Saturday, 3 November 2012

October: the month of fire

Learning to live through trials

This past month was crazy.  It was filled with suffering that we continually offered up.  Our faith was challenged as well as our purpose.  It is amazing how God is always there through the storm.  It is also amazing how God arranges you to read the right book at the right time, or someone gives you a quote at the right time or says something... these little graces are candles in the darkness.

The month of October began with a visit from our Lady in the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa (or as we loving call the 'Black Madonna'.  The icon was travelling across Europe and spent a night here at ITI.  We, with the ITI community, prayed to Mary and venerated her through the icon for 24hours with a focus on praying for the babies in danger of abortion.  If you look carefully at the icon there is a couple black lines or streaks down Mary's cheek.  The icon, which is said to have been painted by St. Luke, was brought to Jerusalem by Helena of Constantinople. During the icon's many travels there was an arrow that pierced the icon and knife that slashed it.  Artists have tried to paint over the slashes to fix the icon, but every attempt has failed.  The scars stay.  Of course there are miracles attached to the icon as well.  The Polish have a few miraculous victories through prayers to Mary through this icon.  It was wonderful to spend time with our Heavenly Mother during the night.

Parish Church Hike

It is our goal to become a part of the local parish community.  We attend the German mass on Sundays and pray the 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary' in German at home.  Next will be the daunting task of learning the Apostles Creed in German.  Then, we'll of course learn all the responses in German as well.  The following was a hike with some of the families from the Parish.  They were surprised when a dad showed up with 3 kids and 3 car seats and no car.  No one spoke English so it was great opportunity to practice German and learn to communicate and get to know the fellow parishioners.  The hike was behind Bad Vaeslow in the hills up to one of the Hutte's that sell beer and sausage and strudel at the top.  

Hiking with the Parish Church

Here, Winter and Tristan and Elijah are pretending that the hike was too difficult, and below is a local salamander.

Here we are near our destination, after it had poured on us, looking out over the valley.

One of the many shrines to Our Lady that you see all over Austria.

And then it hit.  The virus from hell.  Kate, Winter and dad got sick and got well.  Then Benedict got hit.  We assumed with the same thing.  We were wrong.  After 4 days of fever, and swelling under his jaw on his neck, we went to the hospital and they sent us home saying it was a virus and they (we) just had to wait it out.  Well, another 5 days went by and we took him in again and his tonsils are swollen and something was growing behind his tonsils and pushing them over his trachea.  If we had waited longer he would not have been able to breathe.  He was immediately put on an IV and monitored for a positive change over the night.  In the morning there was no change and he had a 2.5 hour surgery.  They took out his tonsils and went through the side of his neck to take out the inflammation (you'll see the scar below).  For eight days he was there.  Kate was there with mommy.  Mommy was trying to communicate in limited German to figure out what was happening.  Dad was at home trying daily to arrange a vehicle (as the hospital was in a town 35 min. away), babysitters for Tristan and Winter, supplemental food for Becca at the hospital and still trying to go to classes and keep up with assignments.  Honestly, these weeks are a bit of a blur in our minds.

When Benedict came out of surgery his face was all swollen and nose and mouth were leaking blood and fluid. He had an oxygen mask as well b/c his breathing was quite laboured.

My first time seeing Benedict after his surgery.  He cried and cried when Winter, Tristan and I left because he wanted to go home so bad.  We cried too.

My brave brave son.  The doctors and nurses loved him to bits.  He endured much including the continual struggle the nurses had in finding a vein to pump pain medication and antibiotics into him.  He had a few holes to show us all.  Benedict said he offered up his suffering for his friend Therese back at the campus.

The front of the hospital in Eisenstadt.  Krankenhause Der Barmherzigen Bruder  (Brothers of Mercy Hospital)

Just a cool doorway on our way to the hospital.  We often tried to get a free parking stall which meant having to walk a few blocks.

The Schloss Gardens beside the hospital.

This was an important walk for us.  Benedict was still in the hospital, but we took him out and as a family went for a walk.  It was his first time outside in about 2 weeks and it brought tears to our eyes to see him smile.  He was still pretty weak and could only walk a bit at a time and then had to go back in the stroller... but I think the moments we had brought us all hope.  My little Benedict gave us all quite a scare.

The sign says: No winter service (as in servicing roads and paths).

Benedict trying to smile while he played in the leaves.  His neck and jaw are still pretty stiff at this point.

The grounds of the beautiful Schloss Garten.  Oh... to be a king back in those days...

Sweet Kate playing.  Here we were back at the hospital on the Monday after the Friday we got Benedict to home to check the results of the testing on the material removed from his throat and lymph nodes.

This is us saying good bye to the hospital after we were told the material was not cancerous. We were very happy to be going home finally as a family.  We decided to get a few groceries, since we had a vehicle, before we went home...little did we know this wasn't really a good bye photo... more like a 'see you in an hour' photo...

And... we're back in the Kinder Abteilung (department) of the hospital.  Why?  Tristan.  We were at the grocery store and Becca called Tristan's name but he didn't respond.  He just stood there staring into space.  Becca, suspecting a seizure, held on to him while he twitched.  People gathered around.  He wasn't responding and the seizure was about 2 minutes long.  Finally, his body relaxed into my lap and he fell into la la land.  The ambulance was called and we were back at the hospital.  There he had another seizure, but not as long and thus was admitted over night for the next two nights while they tested for epilepsy.
On the way to the hospital, trying to follow the ambulance, I got lost and took a turn through a small parking lot and bang - there are the Polizei right behind me.  I guess I was not allowed to go through that parking lot.  I begged for mercy and explained I was trying to find Das Krankenhause and they let me go.
Then I parked in the hospital Parkhause as I was directed to do so by the cops.

On that afternoon, while in the hospital, I received a call to get the vehicle back to ITI as it was booked.  I rushed out with Benedict and tried to leave the parking lot by sticking my ticket into the machine.  It wasn't working.  I tried all my credit cards as well.  Cars were lining up behind and there were shouts in German.  I got out and went car to car trying to get help.  Finally, a gentleman explained that I had to take my ticket back down to the hospital (a block away), pay at the machine and walk back up and then put my ticket in.  I got the folks behind me to back up and trying to not get frustrated, hoisted Benedict and proceeded to the hospital to pay.

And then I got to the Tankstelle (gas station) to fill up because I realized the tank was empty. My no good, very bad day is just continuing...  Now I had been told that one old vehicle on the campus was diesel.  This van was newer, but I thought I had better check.  So I went to call on my handy (cell phone) to check, but at that moment my minutes ran out.  So in my kerfuffled brain, I thought as most cars in Canada are gas, this must be as well, and put in 25 Euros.   Well, I drove about half home and the van stopped on a ramp off the hiway.  Blocking traffic.  The coldest day we've had so far (around 0 degrees) and Benedict is with me.  Kate and Mommy and Tristan are at the hospital with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.  And, my stink'n das Handy isn't very handy.  I stop a car and they don't speak a lick of German as they are from Hungary (Eisenstadt is 10min. from the Hungary border).    Finally, I convinced the guy to call a number on his cell.  We get through.

And then we wait.  Benedict and I cuddled in the van and talked about what all the buttons on the dash do for the next couple hours. Well 4 hours.  After leaving the hospital at 1pm, we arrive at our apartment at 6pm.

And then we eat... we had breakfast at 7:30am and had anticipated being home for lunch.  Neither of us had eaten all day.  I quickly tried to feed a sandwich to Benedict and Winter, pack up, grab another vehicle that arrived, arrange for the payment to fix the van (150-300 Euros) and fly back out to the hospital with clothing and Kate's night time sleep stuff.

Two days went by and Tristan was tested and we were set to go on our pilgrimage to Lisieux, France to the home of St. Theresa.  His tests came back clean and there is no signs of epilepsy, though they want to test him again in a month.  It turns out he had a touch of tonsillitis and a fever that came on so quickly that none of us knew.  At the grocery store his body quickly spiked in temperature and threw him into the febrile convulsions.

We came home and Winter came down with the fever. That did us in.  We canceled the pilgrimage with great disappointment.  We had been reading 'Story of a Soul' by St. Theresa as a family and the kids were really understanding her 'little way' and practicing making little sacrifices.

Then, the hammer came down and I received a $603 bill from the hospital for Benedict's stay with Tristan's stay forthcoming.  Ugh.  Are you feeling my pain yet?  Does it end?  Sheesh!
So, to tick off Satan, who insists on stealing from us, we found opportunities to give and we gave and gave and gave again.  Ha!  Betcha that isn't the response he expected!

Benedict and his healing war wound.

This is the Jewish graveyard outside of Benedict's hospital window.   A good reminder that life is not only short, and unpredictable, but also unbelievably precious.  As a father, I knew that if I needed to move anywhere and sell everything to see my son live and be well again, I would do so.  There is no price one can place on my child.  I would give my life.  

These weeks have brought many questions to us.  Like 'what in the world are we doing here?' for one.  Megan Salin from St. Martin's sent me a timely quote from St. Theresa of Lisieux:
"May today there be peace within.  May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be."  
Maybe we didn't need to go to Lisieux after all.  The word we needed we got right here.

Oh yeah... somewhere in this month we had a birthday for my beautiful wife Rebecca.  She turned 35 this month.

As October came to a close, the ITI gained a herd of sheep that now roam the Schloss Garten.  This was Benedict's first time out to see the sheep.  He named this one Benny.

Benny loves to be petted!

 Kate is introduced to Benny as well!

 Tristan!  Stop chasing the sheep!

 Little sweet Kate!

This video isn't really too exciting.  It is more for the Grandparents, to see how cute the grandkids are.

And a fun video of Kate for the Grandparents.

Kenton's Reading List October (in full and in part): 
Plato: Phaedo
Plato: Eutyphro
Plato: Laches
Plato: Gorgias
Plato: Timaeus
Fragments of the Presocratics
Aristotle: Categories
Aristotle: On Interpretation
Peter Kreeft: Socratic Logic
Joseph Pieper: Only the Lover Sings
St. Theresa of Lisieux: Story of a Soul
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Biffert Sermon from the Mount of Grapes:
Honestly, this whole month has been a sermon to me, but I have learned other things as well.
I'll start with a quote from Socrates in Gorgias:

Premise: In order to be happy one needs to fix any injustice done by oneself by putting oneself under the law.  For suffering cures the soul of injustice.
"[One] should accuse himself first and foremost, and then too his family and anyone else dear to him who happens to behave unjustly at any time; and that he should not keep his wrongdoing hidden but bring it out into the open, so that he may pay his due and get well; and compel himself and the other not to play the coward, but to grit his teeth and present himself with grace and courage as to a doctor for cauterization and surgery, pursuing what's good and admirable without taking any account of the pain.  And if his unjust behaviour merits flogging, he should present himself to be whipped; if it merits imprisonment, to be imprisoned  if a fine, to pay it; if exile, to be exiled and if execution, to be executed   He should be his own chief accuser, and the accuser of other members of his family, and use his oratory for the purpose of getting rid of the worst thing there is, injustice..." 480c,d

Now, read it again.  This is good stuff.  If this isn't convicting I don't know what it is.  What challenge to each of us.  Integrity is the highest road.  We can't be happy by avoiding justice.  If we are living with a soul that is corrupted by unjust acts, sin, thoughts, omissions, we need justice.  Justice is the cure to our soul and in that justice is usually pain.  Kind of like a spanking.  But, when the pain is done, and the cleansing is complete, joy fills its place.  I love his challenge to have courage and take responsibility for our own actions without having someone to call on it.  Man, if the men in our country could rise up to be real men and take responsibility for their actions with grace and courage, we'd have a different country and far less aborted babies.  This challenged me in two ways: one to humble myself and to go to confession more frequently and two: to self impose more penance in my life.  To fast more, to sacrifice more, to pray more in order to irradiate this nature that doesn't want to pray and doesn't want to fast and hates to sacrifice.

The End.

The house where we live:
For those of you who asked for a little video tour of our apartment - here it is.  It was too big to upload so just follow the link to youtube.

All Saints Day/All Souls Day
As October comes to an end we arrive at the Hallow'd Eve of All Saints Day - a national holiday.  We don't celebrate Halloween here.  All Souls Day as well is a National Holiday.  We end our All Saints Day party with prayers in Church cemetery for the souls in purgatory.

 The graves are decorated with flowers, statues and candles and people come and make prayers throughout the day and night.

And we say Good-Bye to all our friends back home, whom we miss so much, may God bless you all and give you peace.

Thank you's:
Thank you to all of you who prayed and fasted for us this month.
Thank you for all the emails of support.
Thank you to all the moms here at ITI for all the meals and babysitting they did for us.

That's all folks.  Don't be afraid to leave us a note at the bottom so we know we can can connect with you! Tchuss!

Our mailing address is:
International Theological Institute
Schloss Trumau
Schlossgasse 21
2521 Trumau, Austria


Love, Kenton, Becca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, and Kate!

Benedict riding from the Schloss to the campus at sunset.

1 comment:

  1. So beautiful that you share the ups and downs of lives well lived.

    Thank you for your open hearts and your honesty--such a whiff of fresh air from all the politicking in our neck of the woods.

    Love and Blessings,

    Aunt Fran B