Reflections on Summer at the ITI

ITI Summer SkyTwentieth Century English spiritual writer Caryll Houselander, waxes eloquently about the importance and beauty of the purposeful emptiness that occupies the center of our very being in her wonderful book, Reed of God. The title of the book also acts as a principle image as she exhorts us to be reeds of God, filled with the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, and allowing Him to pass through us to into the world beyond. The whole of her teaching is perhaps fittingly summed up in her words, “The one thing she [Mary] did and does is the one thing that we all have to do, namely, to bear Christ into the world.”

I am blessed to be able to spend the summer here at the ITI with my family. Being sensitive to the needs of families, the ITI wisely and mercifully has no expectations that families can move out of their apartments for the summer as the single students do. No, the families remain in their place, working and living and surviving the summer heat as we are able. But it is this distinction in the kinds of students at the ITI; the variety in the ways of Christian life represented in the student body, that is a great strength of the school. How fitting for the families to remain! We represent the stability of Christian life and are blessed to be images (however imperfectly) of the Heavenly Home towards which we are all striving. So also, the single students represent and remind us of our pilgrim state, that “we have here, no lasting city” (Heb. 13:14). This life is a journey.

I could go on about the various ways each kind of group can and does benefit the overall life of the school, expounding on the evident graces we have from having student-seminarians, religious and priests; or the great meeting of East and West, but this will lead us way from the final purpose of this little reflection. Now is not the time because all of these benefits are, as it were, suspended, while the vast majority of the student body is away.  Indeed, the whole Institute feels as though it is an empty reed, and even outside summer programs do little to enliven the place. There is a kind of hope filled expectation in the air as the Institute awaits the return of her students, who are the purpose and life of the school.

What a humbling thing to be a part of this! All our generous donors and dedicated faculty and staff are all here for the students. While this is true anywhere, at the ITI this takes on a special importance and significance. First of all, because we are a school of theology. Here we study the most important of all the sciences, and consequently are entrusted with the greatest responsibilities. Moreover, we stand out from other theological schools because we have a special mission as found in the four pillars of our Institute. The ITI is a kind of focal point for dialogue and the meeting place for the various parts of the Catholic Church. It is as a microcosm of the global Catholic Communion. Consequently, our ability to succeed, to learn from one another and with one another, to grow in charity together, and, in short, act as reed of God, can portend either success or greater struggle for the whole of the Church here on earth.

Therefore, while certainly always at least tacitly acknowledged in the midst of the busy academic year, it is the summer where we experience so keenly how the students comprise the “that for the sake of which” of the school. All things at this Institute are and should be ordered to her students. For, if the Institute is a reed of God, then we students in turn are as the breath of God; and if we are as the breath of God, then we must bring the life and light of God into the world. This is a great and wondrous thing, indeed.

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