Bliss and Adventure in God’s Plan

Reflections of a Student from the Studium Generale Program

The International Theological Institute, located in the quaint metropolis of Trumau, Austia, where the wise meet the wiser, foreign mingles with familiar, and, above all, where the creature encounters the Creator in a new and real way more and more each day. Sounds a bit fantastical, huh? Well, it could be because I am inclined to lean a bit on the dramatic side of the personality spectrum; nevertheless, I think I still stand justified in my somewhat idyllic description of my current locale.

It’s worth a chuckle to me now when I think back to when I first heard from a current ITI student about the Studium Generale program, and to recall my initial reaction of laughing it away as an impossibility. There were several factors that attributed to my hesitation: International (far from all things familiar in America. I admit it, I’m a wimp), Theological (am I really up for something like that? I mean, what if the people are so smart you can’t even hold a coherent conversation with them? You just never know.), Institute (that just sounds scary? Yeah, I got nothing). To this day I still can’t pinpoint what it was exactly that changed my mind. I suppose it was the fact that although I doubted its actualization, I never dismissed it entirely, which is key for hearing what God wants us to do, right? Welp, again, God had a much more exciting plan in mind and. . .Tadah!. . .here I am! (queue applause) And what a tremendous blessing coming here has been for me!

The author and the rest of the Studium Generale Class of 2014.


In the end, I decided to come for the Studium Generale program for personal enrichment. It’s not a degree program, so that’s rather the point of the course, I believe. The year thus far has been filled with classes ranging from philosophy, economics, anthropology, and scripture (just to name a few), a rich community life (I’m constantly surrounded by accents…oh, sweet bliss!), and travels! One of the unique things worth noting is that the community is comprised not only of students my age, but also of families with young children, as well as religious and priests. This aspect is such a wonderful addition to the campus. It is the full life of the Church in all her vocations.

Speaking of the life of the Church, I can’t leave out the strong spiritual life offered me here. Daily Mass is offered in the Novus Ordo form (English or German), the Extraordinary Form, or the Byzantine Liturgy (which I have fallen in love with!). All of these options. Everyday. Don’t forget about adoration and rosary every day, then Akathist and confessions every week. Can life get any better? I submit that it cannot!

Icon of The Presentation of the Child Jesus from the Byzantine Chapel.


Then, to add adventure to bliss, let’s take a moment to recall that I’m in Austria. European travels just became extremely more realistic. Within a three month period, I’ve already had the opportunity to travel to Rome, Venice, Bratislava, and, of course, Vienna. Heck, I don’t have to go farther that the mundane streets of seemingly insignificant Trumau to be enchanted! There’s just something about experiencing —no, living—in another culture and continent that serves to enlarge your entire world-view perspective.

Basically, add these three elements together, classes, international community, and a rich liturgical life, and what else can I do but recommend American Airlines? Really. I can’t say it enough: God is good!

Studying Theology in the Midst of a Suffering World

It was a crisp Autumn morning in the fateful year of 1939. In shock, the world watched as the ravings of a mad man beguiled an entire nation, and plunged the world into the unthinkable: another World War. It was under the dark shadow of the Third Reich that the calm, intelligent face of an Oxford Don looked out over a gathering of young people –who could have no way of imagining the horrors that were about to be unleashed upon them and the rest of the world –and explained to them why what they were doing was still worthwhile.

Ever one to see past the first impressions one might have of an event, or writing, or anything really, C.S. Lewis had a keen insight into the fears and hopes that must have gripped the souls of the young people of that day. A wounded veteran of the First World War, he had some idea of what was at stake, and what could be expected. He assuredly asked the questions that were in the minds of all his hearers from the start:

“What is the use of beginning a task which we have so little chance of finishing? Or,  even if we ourselves should happen not to be interrupted by death or military service, why should we — indeed how can we — continue to take an interest in these placid occupations when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance? Is it not like fiddling while Rome burns?“

CS Lewis

How piercing these questions must have been! How piercing they are now! We too are studying during dark times. We too are engaged in “placid” occupations while we see the lives of Christians and others throughout the Near East torn asunder, or ended utterly. Indeed, the dire situation of Christians of the Middle East in particular was brought to the forefront of the thoughts and minds of ITI students during the Dies Natalis Keynote address by ITI board member Graham Hutton. We sat riveted as we heard stories of the works of evil men, and glorious martyrs who opposed them. “Shouldn’t we do something?”

The simple answer to this question is this: We are doing something. In Lewis’ words, applicable now as they were then:

“A man’s upbringing, his talents, his circumstances, are usually a tolerable index of his vocation. If our parents have sent us to Oxford, if our country allows us to remain there, this is prima facie evidence that the life which we, at any rate, can best lead to the glory of God at present is the learned life.”

For the Christian, discernment is always urgent. We are always in the midst of a battle “against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.”(Eph. 6:12)

As Lewis points out:

“Thus the omnipresence of obedience to God in a Christian’s life is, in a way, analogous to the omnipresence of God in space. God does not fill space as a body fills it, in the sense that parts of Him are in different parts of space, excluding other object from them. Yet He is everywhere –totally present at every point of space – according to good theologians.”

Class 3 best

So, yes of course we should be aware of the circumstances of the day and attentive to the needs and concerns of the world around us. And thanks in part to Mr. Hutton, we are better aware. Our desire is not to dwell in the proverbial Ivory Tower.  We have come to the ITI to serve God. It is not always in active participation in relief efforts for those suffering present ills that we serve him. The time may come when we should serve Him thus, and we must be always ready. But for now, we can give thanks to God that we are able to take this time to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures and Fathers under the guidance of St. Thomas Aquinas and our Patroness Thérèse of Liseux, and participate in our little way to the furtherance and preservation of the teachings of the Church.

And we can pray.

ITI – Waste or Investment of Time?

Thoughts from a current MMF student:

A friend of mine asked me during thesummer holidays if I really wanted to enroll in the second year of my MMF studies at the ITI. He was wondering if it is not just useless drilling in theology and a waste of time which could have been spent more effectively (at work, for example).


As it happens, I enrolled in my second year, and week by week I become more convinced that it was a good decision. The spiritual-cultural state of all of our countries is so poor, and the state of the crisis in family life is so grave that, even if we all “worked ’til we fainted,” it would not save us.

What is of great importance today is sound philosophy, anthropology and theology. They by far surpass economic concerns in importance because they draw us to the things that really matter. If we want to be on the right path to happiness; if we want to eliminate evil and spread the good, we have to come back to God, to faith and promote healthy families – and this is what we are taught here at the ITI.

Thanks be to God and to all who make it possible!


Nostalgic for a Class from Pater Rupert Mayer at ITI? Read below

Homily 3 May 2012
Mass Readings
1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Psalm 19:2-5, John 14:6-14

John describes Philip and Andrew as those apostles who bring the people to Jesus, together with all their questions and needs. In this sense, the apostles intercede and pray for us. Jesus said to them about prayer: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Some of you might say: “I have asked God so many times and did not receive anything. Therefore, Jesus did not say the truth.” When we are confronted with such a difficulty in our faith, the question is: Did we understand the Lord’s words in the right way? We have to understand what it means “to ask in the name of Jesus”.

John writes about this in his first letter: “we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us, and if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.” Thus, to ask in the Lord’s name is to ask him according to his will. No human being may try to change the unchangeable will of God. But we may discern what is God’s will from that which is not God’s will. In the event we come to know God’s will, we have to pray fervently that His will be done. We should ever have great confidence that what we ask in this way is already ours. Though God’s will is unchangeable, He has decided from all eternity to give great spiritual gifts to us. If we ask Him, He will provide for the necessary things of our life.  Thus, God wants to enter into a conversation with us from all eternity and we should try to understand what He wants to say to us.

But there is a human attitude that might prevent us from getting into this conversation with God. Many people are not interested in God’s will because they want to have their own will. Every day they pray “Thy will be done” and hope that it will not be done. This is a tremendous lack of faith, an attitude that never enters into a conversation with God and overlooks His providence. These people lack the taste for divine and spiritual gifts because they think only about this world and the things of this world which they want to have. They do not know about God’s gifts and if they knew, they would nevertheless despise them.

If we know this, how should we pray?

At first we should enter into the presence of the Most High whose power is infinite, then we should try to desire what is His will and ask Him with great confidence that His will be done . In many cases, when we do not know what God’s will is, then we have to look at reality as the sign of God’s will. Thus, if our prayers are not heard, this is a sign that it was not God’s will to give us what we asked for. Even in this case you did not ask for something in vain. For you entered into a conversation with your heavenly Father and He told you that you have to change your will in order to live in conformity with His will. Thus you would trust His providence. He governs the world in such a way that everything works for the glory of God.

The more you conform to His will, the more you want what He wants in His eternal love, the holier you will become, and the more you will understand what your heavenly Father says to you.

So let us pray that God’s will be done. This is better for us than anything else we might ask. Amen.