Students, Stones and the Gifts of God

Let us place a stone for you.

There is a light burning in an un-renovated room of the Schloss.  Students trickle in and out at all hours of the day and night.  Some come to look and they stay to work.  They stay for hours discussing their studies, talking and singing. But what are they doing?

It started as a joke and a dream.  Fr. Juraj Terek, the Byzantine Chaplain at the ITI, was surveying the ugly concrete floor of the Byzantine chapel in the Schloss and trying out different types of stone tiles.  A student from Slovakia, Ondrej Vlcek, was with him.  Ondrej said, “What about doing a mosaic floor?”

Fr. Juraj quipped in return, “and who will do it?  You?”

“Yes, I can,” was Ondrej’s response.

It has always been like that at the ITI.  When there is a need at the ITI, a student will arise who has a gift; a talent to supply that need.  One has a gift for decorating, another for choir music, another for recording sound or taking photos, another for gardening, and yet another for organizing. Most of the work on campus is done by students.  For the Byzantine chapel renovations, students knocked down the walls to reveal the original arches for the space.  All the iconography in the chapel has been done by ITI alumni, so it is fitting that the floor will have the same quality.

Ondrej was trained in mosaics by a priest in Slovakia who had studied under Reverend Mark Rupnik, SJ.  The technique the students are using was practiced in Ravenna.  Ondrej spent the summer of 2014 getting donations of stone for the project – stone which is as international as the ITI.  Stone which is in different colors and from places like China, Italy, and Brazil.  Ondrej was excited when he spoke about the stone from Cappadocia (today’s Turkey).  “The same Church Fathers that we study at the ITI could have looked or stepped on this stone!”  As the Church Fathers are a foundation in the Faith for us, so these stones from Cappadocia will be a foundation in the Byzantine Chapel.

Fr. Juraj and Ondrej discussed and planned a design that would unite the artwork with the life of the ITI – a life of academics and prayer.  The design takes into account the fact that the Byzantine Chapel will be dedicated to the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

01 Student works on Chapel mosaic
An ITI student works on a mosaic under Ondrej’s instruction.

Now students, under Ondrej’s direction, are working to put each stone in its place to build the floor.  “The mosaic floor represents the ITI,” said Fr. Juraj. “It represents the students, faculty, and all those whose work, prayer and gifts come together to make the ITI as a whole.  Each person who comes to the ITI gives of himself, as God calls him, and all our gifts together make the ITI what it is.  It is like seeing a picture of God’s grace in action.”

Let us put in a stone for you – or for anyone you want to commemorate.  Your donation of €100 will be put towards student financial aid (each year we need to raise €1.9 million in financial aid) and a student will place a stone for you.  To donate, visit www.iti.ac.at and the giving pages.  You can also see photos on this page:  http://www.iti.ac.at/news-events/photo. We hope to have the floor installed by the end of January 2015, so if you are in the area before then, come and see the mosaic work in progress or place a stone yourself.

Then, each day during the Divine Liturgy, as the priest walks on the mosaic floor and brings the gifts to the altar during the Great Entrance, you too will be remembered in these words:

“May the Lord God remember in His Kingdom…the noble and ever-memorable founders and benefactors of this holy Church and all you Christians of the true faith, always, now and ever, and forever. Amen.”

06 Kyrie Final 2
The Greek word ‘Kyrie (meaning ‘Lord’) is depicted on one of the finished segments of the moasaic.

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