A Turbulent World and the Call of the Christian

We live in turbulent times, and as Christians in Western nations we could easily fall into despair in the face of multiple sustained attacks on the foundations of our societies, whether it be the intensifying persecution and martyrdom of our brethren in the Middle East and many other parts of the world, the tsunami of policy efforts in our countries that undermine marriage and the family, or the now institutionalized disregard for the sanctity of human life in all its stages. Human life today is being quietly but effectively destroyed on an industrial scale never before seen in the history of mankind. As is the case with the ever growing persecution of Christians, the truth about abortion and its dramatic consequences is mostly left unmentioned. We merely call it: “freedom of choice”. Killing innocent human life has simply become a matter of free choice. Where is the moral outrage of the West here?

Despite these horrendous facts, Christ has already redeemed us and the world by his cross and resurrection, and therefore we may not despair. There is a great need however, for Christians to rise up and be heard, to be what Christ calls us to be: a sign of contradiction. This we are doing far too little as we tend to talk ourselves into saying it is not all that bad and that there is really nothing we can do. It is so much more comfortable, even within the Church, to keep focusing on our own little communities and problems and disregard the wider – and burning – world in which each one of us is called by the Gospel to be engaged. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has some harsh words for this attitude:

“In the consciousness of the Church (…), a massive narrowing has taking place. We look only at ourselves, we are concerned only with ourselves; we lick our wounds; we want to construct a nice Church for ourselves and hardly see any longer that the Church doesn’t exist for herself but that we have a word that has something to say to the world and that ought to be heard, a word that could give something. We are too forgetful of our real tasks.”

We have a word, Benedict says, The Word, and this is best heard and seen when Christians live out their lives among their fellow human beings, making it visible what it means to follow Jesus, the Son of God.  This is our real task, of which we are so often forgetful. The Word lived shows us the dignity of each and every human life from the moment of conception, it shows us the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage and the beauty of a family springing from it and holding together. The World lived is like a city on a mountain; it is visible for all. The task of the Christian is indeed to bring the Word to the world! This line of thought is continued by Pope Francis, who told the three million Catholic youth gathered on Copacabana Beach in the summer of 2013:

“Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.”

So what are we waiting for?

Here at the ITI, our aim is to form young men and women from every continent to answer this call to bring Christ everywhere, and to do so with conviction. We do this with a specific focus on strengthening Christian marriage and the family in our societies. Our alumni all over the world provide compelling evidence that the profound Catholic formation they have received here prepares them for this most important task of our times.

Let us also pray at the intercession of the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs who were recently so brutally killed in Libya for their faith and who have now been beatified by Coptic Pope Tawadros II. That we all may be equally faithful to Christ as these men were.

The Copt New Martyrs

Christian Martyrdom and Our Response

These days the horrific images went all over the world of the beheading of yet another group of Christians by black-clad men, this time 22 Coptic Christians from Egypt abducted in Libya some time ago. They died calling “O God, Jesus Christ, Jesus my Lord”. They are not the first, and also not the last in a daily growing number of Christian martyrs in the Middle East and Africa at the hands of those for whom it is our duty to pray fervently for their conversion to Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Pope Francis, in an impromptu reaction to this event on Monday, said that “the blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a blood that cries out to the Lord.” It is therefore the Lord that we have to ask for intervention through his love and mercy. As so many Christian martyrs throughout the ages have taught us: hate can only be overcome by charity and forgiveness.

Our response to the daily growing threat from ideologically inspired  persecution and violence is not revenge, neither an ever more militant secularism, nor the rejection of religion in general. All this will only severely weaken us, something which our political elites still fail to see, even in the face of the crumbling order in our so-called “enlightened” democracies. As much as an army can only fend off the attacker when it is run through order and discipline and based on solid principles, so a culture can only survive and fend off those that aim at its destruction when it is embedded in a moral order and unchangeable principles that are like the roots of a tree that give water and nourishment whilst offering an anchor in times of heavy storms. Our answer today therefore must be to live he Gospel in full. Living the Gospel starts with prayer. This centuries’ old prayer by St. Francis of Assisi will be a good start:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


At the ITI, we already pray daily for our persecuted Christian brethren around the world, and for their persecutors as well. We will intensify this effort, as we will be asking students to devote a special weekly Holy Hour for this intention. We will also pray especially, as Pope Francis has asked us to do, for our Coptic Christian brethren, and all Christians, in Egypt.

May the souls of our martyred fellow Christians rest in peace, may their families receive consolation, and may those that killed them see the light of Christ the Savior.

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2014-06-19 11.05.04

The Mosaic Floor

This week, as the new semester started with a votive Mass for the already passed feast day of our patron Saint Thomas Aquinas, we all had the opportunity to for the first time see the marvel of the recently completed mosaic floor in the Byzantine Chapel. This has been a project made possible by the students themselves, some of whom have worked diligently during the semester break to complete the meticulous work of hand-laying the individual stones.

During Mass, our Chaplain Fr. Juraj Terek noted that this beautiful floor represents very accurately the many members of the ITI: students, staff and benefactors, all being part of the Universal Church and serving and supporting it with their individual gifts and dedication.

As so often in the history of the ITI, the mosaic floor represents a miracle of how much can be achieved with little means but much dedication from many people.

Come and see!