The Cardinal Newman Society has added the ITI to its list of recommended Catholic Schools, noting that the ITI is a “faithfully Catholic institute… situated in the beautiful Austrian countryside just south of Vienna, Austria.”
For the full article that includes an interview with alumnus Max Becher, click on the link below.
I am recently arrived back from the canonization of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Saint John XXIII in Rome. I have not had hardly enough time to reflect on what it means that they are canonized, or what a gift it was to be there to witness it, but at very least I am able to articulate a bit of what the experience was like. And so I think I must tell you my three favorite memories.
A number of my fellow ITI students elected to forgo sleep entirely on the eve of the 27th and kept vigil all night in prayer in order to secure a spot in the square of St. Peters. My small group arrived the morning of, and pressed onwards and inwards until we were about two kilometers from St. Peter’s, with a straight-shot view, nonetheless, of the great dome and the vast sea of pilgrims that stood ahead of us. Even from such a distance the whole celebration felt very intimate to me, due in part to the projector screens and loud speakers; and, even more particularly, thanks to the prayerful witness of the thousands who spanned the space between me and the altar, joining me to it.
This is the first thing that I must recount: the music was epic. Epic like an ancient ballad, epic like the last great blast of a symphony, epic like a marble monument: intentional, timeless, mighty, reverent. The congregation and the choir sang the lines of the creed back and forth in a kind of dialogue, and upon reaching the lines “on the third day He rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures,” these lines were repeated, and the choral melody ripped open into a surging harmony. Those five melodic seconds are my most vivid memory of the whole Mass. It struck me afresh, suddenly and keenly, as the music cued, that we were professing a thing wildly beautiful, beyond anything man has ever dared to hope.
But music must ever give way to silence. After Holy Communion had been distributed, a voice came over the loud speakers in several different languages, calling out to this congregation of millions for a few moments of silence. I hardly expected it could be possible, but the throngs obeyed. How can I explain to you what it is like to pray in silence together with so, so many people? There were square kilometers of people stretching ahead of me, packed in like sardines, and countless more fanning out behind, waiting in silence for the Pope to say “let us pray.” I knew then, with a searing certainty, that I am part of something infinitely bigger than myself, and more beautiful than words.
Yet the dearest memory I have of this Mass came between the music and the silence: the umbrellas. Yes, yes, the umbrellas; I mean that with all my heart.
The day was overcast, with a light sprinkle in the hours of waiting before the Mass and wind that smelled of wet all throughout the service. And so, perhaps expectedly, there were umbrellas, in papal hues, held by the altar servers escorting those who brought Holy Communion to the people. I witnessed this from far away, and to my distant eye these little white and yellow humps bobbing above the crowd where like beacons, indicating precisely where the Lord was being carried. The umbrellas were a simple, practical gesture, which in their simplicity were all the more beautiful to me: on the one hand, when you carry God about in the rain, of course you hold an umbrella over Him! And yet, on the other hand, when you carry God about in the rain… you hold an umbrella over Him?!
Yes, we do. With reverence and dignity, with matching umbrellas, probably set aside in a preparatory way, beforehand, in case of rain: because we love Him so much. We love Him so much that we come to receive Him in the rain, anyway, and we are eager to see that He is kept dry, like any King. We are so little in response to His complete self-gift that the best we can do are umbrellas; and yet, it is exactly right.
Altogether, this scene summed the whole thing up for me. We were gathered to proclaim and celebrate the entrance of two new saints in to heaven. And what made this all possible was confessed in that harmonic line of the creed, and adored in the silence, and received under papal umbrellas. And I shall ever relish these memories.
Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Saint John XXIII, pray for us!
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
-St. Augustine, Confessions X.27
This is my first Spring in Trumau. I grew up in a tropical part of the world where I suppose we take our perpetual springtime for granted, and so in many ways I have never admitted the charms of this season before. At very least, I have certainly never before known them in Trumau.
Last week I was walking back from Mass along the gravel path that runs between the Schloss and our community apartments. It was gloriously sunny, and I was relishing the simple joy of being able to see my own shadow again after so many weeks of overcast winter days. And then I heard a sound. I thought at first that it was a squirrel romping through one of the pine trees that line the gravel walk. Yet once my ear became aware of it, I noticed that it was coming from every tree. A soft, sudden, popping sound, like popcorn kernels bursting in the heat of a pan; random but still somehow rhythmic, like free verse.
It was the sound of the pinecones opening. Yes; in Trumau, during these first days of Spring, the pine cones open with such eagerness that you can hear them. It is a soft sound, like the smacking of lips. At the moment I heard this I thought to myself that maybe I have always wondered how trees would sing or speak. And now I know.
Spring in Trumau is not only audible. Today I was wandering about in the garden that encircles our Schloss. There are trees there, beautiful trees. There are climbable trees, with rough, pronounced bark; there are fruit trees that are full of pears and apples and plums and cherries in the summer and fall. There are trees with moss on them in hues of green and gold that belong in fairytales. And in the Springtime, in all the places where the leaves will be after the branches have stood barren now for these months of winter, delicate pink and white blossoms come. They smell sweet, and cloak the whole garden in a faint perfume.
Bees have come now to these flowers. I stood beneath a tree that was full of humming bees, whizzing from blossom to blossom. Their gentle but purposeful motion shook the petals from the tree, even on such a quiet, windless morning, so that they floated to the ground. Inaudible motion is somehow otherworldly, and to see it makes me wonder about angels.
To anyone who is considering whether to come to the ITI as a student some day, or whether to join with us in prayer and support, oh! This is what I must tell you: come here for the Springtime. I mean that in many respects, because there is a freshness here, an ageless youth that is old and familiar and yet always new, like how this season feels to me now when I walk out into the day. Spring comes every year, and still we never grow tired of it. And I must expect that the things we read here, the life we lead here, the kind of community we form here, is eternally relevant, and ever-new.
Man is a creature of body and mind, both, and this makes him what he is. What joy comes in finding a place where the Spring is both within and without!
Here at the ITI, the sanctity of life is not something that we merely learn about in the classroom: It is something that we try to live and witness to every day.
Earlier in the semester, the students of the ITI split in two in order to simultaneously participate in both the Marsch für das Leben in Berlin, and also the March for Life in Košice, Slovakia.
15 people from the ITI, including 2 babies, were present in Berlin. A pre-march rally with speakers and song was held in front of the Bundeskanzleramt (seat of the German chancellor) across the plaza from the Reichstag (seat of the German parliament). As the rally came to an end, a large SWAT team joined the police forces to form a line between the marchers and many angry protestors, and so accompanied, they began the 2 hour march through Berlin. The protesters to the march were often quite abrasive, throwing glitter and condoms on the marchers, and topless women and sacrilegious pictures were prevalent at street corners. The march ended in a large grassy plaza, where an ecumenical service was held with songs, a Gospel reading and closing speech. The reported number of marchers this year was over 4500, a significant increase from last year’s 3000 participants. While the marchers faced not a small amount of persecution for their witness, the power of the peaceful statement made is one that will surely impact the lives of the unborn as awareness grows in the years to come.
In contrast, the march in Košice was far less turbulent. Around 20 people attended from the ITI, making up a part of the approximately 65,000 people who marched together in order to witness to life.
Also, as a part of the ITI’s Thursday night lecture series, the ITI hosted Mr. John Smeaton, the president of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. He gave an enlightening talk in the aftermath of the events in Ireland, calling for the laity, led by the clergy, to lead the charge in the public sector, and to not give up in the legal battle for the rights of the unborn. The conversation that was begun by his talk lasted far into the evening, as students gathered afterward to continue discussing this important issue.
Finally, the ITI witnessed to life through the celebration of the baptism of one of the newest members of the ITI community, Octavian. Welcome, Tavi!
“Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mt. 5:9)
Karl I (1887-1922), Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, said goodbye to his wife, Empress Zita. “I’ll love you forever”, he declared, just as he had eleven years earlier when they were married. Then he called his first born son Otto, to “witness how a Catholic and an Emperor conducts himself when dying.” The Emperor received the Sacrament of the Sick and spoke his last words: “Thy Holy Will be done. Jesus, Jesus, come! Yes—yes. My Jesus, Thy will be done—Jesus.”
Karl died in exile. In 1919 the new Republic of Austria had banished the Emperor from his homeland by decree of the notorious Habsburg Laws. Following two failed attempts to regain the throne of Hungary, he was exiled to Portugal by the Entente powers. There the family resided in a mountain villa on the island of Madeira. In March of 1922, the Emperor caught a severe cold that soon developed into pneumonia thanks to their drafty and humid house. His mind ever directed toward the good of his people, Karl offered his illness and suffering as a sacrifice for the peace and unity of his lands: “I must suffer like this so my people will come together again.” Karl I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary died on April 1, 1922, at the age of thirty-five.
Six years earlier Karl’s reign had commenced with the funeral of his great uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916). At Karl’s birth, few thought he would one day inherit the throne; a grand nephew was simply too far removed from the line of succession.
Thus the young prince received little public attention, and he grew up to be a charming young man, devoted to his tasks whatever they were, charitable always, reverent and pious. He loved playing soldier, his future vocation. “His greatest joy,” however, “was in being allowed to be an altar boy,” his tutor recalled. From a young age Karl had a special, life-long devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.
In 1900, Karl suddenly found himself second in line to the throne. He was only thirteen. His uncle Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the direct heir to the throne, had chosen to marry beneath his station—his wife was a mere Countess—and his children were accordingly excluded from imperial succession. Great scrutiny was therefore given to Karl’s marriage to Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, who shared his love of the Faith as well as of family life and the outdoors. After their wedding Karl turned to her and said, “Nowwe must helpeach other to go to heaven.” The couple was blessed with eight children during the ten years of their happy and exemplary married life.
Five years later Karl led the massive funeral procession from St. Stephen’s Cathedral to the Capuchin or Imperial Crypt where the members of the House of Habsburg are put to their rest. The Archbishop of Vienna together with four other cardinals, twenty bishops and forty-eight priests celebrated the funeral mass for Franz Joseph. Thousands lined the streets of Vienna watching the procession pass by, paying their respects, and showing their affection for the old Emperor. Franz Joseph’s reign of sixty-eight years had made him a symbol of stability and continuity. With his passing, a new period of the history of Austria-Hungary began and its future now rested with the untried twenty-six year old grand-nephew.
The hour of Karl’s ascension to the throne was not a fortunate one. The terrible Great War had raged across Europe for two years. Domestically he inherited a multi-ethnic empire torn apart by nationalist zealotry and in desperate need of political and social reform, suffering from widespread misery and poverty only made worse by the war.
From the very beginning, Karl conceived of his office “as a holy service to his people” and his chief concern was “to follow the Christian vocation to holiness.” The archbishop of Budapest who crowned Karl King of Hungry recalled that “it was neither the ornamentation nor the pomp that interested him, it was only the duty that he was undertaking before God, before the nation and before the Church. He wished to be worthy of this, for which he had been chosen.” Before the high altar in the magnificent Matthias Corvinus church in Budapest, Karl pledged himself to work tirelessly for peace and justice in his realm.
In his first declaration he underlined his commitment to this sacred duty, declaring that he would “do everything to banish in the shortest possible time the horrors and sacrifices of war and to win back for my peoples the sorely-missed blessing of peace.”
In his commitment to peace he followed the efforts of Pope Benedict XV. The Holy Father had called for a peace-without-victors. But the Holy See’s proposal fell on deaf ears everywhere else but in Vienna. Amongst European statesmen, Karl stood alone.
The war started with the cheery departure of troops certain of a speedy victory. By 1916, countless numbers of Europe’s sons had fallen to the merciless trench warfare. The tragedy that triggered the chain of events leading to the outbreak of the disastrous war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo by a Serbian terrorist. Ironically, Franz Ferdinand was particularly sympathetic toward the southern Slavs and their pursuit of a united Yugoslavia. Moreover, his innovative plans for imperial reform promised the smaller nations within the empire an unprecedented degree of independence and self-determination.
Karl also recognized the need for internal reorganization and wisely envisioned the future of the monarchy along federalist principles. After his ascension he initiated a number of critically-needed social reforms and prepared the way for a federation of nations joined together by their loyalty to the House of Habsburg and based on the recognition of mutual benefit and interest. This traditional constitution would serve both the smaller nations as well as the empire and thus procure the European balance of power. Each nation’s identity and culture would be duly recognized and respected in a true unity of diversity.
But the genuinely European policy of the House of Habsburg conflicted with less judicious, rival visions for a new European order. The young and ambitious German Empire and its Emperor William II marched for a place in the sun at the head of a Germanic Mitteleuropa. Though the Western democracies favored the idea of the nation-state organized according to the republican form of government, they did not seek to break-up the Austro-Hungarian Empire—at least initially. When the United States entered the war on the side of the Entente and following Woodrow Wilson’s powerful rhetoric the Western powers rigorously pursued the vision of a post-war Europe without monarchies, without empires. The war to end all wars was to climax in a permanent peace by realizing a Europe of democratic republics based on the progressive principle of national self-determination.
Beginning in the early months of 1917 Karl took the first concrete steps to bring about a peace-without-victors. He offered far-reaching concessions. Unfortunately for Europe, for the world, the Entente powers could not be swayed. In the end the ill-conceived idea of national self-determination together with the disregard for age-old polities advanced at the Versailles peace conference only prepared the soil for the next catastrophe.
Karl’s peace policy would have been the more prudent choice. At the time, however, his desire for peace was not returned. Germany blunted his efforts. The Entente declined his offers. Peace, that “beautiful gift of God, the name of which … is the sweetest word to our hearing and the best and most desirable possession” (Benedict XV, 1920), Karl did not attain.
And yet, even his republican enemies at home remember him as theFriedenskaiser, the peace Emperor. When meditating on the life of Blessed Emperor Karl we see an encouraging example of faith. We are reminded that just rule is deeply anchored in faith. We are reminded that we can only order ourselves and the world around us well when we join our will to the will of the Father in heaven and so lay to rest all enmity between God and us. Only when we are reconciled with God and struggle to abide in peace with Him can we genuinely struggle for peace on earth. As Emperor and King, Karl sought always to imitate Jesus, the true Solomon, the true bringer of peace, and so can be called a son of God.
O God, through the adversities of this world You led Blessed Karl from this earthly realm to the crown reserved for him in heaven. Grant through his intercession that we may so serve Your Son and our brothers and sisters that we may become worthy of eternal life. Through Jesus Christ.
In Latin, the verb vocare means “to call”, and the prefix con- meaning “with” or “together”; hence, convocation literally means a “calling together”, an appropriate title for the opening festivities of the new year here at the ITI.
This year marks the first time that the ITI has had new students inscribe their names in a matriculation book during the formal convocation ceremony to open the beginning of the academic year. The day began with the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, presided over by His Excellency, Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.SS.R. of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Saints Peter and Paul in Melbourne (Australia).
The clergy, faculty, staff, students, and families then processed from the parish church to the Schloss while chanting the Litany of Saints along the way. The convocation ceremony itself began with remarks from the Rector, Monsignor Hogan.
Monsignor Hogan spoke of the current events in Syria, the state of secularism in much of the West, and the crisis of faith among Catholics. He spoke of the dictatorship of relativism in society that pushes for, not a cause of atheism, but a truly anti-theistic, and in particular, an anti-Christian public agenda. For these reasons, he said, the need is ever more pressing for laity and clergy alike to spend time in an intellectual and spiritual formation in order to be able to go and be salt and light to a world which has rejected the Gospel.
Monsignor Hogan’s message to the students was essentially this: To be a martyr is to be a witness– while some martyrs die for the faith, most offer their own sacrifices for the sake of Christ in little ways, and witness to Christ daily through their words and deeds as mothers, fathers, priests or religious. The calling together of the faculty and students for the beginning of the academic year is, in a focused way, a calling of preparation to be a martyr.
After the Rector’s opening remarks, the Faculty said the Profession of Faith pledging their fidelity to Holy Mother the Church. Finally, all of the new students were called forward to inscribe their names in the matriculation book, signifying the duties and obligations they are committing to as students at the ITI.
The ITI community then had a time of fellowship over a lunch of Wiener Schnitzel and wine at the local Heuriger Scheibenreif.
That afternoon, Dr. Vincent DeMeo gave his reflections on the academic life of the ITI. He explained the notion of the common good, spoke of our motto “Sicut cervus ad fontes”, and stressed the importance of carefully reading each text and asking questions along the way. He finished with a reminder to live a life of charity together. All points to be practiced in a well-lived life of study, prayer, and community for the student of the ITI.
The evening concluded with a BBQ on campus that included beer that was brewed by a few of the students.
Four ITI students recently attended the 4th Theology of the Body International Symposium in Fatima, Portugal, from June 13-16th. The symposium is dedicated to unpacking the teachings from the Wednesday audiences of Blessed John Paul II, and in reaching
an increasing number of people around the world with its message. This is fitting, as the ITI has strong roots with John Paul II, his Theology of the Body, and the late pope’s desire to strengthen families and call all to a deep holiness. In addition, the symposium was founded with the help of a few students and staff connected to the ITI when it first began in 2007, in Gaming, Austria–the ITI’s “nest” before moving a few years ago to just outside of Vienna–so it is interesting to see a contingent from the ITI still participating!
The conference was a busy few days, full of inspiring talks on the TOB, as well as Mass together every noon as the summit of the day’s program. Participants also had a little time to spend at the apparition site, and to visit the tombs and old homes of Bls. Jacinta and Francisco. Two of the students were able to spend an extra day in Lisbon afterward, and got to experience the incredibly warm hospitality (and delicious Portuguese fried chicken) of their new Portuguese friends who had been involved in the conference.
Between sessions, at the conference breaks, the students also spent much time behind the ITI table introducing Portugal (and many other new countries) to the ITI’s programs of study. We thus hope to see some new faces in the next few years who trace their first encounter with the ITI to the Symposium in Fatima!
On the weekend of March 8-10th, 25 women from the ITI, single as well as married, attended a silent retreat in Gaming, Austria, in the town’s exquisite 13th-century Carthusian monastery. This town, as well as the Kartause specifically, is special for ITI students as it is the place one of our chaplains, Fr. Juraj Terek, refers to as the ITI’s “nest,” due to the fact that it was the fledgling institute’s first home before moving to its current and permanent home just outside of Vienna.
The retreat was led by Sr. Monica, a Franciscan religious sister who currently lives in Gaming ministering to the needs of the Franciscan University of Steubenville students during their
semester abroad program. Focusing on intimacy with Christ, Sr. Monica offered beautiful workshops on developing a deeper understanding of Jesus in the role of husband and, with this understanding, a deeper relationship with him. In addition, she provided lectio divina reflections for individual private prayer, based in the Song of Songs, which many women used during their time of silent Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Although short, the retreat offered an important time away from the bustle of daily life as students, as well as an opportunity to bond with the other women at the ITI, particularly when coming together for a joyful common brunch after 2 days together in silence. It’s amazing how close a community can be brought together through silence and individual closeness with Christ, as many of the ITI women experienced on the retreat!
We hope to see this opportunity for stillness and this special reception of grace become a regular occurrence for the ladies at the ITI. Special thanks for the ITI’s sponsorship of this beautiful weekend!
For a number of reasons, it is better suited for the ITI community to celebrate his feast day according to the late liturgical calendar—thus, the students, staff, faculty, and administration gathered together on March 7th to commemorate this great saint, theologian, and doctor of the Church.
Mass in his honour took place earlier on in the day, with choral music sung by ITI students to accent the occasion. Later on, after the afternoon classes, the ITI
community came together for an agape at the Schloss, followed by a concert in Sts. Cyril & Methodius classroom and lecture hall.
As usual, the occasion was one of joy and celebration, complementing the busy daily life of demanding study at the ITI.
We are so thankful for St. Thomas’s gift of intelligence, and for his humble diligence and holiness so many centuries ago, as well as his ongoing companionship and presence with us through the communion of saints—and for the fruit his work is bearing in our studies here at the ITI! St. Thomas Aquinas, ora pro nobis.
At a little after 7pm Austrian time, excited cheers abounded at the residence buildings at the ITI, after white smoke poured from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing that the conclave had decided on a new pope.
ITI students, faculty, family and friends gathered in great anticipation to watch the projected live streaming of the announcement of our new Holy Father. Nearly the entire campus crammed into the St. Therese Common Room and joyfully received the news that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, taking the name Pope Francis, would be the successor to Pope Benedict XVI and the Chair of St. Peter.
It is a beautiful time here as we look toward the coming time with our new and already beloved Holy Father!