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 TimeWhen 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!
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.
After Holy Mass the piece of the cross of Christ was processed around the courtyard while the monks sang Gregorian Chant.
Kenton's Winter Semester Course load:
Patrology I: Church Fathers in the first 4 centuries
Early Church History: from Christ till 700 AD
Ancient Political Philosophy
Christian Literature: TS Elliot
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
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 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.
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!
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.
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 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.
A fun sign!
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).
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. http://spuc-director.blogspot.co.at/ 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: http://schillerinstitute.org/strategic/NSSM200.htm .
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.
- 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!
Pictures for the Grandparents
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!
Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate and Octavian
2521 Trumau, Austria