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 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


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



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


Friday, December 15, 2006


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.


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:
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...


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...


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!!