Pilgrimage to Prague
Sometimes one has to get serious about their prayer intentions - to show God that one is serious we do a number of things: fast, pray more, spend time at adoration, offer up more Masses and also go on pilgrimages. This was what we decided to do this month. We had basically been given a cabin to stay in Slovakia for 4 days but we weren't at peace about going. Then Becca's blood pressure started spiking again and it was time to pray. So, Winter, Tristan, Benedict and I headed off to Prague to visit the shrine of the 'Holy Infant of Prague.'
But before we jump into the journey, here are few events in January prior to us going.
On the feast day of the Holy Magi coming to see baby Jesus is a national holiday in Austria. And throughout the whole country children from all the parishes gather in groups of 4 (3 wisemen and a star) and they go door to door singing and collecting money for a charity. It is a national fundraiser and our kids in Trumau raised (I think) around 4000 euros. Here is Winter with her group coming to our door.
Date with Dad: Wiener Neustadt
It was time to give mommy a break and so I took the 4 kids on the Trumau train (an adventure in itself) to Wiener Neustadt - about a 1/2 hour west of Trumau. There was no snow (and there still isn't any) so we had some fun playing in the park and looking at the animals in cages. Here are a couple good photos of the kids.
In Canada we used to travel around every month and collect 200L of spring water. There are hot springs and cold springs all over Austria. In fact, all of Vienna drinks spring water from their taps. We head up to a small small hamlet called 'Talhof' and went to fill up with spring water. But, alas, the owners had shut off the system bringing the water down the from the mountain. So we hunted through the woods till we found the source. We couldn't collect a lot, but we did manage to get some. Back at home Becca tested the water. Acceptable parts/million of hard minerals is 100. Our Trumau water was over 300. This spring water was 26! So we enjoyed our little bit of liquid gold! Here is a bridge on the way to the spring.
Kate is now 2 years old and it is time to start training her to hike on her own. So we went to one of our favorite places, Einode, to hike up to the hutte and the park at the top.
Pilgrimage to Prague:
Our prayer intentions were:
- for our friends/family in danger of divorce
- for our friends/family that wanted children but weren't able to have any
- for mommy's blood pressure to go down
- for healing for daddy's lungs
Friday: Well here we are the train station. It was a 5 hour trip to Prague (Praha). The trip went by quickly and and we were ready to figure out how to find our hostel without paying for a taxi.
Today was to be the highlight of our pilgrimage. We were going to head straight to the Prague Castle to pray in the royal cathedral and then slowly make our to the Infant of Prague.
Here is one of the many bridges crossing the Vltava River.
The relics of a saint near the altar where we were praying.
It is here that we knelt before the Infant of Prague and petitioned God to hear and answer our prayers. It really felt like we were unpacking a load of prayers and concerns and leaving them at the feet of Jesus. We left feeling lighter, hopeful, and heard.
Hence he is always displayed with the 5 stars around his head. Here is the place he was thrown over the bridge where many ask for his intercession.
This is also a place where couples come to ask for intercession and they leave a lock on the bridge to symbolize their commitment for life.
In this shot the fog has lifted and you can see the castle and the royal cathedral up on the hill overlooking the bridge.
We planned out this day carefully. Our goal was to go to the St. James church in the Old Town Square for Holy Mass, see the astronomical clock again and still have enough time to have lunch and catch the train home at 14:30. Oh how the best laid plans can be thwarted!
We started the day at 5am as usual - my kids are early risers (I felt bad for myself and the other hostel tenants - good thing we had a private room, eh?). We hit the bus stop on time and caught the wrong bus. It came to a stop and everyone got off but us and there the bus sat. We were waved off and then rushed around trying to figure out where we were so we could catch the right bus to St. James. We caught the right bus but time was running out so I jumped off the bus at a new spot and figured I could eye-ball my way to the church. I succeed actually and we entered the square with a couple minutes to spare.
At the last second I decided to go the Tyn Church so we checked but Mass started at 9:30am. No worries we thought - we skipped across the square to St. James. The sign outside the door said 'Mass at 10am.' Excellent - or so we thought. We walked in and sat near the front. The 4 of us were kneeling at the front offering up the Mass when Winter says in an excited voice, "Dad! Look the priest is a woman!" My head flew up and I jumped out of the seat and walked up to the front to grab Benedict. The kids were all "Dad, what? What is going on? Why are we leaving?" In a loud voice, (I was pretty infuriated at the moment) I stated "This is heresy! There is no Eucharist here today son!" And with that we walked from the front out to the back with just one more comment about heresy thrown in there to boot. Well, this left us without a Mass to attend. We searched and walked for 2 hours and finally (after getting lost a few times) ended back at the Infant of Prague at noon. We figured this is where we were meant to go in the first place. And in that time we had a great discussion about how a female can't be a father just like a man can't be a mother. Priests are fathers.
Sermon from the Vineyard:
This month I've been studying the topic of leisure. Aristotles suggests in his 'Politics' that leisure is the goal of education. We need to educate people in what is 'fine and divine' so that when a country is at peace they don't fall into self indulgence and corrupt themselves. A fascinating concept. But what is leisure? Leisure is not resting and watching t.v. in hopes of getting enough energy to get up the next day to go back to work. Leisure is not rest from work. Far from it actually. Joseph Pieper in his little book, 'Leisure: the basis of culture' explains that leisure is rooted in celebration and festival. Leisure is something we participate in with others with an openness and delight and peace. Now in every culture everywhere (until we hit the good old N. American materialist culture) every celebration was always a religious celebration where the people came together to worship their deity and celebrate. Worship is then the foundation of leisure. The question then becomes, well what is worship? The essence of all worship has to be sacrifice. If one is singing songs that make them feel good - this is not worship per se - but where do we find worship centred around sacrifice - the holy sacrifice of the Mass: the Eucharist. Pieper goes to explain that celebrating the Mass is the perfect fulfillment of what is meant by leisure. But now back to where we started: Aristotle (who didn't have the Mass back then) is stating that the goal of education is to educate the youth in what is fine and divine. And he's right. The goal of education in all of our schools needs to not be just to fill our kids heads with knowledge, but rather to participate in those subjects that lead one to be able to identify that which is divine and fine. Aristotle gives suggestions: music - all youth should be learning an instrument as it prepares not just their skills but their soul as well.
In conclusion, the challenge for all of us is to look at the schedule we live in a culture that is no longer religious and ask ourselves are we taking time for leisure. The ancients would insist it is a necessary part of being human.
Kenton's book list:
Our next semester begins on Feb. 10th and runs till June. One would think I could have a lot of time for relaxed reading, but not this time. I'm teaching a course called 'Education and Pedagogy' and thus have spent the entire month preparing all the readings, the lessons, and course guide and trying to knock off an essay coming up this semester. So my reading list was as such:
Leisure: the basis of culture, by Joseph Pieper
Beauty for Truth's Sake, by Stratford Caldecott
Reforming Education, by Mortimer Adler
Principles of Education, by Conway
Meno, by Plato
Apologia Pro Vita Sua, by Bl. John Henry Newman
The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
Inferno by Dante - but had to quit the one translation and begin again with another one.
Kenton's Courses for this Semester:
Church History II
Catholic Social Teaching
The First 7 Ecumenical Councils
German Level 2
Pictures for the Grandparents
The beginning of every semester is rough as we are given the bill for my tuition payment (3000 euro/ $4482 CAD). Our prayer is always that God would help us find a way to make this payment. This past month of January I was given a job on campus that paid some money and teaching this semester will also pay a bit. So with the work my doing and donations from others we are down to needing only around $1300! God is so good, eh? Thank you all for your prayers and support. Oh yeah, and I personally would love a box of Mini Wheats.We wish you all a blessed February and hope that you use the snow as an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors or as an opportunity to snuggle up inside and read a great book!
Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate, and Tavi
Mailing Address: Schloss Trumau Schlossgasse 21 2521 Trumau, Austria
If you would like to financially support us - the easiest way is probably by paypal. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or online via the ITI website: https://www.iti.ac.at/support/donate.html - in the space titled 'notes' just write that the money is for the Biffert family.