Springtime in Trumau

“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!

Witness to Life

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.

STM-4 Student, Andrew S. (USA), marching in Berlin with his wife and son.

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!

The Rector, Monsignor Hogan, baptizing Octavian, as his parents, Kenton and Rebecca (Canada), and siblings look on.

Walking Pilgrimage to Stift Heiligenkreuz

(by Nataliya Veresh for the Centre of Eastern Christian Studies)

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious, Holy and Life-Giving Cross continued for the ITI community on Sunday the 15th of September with a beautiful pilgrimage. More than 60 people of the ITI community including priests, professors, students and children walked from Trumau to the Cistercian Abbey, Stift Heiligenkreuz, which is dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Cross. After a 7 hour walk, we attended the Mass in honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross  celebrated by Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg. ITI’s Rector, Msgr. Prof. Dr. Larry Hogan, and three ITI Byzantine priests concelebrated along with Abt Maximilian and fifteen other priests. At the end of the celebration, the ITI pilgrims had the opportunity to venerate and to be blessed with the largest relic (north of the Alps) of the true cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a moment of true grace.

Convocation: The Call to Martyrdom

His Excellency, the Most Reverend Peter Stasiuk C.SS.R, gives the homily

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.

New student, Rupert Santner of Austria, shakes hands with Dean of Studies Dr. Bernhard Dolna while Rector Monsignor Dr. Larry Hogan looks on