this: How much do I reflect the culture in which I live? Do I not only share the language but do I share the same immoral actions and attitudes? Do I reject the Church's moral stance on my "own authority" when, in fact, I am simply parroting immoral cultural values?

We must not forget the many Christians who lost their lives for refusing to offer incense to the emperor (especially Decius (249-251 A.D.). Would we??

Thursday, October 05, 2006

God is AMAZING and FAITHFUL!!!


I had to show you a picture of this ------------->

This is an Austrian Student Visa. Remember, when we left the USA the expectation was that Debbie and the kids would have to leave after 90 days because there was no way to get a visa...none.

God in his goodness and sovereignty called us anyway because he knew that he had it all taken care of. We all have visas and will all be able to stay. Praise God!!

The only bad thing about the visas is that they cost 110 Euro each!! Ouch! It was almost $900 today just to have the privilege to stay.

This leads to a prayer request. Austria offers health insurance to its citizens. Unfortunately, at this time, the government will not enroll us in the insurance. If we got it, the cost would only be about 100 Euro a month for the whole family!! However, since there are very few private health insurance plans over here, they are VERY expensive. We would ask that you please pray that God would open a door for us to have the student health insurance. It will help us with the birth of the baby and protect us from any catastrophes. As for now, we are uninsured. Thus, please pray for God's protection until such time when we can get the student insurance. Thanks!!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland continued (4)


So we have come to the final chapter in the pilgrimage to Poland. Without the trip to the Divine Mercy I don't think I could have gone onto this chapter. We set out very early in the morning for Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi Death Camps. We entered the camp in full sun and upon entering a coldness seemed to engulf us and a rain and drizzle came upon us. What a awful place filled with such pain and gruesomeness. The terrible things we do to each other. You could hardly look into the eyes of the pictures of the prisoners or see rooms filled with their hair and clothing that was taken from them. As this 3 hours was spent in the Death Camps you realized how these peoples dignity was taken completely away from them. It was unbelievable to stand where such evilness existed and how many millions of people had been murdered there. Your heart just breaks. Although I was able to see the death cell of Maximilian Kolbe and could fully understand his true act of mercy, it was hard to stand in the place of martyrdom. But even in the gruesomeness of it all, there on a cell wall a prisoner had carved out a picture of the Sacred Heart of Christ. Hope was still alive! It was amazing.
After the death camps we went to a church of Maximilian Kolbe's order the Missionaries of the Immaculata where we attended mass. It was at this church that they had the original painting of Mary that Maximilian had a vision of Mary at the age 10. This is when she offered him a white crown of purity or a red crown of martyrdom. He took both. As I sat in the church I again felt the tears come. For I realized that as a child in my attic bedroom there had been a cardboard cutout picture of Mary that hung over my bed. I had never known where it had come from, but that it was just always there. What I realized that it was the same exact picture that Maximilian Kolbe had made his commitment before. Even as a child I realized both Mary and Saint Kolbe had their hands upon my life.
As soon as we left the church we were taken to a basement or labyrinth. A 17 year old boy who had survived Auschwitz all 6 years, was now a 80 year old man. He had a stroke at 70 and remembered that he had made a promise to tell the world what really happened to them in the death camp. So a very incredible artist, he has set out to share his experience. This basement was filled with his art and his life in Auschwitz. It was incredible. This 17 year old/80 year old man had a better touch on theology than most theologians. His black/white drawings showed the sheer evil of the camps and his life there, and yet they had the presence of God and his love and mercy always present. He at one point shows the crucifixion and he is attached to Christ, because he realizes we are one with the Lord. We were allowed to take pictures, but his work is copyrighted and I don't feel like I can put them on the blog. But his name is Marianna Kolodzieja and he has a book out of his work. It is gruesome, yet so holy. When we return to the states I would like to share his work and insights with anyone interested, but in the mean time I want to share some insights in faith that I learned from a 17 year boy/80 year old man. We all need Christ deep within us.
One of the 1st pictures you see is of the 1st train load that arrived at the death camp. These were the intellectuals of Poland, the people who had groomed society. So when 4 men were to share a loaf of bread they made a scale to break the bread evenly. But in not so long of time another train load of people came in, and people started to steal food to survive. The scale would no longer work. It is here that the boy realized he would need to keep the scale within him as should we. For daily he was faced with good/evil choices and he had to choose which side of the scale he would be on. Do we keep a scale within us, and use it in every instance we are faced with. How do we treat each other, especially the ones we love? Again I want to share more about his work in time as I process it, because it has touched me ever so deeply. So I will continue to blog on his work for those who are interested.
So for now I will tell you from here we headed home on a 14 hour bus ride to reach Gaming at 4 AM. The trip was filled with lots of questions of who do I want to be and what kind of difference do I want to make in this world of our Lord's of Mercy. I love you all and am so thankful for what you have shared with our family and your continued love and support. May the Mercy of our Lord be upon you always. Love you in Christ, Deb.
Jesus, I trust in You!!

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland continued (3)

Early the next morning we headed out to our next destination, Krakow. Here we would tour "Wawel, the royal castle, several churches, the Archbishop's Palace, and the University where John Paul II was trained and finally onto shopping in the Main Square of Krakow. A busy morning with the highlight for Felicity being McDonalds. (We might miss Americana just a little.) It did not feel much like a pilgrimage, but more of a tourist trip at this point. The streets of Krakow are beautiful yet with all the poverty you would see in any large city in America.

We then headed onto one of the most moving sights upon our trip and probably the main reason God had gotten me to Poland. The "Divine Mercy Sanctuary" with the original painting of the Divine Mercy and the tomb of Sr. Faustina. What an amazing experience this was for me. By this time the girls (Felicity and her friend Elizabet) were on overload and they needed a break. So they climbed the tower of the newly erected basilica and sat in the shade on the lawn. While I attend a talk by a little nun in Sr. Faustina's order. Someone had commented on the bus that these were the most beautiful woman they had ever seen and they couldn't even see there ears with their habits. They were right, this tremendous woman of God touched my heart deeply. As I sat and listen to this woman and wept I realized the Lord was speaking directly to me about our Lord's Mercy and how it is so very intimate. We are like a child within His womb and that His broken body and blood are poured out for you and I on the altar daily. And this sense of "MORE" always more. He always is giving us more and more of Himself. At the base of the Divine Mercy painting it says, "Jezu ofam tobie" (Jesus I trust in you.) Do we really believe this. As this little tiny nun looked deep into my eyes I knew she was asking me this question, "Do you entrust your life in Him?" Do we really know and believe He loves us so much with such mercy and love. That He will take care of us, and is always wanting to give us more. She said think of the most merciful thing God has done for you, He wants to do more!!! More Mercy! I left this talk in utter assurance that God has everything in His hands and that our lives our His and our purpose will be fulfilled in Him. I left and walked alone up to the chapel to see the original picture of the Divine Mercy, not realizing it was 10 to 3. I was the last to enter the chapel and was able to kneel on the cobblestone floor to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Polish for my life and the lives of all other mothers and my family. It was beautiful. I then not knowing where I was going exactly got to go up and kiss the bones of Sr. Faustina and see the original painting of the Divine Mercy. At that moment I knew just how deep His love and mercy extends for each and everyone of us. An experience you just cannot put into words exactly. Christ loves us so very much, His love is immeasurable.

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland continued (2)

After we left "Our Lady of Czestochowa" we headed out for Wadowice the birthplace of John Paul II. As we winded through the polish countryside I was struck at how similar the countryside is to Idaho and how we are so very close as a people. It is a strange phenomena when you realize you are clear across the world in a foreign place and yet people are just people, trying to do the best they can. We all get up and put our pantlegs on the same way. Along side the road you could watch people selling fresh picked berries and mushrooms they had foraged from the forest.

We arrived in the afternoon to Wadowice and strolled into the lazy little town. We arrived to a quaint little villa that was the birth place of our late Pope John Paul II. What a beautiful little town to grow up in. He lived right across from the church where he would go and serve at mass daily. Our guide told us a quaint little story of when the Pope had returned home a few years ago and he had what are now referred to "Pope Cakes". He had eaten these cakes as a child with his friends and upon remembering this he sat and blushed and laughed at the memory, covering his face in remembrance of his childhood. We to got to try this delicate pastry in remembrance of John Paul II. What a humble beginning for such a great man who has changed the face of our church with his love for the youth and his tremendous gift of teaching. Never have we as a people been so blessed to have a man of this living in our times.
We then headed onto our destination for the evening, to the "Sanctuary of Our Lady in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska" where we would stay at a pilgrimage house. At this point the journey felt very long, and my thoughts led me to how our Blessed Mother and Joseph traveled before the birth of our Lord in utter faithfulness and perserverance. I can imagine how they just wanted to stop and rest so very often.

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland

When we left the United States there were places that each member of the family wanted to get to visit while living in Europe. For Mike it would be Avila, Spain and for Cody it would be the church where Padre Pio got the stigmata. For me it would be Poland, for several reasons. The 1st reason, during this past lent I was struck by the true faithfulness and deep devotion that the Polish people have. It touched my heart so deeply, in almost a way I could not understand. Then as we were discerning if we were called to move overseas, I had been praying for a saint and Maximilian Kolbe seemed to take hold of me in a very special way. When Father Ritchey had said we would have a offering Sunday at Holy Apostles to help support our call to study abroad, I struggled very much with this. I had always been taught to make my own way. Self reliance a blessed virtue, yet one that can hinder your surrender to God's will in a huge way. So you could have asked no more difficult task then for me to go up on that altar and ask for money. To the point it made me almost ill. Yet, in Christ's most merciful compassion that Sunday each homily at the different masses was done by a different deacon and Fr. Ritchey. It was amazing how the Lord strengthened me, because Saturdays evening mass homily was done by Deacon Pera and he preached solely on the faithfulness and willingness that Saint Maximilian Kolbe had to follow Christ anywhere. It was what gave me the strength to continue on in moving my family so far from our families and our family at Holy Apostles. As we continued on it was Saint Kolbe again that helped me choose a homeschool program to teach our children, since I was going into homeschooling with much fear and trepidation, "The Kolbe Program" out of California. So when Mike came home saying there was going to be a pilgrimage to Poland the tears flooded down my face, for I knew my heart was to go and take this journey to honor our Lord for his ever faithfulness. Yet, it turned out that Mike could not leave due to a class on Friday. So in my mind I decided it was not the year. There was no way I was traveling to another foreign country with the kids alone, Austria was hard enough as a family. So the time went by and the day the trip was to depart Felicity and her new best friend, Elizabeth conned me to go a hour before the trip was to depart. I was horrified, one hour to get together money, passports, luggage etc. In full tears and much trepidation I said yes thinking some road block would get me out of this trip. I at one point told the Lord if we are not to do this, stop us from going!!! For I would hardly get to say good-bye to Mike and I would not get to tell Cody, Zach, and Eli good-bye since they were at mass. We joined the group and got on the bus to find out that they had over-booked the trip and they promptly kicked us off the trip. I was at peace, I knew we were not to go. So we started to walk home with all our stuff, to have the trip coordinator chase us down and say its a mistake, you have seats. So off we were to Poland. Our trip started with a all night bus ride and two border crossings. Yes, sleeping on a bus 4 1/2 months pregnant is a feat all on its own, may the Lord bless Mary our mother for riding on a donkey. The trip itself was packed with a huge amount of sights to see, since the trip was organized for 19 to 20 year old students from Franciscan University. I am old, out of shape, and very pregnant! :) Our 1st stop was to our Lady of Czestochowa (the black Madonna)! What an amazing experience to watch the faithfulness of the Polish people walking on their knees to honor our Lord and his mother. We then had mass in front of our blessed lady's picture and to kneel on the stone floors and offer thanks and sacrifice during the mass was amazing.

Happy Feast Day!! Cont...

What a joyous day!!! Today is the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the ITI by Pope John Paul II in 1996. As I said in an earlier post, St. Therese of Liseux is a patroness of the ITI. The institute was founded on her Feast day.

We had a huge celebration today. A beautiful Mass at the parish church in Gaming. It was done in English, Latin, and French ( in honor of St. Therese). It was a full blown solemn Mass with all the smells and bells. In this parish, there is a painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel giving the Brown Scapular to St. Simon Stock. The painting must be 15 ft. tall. Totally appropriate, I think. I am still trying to remember to get pictures of the church downtown.

Afterward, we all went to a local restaurant and feasted as a community. It was very special. Now it is back to hit the books to prepare for the week.

There was one bad thing...I had to pull a tick out of Zach's head today. Man, that was gross. I hope he is OK. We are calling the doctor tomorrow - that poor kid. He seems to always be the one who gets these kinds of things happening to him.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Happy Feast Day!!


As many of you surely know, today (Sunday, October 1st) is the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Or more commonly known as St. Therese of Liseux. She was a Discalced Carmelite nun (YAY Carmelites!) in the 19th century. She is one of the three female Doctors of the Church along with St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila), another Discalced Carmelite, and St. Catherine of Sienna.

In addition, she is one of the patrons of the ITI along with St. Thomas Aquinas.

She had a wonderful spirituality of doing small things for God with great love. In fact, she beleived that her place in the Body of Christ was as a heart of love.

Here you can read the Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II declaring her a Doctor of the Church.

Have a wonderful day!! St. Therese, ora pro nobis!!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Eli and Debbie!!




Today (Saturday) is Eli's birthday and tomorrow is Debbie's. Eli is 4, and Debbie is 29. ;-) We had a wonderful day. Amazing how hard it is to even find birthday candles! Here are a couple of pics of the birthday boy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The ITI Convocation...






The first week of classes the ITI had an convocation. It began with a Byzantine Rite Liturgy in the Kartause Maria Thron. I didn't take any pictures myself; however, I was able to procure some. Please enjoy these magnificent pictures!

These are not in order. There are pictures of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Great Entrance, reading the Gospel, and the Introductory rites. It was a fantastic liturgy.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Communion Prayer of the Byzantine Rite...

I just got back form the attending the Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy. Ahhhh...it is so amazing! I love it! Hopefully, I will be able to post some pictures of a Divine Liturgy that occurred as the inaugural Mass for the ITI school year. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a beautiful prayer that is said just prior to Communion. I would invite you to use it since the Byzantine Rite is a Catholic Liturgical Rite, we Latins can participate in their Liturgy. You can memorize it or take it with you to Mass as a prayer of preparation before Communion, or you could say it at home as a preparation for Mass.

O Lord, I believe and profess that You are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the World to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Accept me as a partaker of Your mystical supper, O Son of God, for I will not reveal the mysteries to Your enemies, nor will I give You a kiss as did Judas, but, like the thief, I confess to You:
Remember me, O Lord, when you shall come into Your kingdom.
Remember me , O Master, when You shall come into Your kingdom.
Remember me, O Holy One, when You shall come into Your kingdom.
May the partaking of Your holy mysteries, O Lord, be not for my judgment or condemnation, but for the healing of soul and body.
O Lord, I also believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly Your most precious Body, and Your life-giving Blood, which, I pray, make me worthy to receive for the remission of all my sins and for life everlasting. Amen
O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
O God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.
O Lord, forgive me for I have sinned without number.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Reality....

Being a disciple of the Lord is awfully difficult. Even though this place is beautiful and has so much for us, we still miss home. We miss all of the wonderful friends and family that we are so very far from. We miss our beloved Idaho and the West. There is something about a Westerner that is unique in the world. I miss fishing, camping, BBQs, and beef. Yep, beef. There is very little beef here.

I miss the ease of close friendships. I miss the freedom a car gives.

I miss the smell of woodsmoke on a cool Fall camping trip. I miss the sound of a Western trout stream running by my tent.

I guess I miss...heaven. We all have a longing for home that is deeper than any place or time. We typically keep it buried very deep. It is times like tonight that I most acutely feel the longing for my true Home where there are no goodbyes, no tears, no separation. I can't wait to be united to the Lord and the rest of my loved ones in perfect unity forever and ever and ever and ever.......

I am missing home and Home tonight. I am wise enough to know that if I were in Idaho I probably would be too busy to call, or camp, or stop and listen. This longing for this idealized Home where all is peace, security, love, and warmth is lying heavy on my heart tonight. As is the desire to be in a place quite close to that in my estimation - our home in Idaho.

I thought that we might just be in Europe for an extended amount of time beyond school. If we are, I sure hope we get to come back to the US for a long stay. I need to put my feet back in American soil, especially the West.

So my prayer tonight is one for perseverance and courage. I ask the Lord to never let me forget and to someday return...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mariazell continued...

(You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger image)
I am amazed at the grace that was poured out as a result of the pilgrimage. There have been many wonderful changes within my heart. I wish that all of you could do the same. I wanted to post some pictures of the trip. Sorry that this will make the blog load very slow for you dial-up types. This is a good indication that you need dsl! ;-)

Here is a picture of Felicity and Cody at a restaurant that was literlly stuck on the side of the mountain. I have no idea how they got anything in or out of there. Had the best smellin' crepe soup in the world. Felcity got a bowl. We were four hours into the pilgrimage at this point.



This shot is looking back to the right of the last. It shows the bridge that we had to cross to get to the restaurant.




This looks back down the trail we just came up to get to the restaurant. You can see that this was flat out hiking. We spent four hours along this beautiful creek.




Pilgrims on their way...














The beautiful Austrian countryside









The tired pilgrims after about 7 hours of walking...




Anyway, it was a marvelous trip. One that I will never forget...but just being here is a pilgrimage in many ways (and in many ways it is just trying to live). I was thinking that I have not attended a regular Mass (Novus Ordo) in English in more than a week! Last Sunday was the Byzantine Divine Liturgy in English with Tom and Cookie Sorge. Monday was Novus Ordo in Latin with all the smells and bells. Tuesday was Novus Ordo in German. Wednesday was Byzantine Divine Liturgy in English. Today (Thursday) was Novus Ordo in Latin with all the smells and bells.

I am hoping to get you some pictures of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy that opened the school year. It was held in the Kartause Maria Thron...It was amazing!

OK, enough for now!

Please Pray for Debbie and Felicity....

I hope to find time this weekend to continue on Mariazell. However, I have a request. Please pray for Debbie and Felicity as they go on a fantastic pilgrimage to Poland this weekend. They had just enough seats left for them to go. They will see:
  1. The Black Madonna of Czestochowa - Mass in front of the Icon.
  2. To Wadowice - the birthplace of Pope John Paul II
  3. A tour of Krakow
  4. A tour of the Divine Mercy Place at the Divine Mercy Sanctuary
    1. Mass at the Basilica of Divine Mercy
  5. Auschwitz and Birkenau
    1. Visit the death bunker of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr
As you can see, this is a very full itinerary. Please pray for their safe travels and deep conversion!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mariazell....

It will take several posts about the pilgrimage to do it justice. Also, I am swamped with reading in the middle of the week; thus, it will take me a few more days to put it all together with pictures. (We couldn't take pictures inside the church, however.)

It was an amazing day. It started out with a complete downpour to the extent we almost cancelled. Everyone decided to go anyway. Interestingly, when we got to the start point the rain had decreased to a mist. There were about 30 of us including Cody and Felicity. I thought the 'hike' would follow roads. Boy, was I ever wrong!! It was truly a hike through the mountains as we followed a river for the first four hours of the pilgrimage along trails that were cut right on the side of a mountain. Many times we were walking on wood planking that was laid upon steel beams driven into the rock on the side of the mountain so we were walking over water.

It was a very fast pace with little messing around. I tried to separate myself from the crowd so I could pray as I walked. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner." I ended up carrying water, umbrellas, and lunch for the kids and I in a backpack. Also, I had put extra clothes (for Mass if I was too wet), my Bible, homework, and snacks into the pack. It must have weighed 30 lbs. It was far too heavy, but I found the weight consoling for two reasons. One, it represented my sin that I was taking to lay at the feet of Christ and Our Lady of Mariazell. In addition, it represented, to me, all of the wonderful benefactors back in Idaho. (Not that I considered any of you as my sin ;-)) I consciously carried each and every one of you to Mariazell to lay at our Lady's feet on her birthday. You were with me every step of the way.

Yes, we made the pilgrimage on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother. It was a wonderful occasion as we saw our destination and could rest in the Eucharistic presence of our Lord. The church was absolutely gorgeous. Words, or pictures, can't do justice to the beauty of the basilica. The picture I posted below was of the main altar. There are two where mass is said. We celebrated Mass at the altar where the statue of Our Lady of Mariazell is enshrined. It was a full Second Vatican Mass where all the common prayers of the Mass were done in Latin and the readings were in German. We even received Communion at an altar rail! Some of the students formed an impromptu choir and sang Latin hymns acapella through the Mass. It was mystical to say the least. This view looks towards the altar where we celebrated mass (it is bit tough to see). The ceiling is amazing with hundreds of saints painted onto it.



Here is view of the outside of the basilica and the rest of the town.

Here is the wikipedia entry for Mariazell with a few more pictures. I still have some of my own to add and some more thoughts. Aristotle comes very early in the morning so I must sign off for now...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mysterium Salutis

One of the classes that I am taking this semester (and will take for a year), is the Mystery of Salvation. It is focused on reading the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church over the year. If that isn't cool enough, the professor was the assistant to Cardinal Shoenborn and was one of the writers of the Catechism. In addition, she was a writer for the new Compendium of the Catholic Church! How amazing to sit with one who helped write the truth for all to read. Who worked directly over the long term with the now Pope Benedict. Just amazing...

What is really neat is that Deb is getting to sit in on the class with me. It will be really neat to discuss these things with her once again.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Interesting...

Last weekend, I was very busy working for the ITI moving beds, furniture, all kinds of stuff. I get a call on Saturday to see if I want to help this guy move. We'd be paid cash. I wasn't too excited about it, but they were desperate for the help so I went over.

I met a wonderful couple. He is the main fundraiser for ITI and is Dutch. His wife is Mexican. They have a four year old boy who speaks Dutch, Spanish, German, and English!! It was amazing! Anyway, they were moving to Vienna. We loaded up, hit the A1 (main highway) and were on our way.

They moved into a 13th century castle that was built by the Liechtenstein's (sp?) as a horse riding getaway. It was amazing! They was a chapel in the castle that they were in the midst of refurbishing in hopes of making it a chapel once again. I have never seen anything like it before.

When we were done, the gentlemen took us out to dinner to an Italian pizzeria. The beer wasn't bad for a lager (although I desperately miss my IPAs, Porters, and Stouts - got to get to England 8^>). The pizza was a little more interesting. My acquaintance ordered a so-called "Mexican Pizza". It was nuthin' of the sort, honey. THEY PUT TUNAFISH ON THIS PIZZA!! I can't remember what else was on it BECAUSE THEY PUT TUNAFISH ON THE PIZZA. (Or thunfisch for you Germophiles). I, of course, did NOT have the "Mexican Pizza", yes those are scare quotes - 'cause it scared the hell out o' me. Mine was edible.

We then were able to take a quick tour of Vienna at night on the way back to Gaming. It was magnificent, especially when I am in the car with a Slovakian, a Romanian, listening to Austrian radio sing crappy American hits in English! Way too much cultural diversity for a guy like me who thinks cultural diversity is two guys from Ada and Canyon Counties in the same bar!



In other news, I received my final class list.
  1. Natural Philosophy I: Principles of Nature - mainly focusing on Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas
  2. Natural Philosophy II: Motion and Order - focused on Aristotle, Bacon, and Descartes
  3. Introduction to Logic - Aristotle and others (don't know yet)
  4. Mysterium Salutis I - Class on the first 1/2 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  5. Church History I - No idea yet
  6. Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.
A combined 24 credits. I think I might be a busy boy. I love it though. The bulletin board on Friday was filled with announcements from the Professors assigning reading, before classes begin, so we can hit the ground running. As I told one of them, "I am way to old to be messing around. Let's get it on!!"

We started homeschool this week. Wow. double-wow. triple-wow. It is going to take us all a while to get all of this figured out. Four kids at four different levels needing help all at the same time makes for a comedic melodrama. I am not particularly fond of God's sense of humor. :)

Hopefully, we can get the camera going again and get some pictures up. We are going on our pilgrimage to Mariazell (Check it out at http://www.basilika-mariazell.at) next weekend. 20 Km walk (~12 miles) through the mountains. It will be a wonderful time of penance, purgation, and pilgrimage.
The above is a picture of the main altar. The website is in German, but the pictures aren't! Enjoy!!

Friday, September 01, 2006

YAY!!

The internet has come to my house!! The internet has come to my house!! Now, we can finally get back on track as far as the blog is concerned.

Classes start on Tuesday. So now time becomes a factor. I'll write later about classes, 13th Century castles, tuna on a "Mexican" pizza, and much, much more!!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reading...

I was able to get a head start on some of the reading for my Natrual Philosophy class. I am now reading Aristotle's Physics and the Commentary by St. Thomas Aquinas. If any of you would like to read those and 'splain 'em to me, I would be greatly indebted!

I have a feeling I am going to be a busy boy!

Fits and Starts...

We are still trying to get settled. One of the things that has been puched to the back burner is the internet connection at home. [sob] We hopefully will be fully connected with a dsl line soon. Until then, the posting may be sporadic as we just can't get tot he computer lab as much as we would like.

Monday, August 14, 2006

wow, what a place!!!

Hey all. Just got here and it has been nice. The area is gorgeous. I hope it stays this way for a while at least, but I never know. If you ever earn enough money and need a vacationing spot this would be the place. I love Austria. Even though I miss Idaho I still love it here.

Felicity age 12

The ITI..

Please check out the ITI's website. There is a lot of great information about the school, Gaming, and the Kartause. It is www.iti.ac.at.

I'm in

I made it to Austria
I'ts beautiful here our backyard is a forest
and you walk everywhere But its fun
Cody Lee signing off

Friday, August 11, 2006

Last but not the least...8^>

The last thing in the world you wanted to see was a fat guy drinking a beer. However, this is an Austrian beer at the restaurant at the Kartause! :) It was a local beer brewed in Wieselberg. It was very good. Even had some nice hoppiness to it.




There is an English gentleman who works for ITI. He and I have already spoken about flying back to England to "tour the Ales" :). He said we could get a ticket from Linz to London for 60 euro roundtrip! Look out Mr. Porter - Mr. Extra Special Bitter, I am on my way!! 8^>