Thursday, 6 December 2012

November: The Advent to Advent

November: The Advent to Advent

November just flew by.  Mid-term time came and went and the assignments continue to stack up.  Winter is learning German well in school and is definitely understanding more.  As a family, we've learned the "Catholic before meals prayer" in Latin, the 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary' in German and working on the 'Hail Mary' in Latin.  It is amazing how fast the kids pick up other languages and us adults slave to try and remember and make the words stick.

This month, the Winter and Tristan have started violin lessons, which is very exciting.  They practice daily and we'll be starting piano after the Christmas break.  Benedict is so wishing he could be 'bigger'. He so wants to participate in all of the things his two older siblings do, but alas he just isn't old enough. Kate is a bundle of joy.  She is walking around furniture and we eagerly await her to take her first steps.  She loves to eat everything we eat and she loves rolling around in blankets and pillows.

As family, it has been nice to get back into routine again after our crazy month of October.  We're back at Eucharistic Adoration and attending daily Holy Mass as much as we can.  We've also been able to make Sundays a bit more special.  We find ways to take the Gospel reading of the Holy Mass and try to bring the message home with the kids.  The one Sunday, mommy made muffins and we learned about giving as we shared muffins with the families in our apartment.  It has been very rich.

We received a letter from the local school here informing us that Tristan needs to go to Kindergarten (apparently they found that he wasn't enrolled) and it is mandatory here.  We are leaning towards not enrolling Tristan as he is already doing grade one curriculum at home (to send him to Kindergarten would be unfair and boring for him). In addition, as some of you know, Kenton E. is against Kindergarten - especially for boys!  We are still debating whether we will put him in school next year into the Austrian grade one (even though he would have already completed grade one at home) so that he can learn German like Winter is this year. Or maybe we'll keep him out for one more year.  If we do keep him home next year, we will have to put him in the school the year after... "or else!" Several families from the United States and Scotland have already been threatened by the authorities to have Social Services take their children away or force them to return to their countries if they do not put their kids into the local schools. We will see how much push or pull we can get or where the loop holes are- and we will pray!

Here are a few pictures from our November:

Dearest Kate turns 1 year old!

For a larger viewing:
For a larger viewing:

Daddy and his new cast.  Playing soccer and fractured the side of my foot.  Arg!! Benedict is really concerned for daddy here.

Celebrating the Feast Day of St. Mary Queen of Scots
The students organized a 'highland games' for the adults and the kids.  There was war paint, contests, and food and wine.  Very fun.

Here is Benedict getting his warrior paint on.

And Winter's more lady-like war paint.

A tug-o-war with the kids.

Winter here is trying very hard to anchor her team!

Boulder toss (with a cabbage for the kids).  Look closely and find the cabbage!

Now that is a cute throw!  Yeah Benedict!

Our friend Ryan and his daughter Anne.  Benedict and Anne play together all the time.

Winter with her friend Anna getting more war paint on.

Tristan's warrior buds: Marco, Tristan, Johannes, Clement, and Benedict

Kenton's Schooling Update:
I am doing well in my classes.  I am loving Latin.  It is a tremendous challenge, hurts my brain actually, but it is opening up the world of language to me.  I'm understanding our English better and can find Latin words, prefix's and suffix's everywhere and even in German.  Plus, my grammar has been doubled since I've started.  My goal is, when I finish my two years of Latin, to purchase the Douay-Rheims in Latin and to read the Scriptures in the language the Bible was first translated into as a whole canon.  I'm quite excited.  My German is going well, though I'm finding the pace a bit slow.  There are many books published in German that look amazing that I can't read, like Joseph Pieper's scripts on Plato's dialogues.  Thus, I need to learn this language sooner than later, so I'm going to work super hard  in German over the Christmas break to bump me to the next level for the next semester.  Natural Philosophy and Platonic Dialogues are brilliant courses and I'm loving them and learning so much how foundational they are for how we think (or rather should think today).  Logic is a bit tougher.  Becca would say that is because maybe I'm a bit 'illogical' (creative I think is a better word).  I think it is because sometimes Aristotle just can't seem to speak the language of a commoner like me.  So, I blame it on him!  Final exams are right around the corner!  Keep me in your prayers!

Yeah!  Daddy turns 38 and we all get Mommy's amazing Carrot Cake!

Kate and the muffin she loves to eat!

Note Bene:
I learned some interesting things about the Latin Rite Liturgy and the place of Latin in the liturgy this month.  The spirit of the liturgical reform of Vatican II was to keep Latin in the liturgy where we pray our common prayers: 'Our Father', 'Lord, I am not worthy...', 'I confess...', 'Lamb of God you take away...' and so forth.  The sermon and scriptures were to be in the vernacular.  This would allow one to travel anywhere in the world and attend mass and still be able to participate in the prayers for they would be in Latin.  Wow!  This sounds beautiful.  Further, the Latin Rite Mass is founded on the idea of silence so that we are able to contemplate and pray during the Mass.  Often, the silent parts are taken up with songs and hymns because we are so uncomfortable with silence in North America.  If you get a chance to attend an Extraordinary Form of the Mass you will witness these periods of silence which are beautiful moments to think and contemplate and pray. 

Thanksgiving (American) Celebration
This was a great afternoon hosted by our American students.  We began with a mass in the Extraordinary Form, had a hay ride, bon fire, and then celebrated with food, wine and dancing!  It was a ton of fun and great memories for the kids as they ran rampant through the Schloss playing hide and seek and going on adventures.

Our good friend Ryan and his daughter Anne on the hay ride.

Benedict and I on the hayride.  He even got to sit in the tractor to help drive.  It was very exciting!

Dinner in the Russian Cinema.

A Knight's Tale(ish) as we dance up a storm after dinner.  Here is Winter's debut.

Kenton's Reading List
Plato: Symposium
Plato: Phaedrus
Plato: Ion
Aristotle: Categories
Aristotle: On Interpretation
Aristotle: Prior Analytics
Aristotle: Posterior Analytics
Aristotle: Physics Book I, Book II
Aristotle: Metaphysics
Joseph Pieper: Only the Lover Sings
From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again

Sermon from the Vineyard.
I have learned so much this term it is hard to pick what to sermonize on, but I decided to talk about one comment that sent me reeling.  During the month of October, in the middle of me running from classes to the hospital, a lady asked me how things were going.  I told her.  I expected a reply like 'I'll pray for you,' or 'Es tut mir leid' (I'm so sorry) but instead I get "You are blessed to have received such graces."  I didn't know what to say... so I nodded an affirmative.  And then I thought for a long time on this comment.  Was the suffering we went through a grace?
Before I speak on this, note the word 'we'.  My kids were in the hospital suffering, not me.  Yet, as a father, when my children suffer I suffer too.  I want to put myself in their place so they can be well again.  What does this teach us about the Fatherhood of God?
Was the suffering of the past month a grace?  This is a transformational way of looking at suffering for us.  I rather enjoy the sympathies of people, it comforts me at some level.  But to look at suffering as a grace... now that is a whole new level of spirituality.  As a family we offer up our sufferings as prayers for others (like one would offer up a fast for someone else, or like Jesus offered up His sufferings for us), but to me it was still that - suffering.  James 1:2 tells us to "Count it pure joy when we face trials..." why?  ... for it tests our faith which gives us perseverance and this helps to mature us in our spiritual journey to becoming holy.  Then Justin Flunder was kind enough to remind me that "we are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ if we share in His sufferings" (Rom. 8:17).  Put all of this together and I need to only thank God for healing my children, but also for the gift of grace in suffering that we received.  For through our suffering we grew closer to Him, closer to each other, and closer to sainthood.
I must admit, I'm horrible at suffering.  I'm more apt to whine, than to thank God for it.  But, intellectually my perspective is changed.  Now this change needs drop into my heart so that I can be like the Blessed Margaret of Castello who said "I would gladly suffer any hardship if it brought just one soul closer to the gates of Heaven."

Benefaciat Vobis Deus.

Kenton E. Biffert

And Advent Arrives!!  
Now that Advent has arrived we begin to have Rorate Masses.  These are Holy Masses that take place in the dark with candles only.  It is a votive Mass celebrated in honor of the Mother of God.  Ours takes place at 6:30am.  Looks like the three kids and I will celebrate these ones!

We went to Vienna and after Holy Mass at the Augustinkirche
we checked out the Advent Markets.

This is of course Winter's favourite shoppe!

 Lots of little shops selling all kinds of things.  Austrians love beautiful dishes and most families here have a set of beautiful designed dishes for special occasions.

This particular Adventmarkt in Vienna was in front of the Rathause (Parliament).

Becca, Kate and Vidia having a Gluhwein - a favourite Advent drink (hot, spiced wine)

Videos for the Grandparents: Kate kissing the mirror

Videos for the Grandparents: Kate building a tower
Videos for the Grandparents: Winter and friends make a museum

Bye. Bye. Bye.  We love you all!  Thank you for prayers and financial supports!!!  And have Christ filled Advent and blessed blessed Christmas!

Mailing Address:

International Theological Institute
Schloss Trumau
Schlossgasse 21
2521 Trumau, Austria


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

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