Sunday, 13 October 2013

Learning to fight for Life: joining the march in Slovakia

Learning to fight for Life!

This past month we've had great discussions with the kids about having courage and standing up for what is right.  Then the opportunity came up to travel to Slovakia for the March for Life and we decided to join in.  What a great experience!  This month of September was definitely a month of celebrating life with Benedict and Winter's birthday, our second pilgrimage to Heiligen Kreuz, and a whirlwind trip to Slovakia.  Oh yeah, and we started school again.  But really, school for the kids is happening all the time.  Winter is back in the Volkschule for the mornings and homeschools in the afternoons.  We chose not to put Tristan into the Volkschule this year, but by law he'll have to go next year.  This will give us one more year to get his writing in English solidified before he has to learn the German language.  Benedict is homeschooling now and reading. And Kate - well not quite yet.  

One thing we are trying new this year: in our attempt to really live out the Church calendar and not just 'at the last minute,' Becca and I are sitting down at the beginning of every month and planning which saints/liturgical feast days we are celebrating and with what food and in which way.  For example: September is dedicated to the 7 Sorrows of Mary and has a major feast day of the Archangels.  So we prayed the Rosary of 7 Sorrows in the mornings and read about all angels in the Bible all month.  Becca organised crafts and colouring pages for the children so that the ideas and stories would come alive. Winter's birthday (Sept 29th) is also the feast day of the Archangels, so her birthday party had an "angel" theme complete with costumes and all.

Benedict's 4th Birthday: Trip to Schonbrunn Zoo

The Schonbrunn Zoo is the oldest Zoo in the world!  Crazy.  A bit expensive, but Becca found a way to go cheaper.  She translated the back of a candy box that was lying around house and realized that if we had three of them a kid got in free!  So we quickly bought out the local store of this 80 cent candy and went to the zoo!

This is a picture of an 'upside down tree'.  I've never heard of them before, but the roots grow up in the air!

The zoo had the frames hanging in random places.  I think it was to hopefully catch some creature in the picture and then to get a picture of the picture.  Becca thinks they were being artistic.

In the following three pictures I tried to capture the age of the zoo by the architecture.  The building we are in below is where the monkeys hang out.

And here are the flamingos.

And a nice place to have a strudel.

Harvest Time

When my father was down (up?) here in Austria this past summer we spent a lot of time digging up a field of weeds and made a garden.  Here are some of our harvest.  It feels so good to eat of the food that you worked so hard to produce.  It was also great to have my kids planting and weeding and watering with us.

Some of our yellow zucchini.

Spinach, beets, carrots!!!  Becca even uses the carrot tops in green smoothies!

and squash galore! - to eat and use as weapons!

New Scouts Season

The scouts had a family day to begin the year.  The kids were all excited about joining after this day and then ended up not.  Here are a couple videos of the climbing activity.  Tristan and Benedict both did excellent and went quite high.  They were impressed that a 4 year old could get so high!

Here you had to dance for the toppings on your pizza.  Benedict is trying to do the chicken dance and then gives up and just flops around.

And Kate getting her face painted.

Pilgrimage to Heiligenkreuz

Every year ITI walks on the feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross the 24km to Heiligenkreuz.  Heilgenkreuz (holy cross) is the monastery that has kept a piece of the cross of Christ that was first obtained from St. Helena the mother of the Emperor Constantine who stopped the Christian persecution in the 3 century. It is a Cistercian order, 880 years old, with 82 monks.  This year, Tristan and Winter walked the hike again and Kate enjoined on my back.

Passing through the vineyards was a huge highlight for the kids as they ate and ate and ate the tasty grapes!

We have to hike through the vineyards, up the foothill and down and through more hills.  We are about a third of the way there.

Here we are getting close.  About 6km left.  Winter is with her friends Sofia and Theresea.

Becca and Tavi and Benedict with our friends the Kelly's joined us for the last 5km.

We arrive at the outset of the property and at the end of the beautiful 'stations of the cross'.

After Holy Mass the piece of the cross of Christ was processed around the courtyard while the monks sang Gregorian Chant.

Here you can see the pieces of wood from the cross Jesus died on put in the shape of a cross in a monstrance.

Kenton's Winter Semester Course load:

Latin Reading
Beginner Hebrew
Patrology I: Church Fathers in the first 4 centuries
Early Church History: from Christ till 700 AD
Philosophical Anthropology
Ancient Political Philosophy
Christian Literature: TS Elliot

Deutch Theatre
Intro to Classical Music

Kenton's September Reading List

De Anima: Aristotle
The History of the Church: Eusebuis
Consolation of Philosophy: St. Boethius
Prophets: Abraham Heschel
4 Quartets: TS Elliot
Politics: Aristotle
Early Church Writings by St. Clement of Rome, St. Justin Martyr, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, St. Polycarp, Barnabas.
Never Ending Story

Slovak March for Life

The opportunity came up to take the kids to a March for Life in Slovakia.  The itinerary was 'kid-conducive' and the cost was dirt cheap.  So I took the three oldest on a whirlwind, crazy adventure over the weekend.  What a fantastic trip and great memories.

We began at 6am and drove for 5 hours into the heart of Slovakia.  And where is Slovakia you ask?  East of Austria.

We went immediately to this National Park called 'Paradise' and had lunch.  The restaurant was great because it had a trampoline, park, and sandbox for the kids to play in whilst the adults ate.  Please - someone take up this idea in Canada (besides MickyD's)!

We enjoyed a bowl of the national food: Bryndzové halušky (potato dumplings with sheep's-milk cheese)  Very Tasty!

At the start of the hike we had to climb down a small cliff.  Tristan and David tried to throw the frisbee to the guys on the bridge...

and it landed in the river.  Here is Alex and Travis trying to get it out.

Our hike into Slovak wilderness begins!

I'll be honest.  The hike was a bit more than I expected for the kids. It had recently rained and all the roots, wood and rocks were wet and muddy.  The hike was so technical that the kids hardly complained once the entire way up the mountain.

Here is Benedict walking along the side of the cliff on these metal grate steps without his dad behind him.  Where is the parent of that kid???!

Benedict waiting for us to cross the bridge. And (below) Travis crossing the bridge the unconventional way.

The Four Adventurers!  (Why does Benedict look miserable in every picture I take? Sheesh!)

Yes, that is a cliff that Benedict is skirting.

Yes, the stairs that Winter is on are soaked and slippery.

They loved climbing up the ladders to get to the top of the next cliff!

Here is our entire group about to scale the ladders beside the waterfall.  Tristan is on the ladder already always loving to lead the way.

Now I admit, these metal grates made me a bit nervous as the kids climbed them on the side of the cliff.  This hike gets more and more crazy as we go deeper and higher up the mountain!

Finally, at the top we come to the ruins of a 700yr old Carthusian monastery!  Wow!  What a joy to explore!  This monastery called  Kláštorisko was a Scriptorium.  The monks would transcribe and bind many books.  However, the core of their contemplative life was love for God, which found one of its most beautiful expressions in prayer.  Their only objective as to be the first step towards Heaven on earth, that is, Paradise.  That is why even the place they settled is referred to as 'Paradise'.  (taken from the sign at the entrance)

As our tradition has been for a few years now, at the top of our hike we always eat a chocolate bar to celebrate.  Winter is just a bit over dramatic about it here! 

Ora et Labora (Latin) means Pray and work.
In 1543 the monastery was attacked by Matej Baso, a squire of the Muran Castle, who then plundered it and reshaped it for military purposes.  The monks were forced to move out.

We headed back to the entrance of the park and well - it took a while.  In fact, almost the entire last hour we were hiking in the dark.  It was pretty crazy I must admit.  Our guardian angels were working overtime.  Especially protecting Benedict as he circumvents this cliffs!

Finally, we made it to a convent in pitch blackness and after a hot meal of goulash, entered into a freezing room and bundled up in all our clothes and went to sleep.  The kids were exhausted!

And here is the view in the morning when we woke up!  Wow! And the crazy part is that I don't even know where this is ...

Here is the convent chapel and the building where the dorms were.

After a breakfast of wieners we headed to the largest castle in Slovakia: Spis Castle.

These castle ruins are from the 12th century and belonged to the count of Spis.  After passing through many hands and much glory it was made a military fortress and was then burnt down in 1780 AD.

Now this is real homeschooling!  This castle was a major highlight for the kids.  Most castles in Austria are ridiculously expensive to get into the museum part of them.  Here, however, it only cost 8 euro for the whole family.

They even had an intact torture chamber.  This was pretty fun to explore though I couldn't answer all their questions about the devices as some were just a bit too much.

They even had a rack where they stretched people.  This was neat as Kate is named after St. Catherine of Alexandria who was put on the rack because of her faith in Christ.  The rack broke while they tried to stretch her and she survived!

This is Benedict showing me that he is exhausted and doesn't want to walk anymore!  This kid is just too funny.

After Holy Mass, we had a quick picnic and headed off to Kosice for the March for Life.

Here in Kosice, 500 full buses showed up full of people.  There was a total of 80,000 people that came from all over Slovakia to declare to the European Union and to their government that they believed in life.  There were NO protesters at all!

The fantastic thing about this March for Life is that the focus of the march was for families.  Notice the picture on the flags that the kids are holding - a family; not a fetus.  The Pro-Life group tagged themselves onto this march as it made sense in the schema of fighting for what a family is.  And what is that schema:  a family is a mother and father and children.  This is a loud statement against homosexual unions being called a marriage and the idea that they have the right to raise children.  Every child has the right to a mother and father.  Add to this the cry for anti-abortion legislation and you have a statement loud and clear to the government.  There has been no gathering this big since communism fell.  The day before there was a Gay Pride March in Bratislava (the capital) but only a 1000 or so showed up. We were proud to be a part of this historical event.

The March began with Holy Mass in every parish in Kosice said by all the bishops of Slovakia.  What a joy to have our Bishops leading the fight for life and walking with us.

There were so many people it took a long time to begin the march (like an hour or so).  We had to stand in one cramped spot for over an hour until the line moving up front trickled down to where we were.

From the stage they sang songs of worship to God and prayed for the country.

A fun sign!

Our group from ITI... where was Winter when the picture was taken... hmmm... this was obviously the most difficult part of the march (besides standing for an hour and then walking for another 2 hours) - keeping track of the kids the entire time.

Here is the link for an article on line that shows pictures from above that give a better perspective of the amount of people that showed up.

The kids took the march very seriously when they found out they were telling the government not to allow babies to be killed in the womb.  I told them that some day up in heaven someone will come up to them and thank them.  "For what?" they asked.  And that person will say, "because you marched I was given the opportunity to live."  So with this in the back of our minds, there was hardly any complaints (even for toilet breaks) the entire march.  It was a big sacrifice for the kids and a sacrifice they were willing to make.
And God smiled.

The ToiToi was  a nice addition for those of us who had children in the march.

The March ended and most people went to the Basilica to pray. We did as well and then did a walk up to the top of the bell tower (below).

Benedict!  Don't you dare ring that bell!

This is the street we just walked down that was packed and now it is empty as the march is over.

Sermon from Vineyard

The speaker we had at ITI for our lecture series this past month was the director of the oldest pro-life organization in the world- the UK: SPUC - Society for the Protection of Unborn Children: John Smeaton.  He spoke to us mainly about what happened recently in Ireland.  For the last 40 years SPUC had been successful in the interventions in Ireland and Ireland had kept abortion illegal until a couple months ago.  Ireland now has one of the most liberal abortion laws a country can have which includes partial birth abortions (a baby can be half way out of the womb and still be killed legally).  So his question was 'how did this happen?'  The answer of course has many causes and a few were dreadfully enlightening.  Probably the #1 cause of this extreme abortion law came from political pressure from three places: the EU, the UN, and the USA.  At the international level there is a huge push in the UN to have every country in the world to make abortion legal.  The US has threatened to stop international relations with those countries that don't. What?!!  This is crazy we thought.  But then, the EU has pushed Austria to make the same decisions and has been pressuring Hungary to do the same (even though Hungary isn't a part of the EU).  The question really though is "Why?"  Why the mad rush to have every country making birth control available (are you familiar with the fight in the Philippines), abortion legal and homosexual marriage legal?  Where is all this coming from?  Satan is the obvious first answer.  The second answer is population control.  It is worth your while to skim through the following document put together by the US National Security Council in 1974 to plan for the massive overpopulation problems they claim we will have had in the year 2000.  See: .  
Their issue:  high population around the world will disrupt the high standard of living in the US.  
Their goal: to have families all around the world having a maximum of 2 children.
Their solutions:  
- find ways to get more females working and out of the home,
- increased long lasting fertility prevention to all countries,
- begin family planning education and the desirability of small families to this next generation,
- find ways to have old age security so people won't have to rely on children to provide for them in their senior years,
... and so forth.  One just needs to peruse the first 3rd of the document to see their future forecast and how ridiculous this overpopulation myth is.  One simply has to drive from Red Deer to Grand Prairie in Alberta to see that habitable space is not an issue.  And further if we all simply chose to live on less and ate less meat (because raising cattle takes up a large amount of land) we'd be fine.  But my sermon here isn't to argue the obvious.  

I want to go one step deeper.  What has happened in society that we have bought into this idea that small families are 'more desirable' and that children are a commodity (I get a house, boat, car and a couple kids)?  There are several reasons that we discussed in the keller after the lecture searching for a root cause.  Materialism has a big role to play - we all are guilty of seeking happiness in things and experiences.  But there is a deeper root.  We live in a contraceptive age - why has this been embraced?  I believe the issue comes down to men not being men.  A real man has self-control and is master of his body.  A real man can also live with the consequences of his actions and take responsibility for them.  Contraception undermines the man's opportunity to be a man.  Then with feminism doing its darndest to make women more like men and men more like women, and add to that the media portraying men as drunken idiots in movies, and finally the lack of men to raise boys to be men and we have a society in crisis.  

So it is great that organizations are fighting the governments on their ridiculous agendas, but we also need a grassroots movement where men relook at what it means to be a man and how to raise boys to be men.  For when men become real men then they can be great fathers.  When they are great fathers then society has great families ("as the father so goes the children").  When society has great families then we have a successful society.  And God will smile.

Winter's 8th Birthday

Winter's birthday lands on the feast day of the Archangels: Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.  So we had an angel birthday party celebrating Winter's life and the protection of the Archangels.

Winter and mommy made decorations for this special event.

And her girl friends dressed up as angels to celebrate with her!

Theresa, Sofia, Winter, Anna, Antonia, Victoria

And here is her Angel food cake!

 And the following is the 'many faces of Winter' that I don't even think she is aware that she does.  This girl is so so funny!

Pictures for the Grandparents

 Tavi with a bit of baby acne.

Kate in Tavi's ('Favi' her words) hat.

Needs and Prayer Requests

- that Becca's blood pressure would stabilize
- healing for Winter's foot: for about 6 months it has been swelling up in her arch and we're having a difficult time finding a solution and getting into see a specialist.
- for the money to pay my tuition in Sept. either through donations or work ($2600 out of $4500 still needed for the fall semester)

We hope you are having a wonderful, family centered autumn!
Pax Vobiscum,

Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate and Octavian

Mailing Address:
Schloss Trumau
Schlossgasse 21
2521 Trumau, Austria


  1. I have to disagree on this one, Kenton. Canada has gotten this right. We have marriage equality and rights to abortion because these are human rights issues.
    When the church preaches that intolerance, it breeds hate in the streets. Kids are bullied because they don't act like a "man" or behave like a "girl".
    Although well intentioned, trying to fit people into the "perfect" family model isn't a requirement the church should be so obsessed with.

  2. Hey Danae, Great to hear from you.
    You used the words 'human rights' and are correct in doing so. The breakdown comes in the usage.
    First: I must defend the 'human-ness' of a baby in the womb and will do as Aristotle would do so. You are an adult now and potentially a senior citizen. You are not a senior citizen now because that part of your human-ness hasn't been actualized. You were also one a baby and potentially a toddler, youth, adult etc. Though you were not an adult in the womb you had the potential to be so. The nature of any being lies in its essence - in what it is and can become potentially. A fetus is one stage on being human as is adulthood. I do not have the potential to be a cow as cow-ness is not a part of my essence. Get it? Thus 'human rights' applies to all humans those in the womb and we'd both agree that no one has the 'human right' to take another human life.

    Secondly, marriage isn't a human right. No one has the 'right' to be married. If it was a 'right' then could not a single 40 year old demand the government provide them a spouse as they have the 'right' to be married? Marriage isn't something that is innately mine based on the fact that I am human. Marriage is an institute that dates back to the beginning of time consisting of vows between a man and a woman. Not a 'right' but a 'rite' that we participate in. An institute foundational to society (homosexual couples can't procreate and thus are not foundational to the continuance of society) isn't changed because 50% vote by one government says it is 'this' and then is changed to something different with the next government. This being cleared up - homosexual couples have every 'right' to be together and to have tax breaks and so forth - but their 'coupling' is not a participation in the 'rite' of marriage.

    Thirdly, I and the Catholic Church, fully realize that families have broken down over the years and there are blended families and single moms raising kids and so forth. The point of the march is to shoot for the highest good: a mom and dad raising children. A boy needs a father to raise him to be a father some day. A mother can help in the process but can't sufficiently do it alone. We simply have to look at society and see the amount of men that aren't real men because they didn't have a father to raise them to be one.

    That's it. No intolerance. Just logic and love and wanting what is best.

  3. Kenton,

    Abortion and gay rights are two seemingly growing and troubling topics in our culture today. It's as though people have lost sense of their inner conscience, and have bought into a notion that everybody is "good". It frustrates me to hear the term "gay" in our day, because it throws everything into a category, forcing society to accept it. Rather than saying that someone is "gay", we need to start addressing and thinking of these individuals as sinners that need Christ. Their acts are a revolt against God and Scripture. As society continues to accept these "gays" or sinners allow me to say, we begin to see a culture change in the wrong direction so we can "adapt" to everything. It's time to take a stand.

    As for abortion, it's also time to take a stand. I strongly agree with you, in that men need to start stepping up to the plate and be a leader for their families. A collapse in moral foundations for children growing up in the home is a direct reflection of this.

    On another note:

    זה ממש מגניב שתוכל ללמוד עברית

    אני מצפה ממך שיחת עברית יום אחד

    Transliteration: Zeh ma-mash magneev sheh tochel leel-mod ivrit!

    Ani meetz-pah mee-mech shee-chet ivrit yom achad

    In English: It's really cool that you will be studying Hebrew!

    I expect a Hebrew conversation with you one day!

    All the best Kenton,

    Melissa Werkema

  4. how did end up taking up frisbee from the river?

    1. We threw the frisbee across the gorge and then it hit the river and then after watching it float downstream we sent a couple guys to pick it up. I think this is what you were asking...