Saturday, 12 April 2014

Little Flowers and Dragonslayers

Spring came Early!

Actually, Winter never really came to Trumau.  We had a couple days of light flurries and then some cold wet days.  And by the end of February we were seeing the flowers beginning to pop their heads out of the soil.  I must admit, I'm not used to winters with no sledding or skating - but I'm not complaining.  Being without a vehicle in lots of snow just means difficulty in biking places.  And as we are in the brink of Holy Week we begin to prepare to celebrate The resurrection during the Easter Season.

I must apologize - I'm quite late on the blog this time round.  I had it all done and then lost it all somehow and had to redo it.  So, here it is.  Enjoy.

Feb. 2nd: Candlemas

Candlemas came and it was time to take down the Christmas trees.  According the old rite the Christmas season ended at Candlemas.  In the Novus Ordo, however, it ends on the Feast of Christ's baptism.  We celebrated Candlemas by burning everyone's Christmas tree. 

We also celebrated Candlemas by walking through Luke 2:22-36 where Jesus is presented in the temple.  And we did so with food. We had white chocolate to represent Mary and her purity, meat to represent the sacrifices, eggs for the turtledove, water for the purification of Mary, rounded pretzels to represent Simeon the praying man, dark chocolate to represent Hanna (dark for the sadness of being a widow, but white inside because of her life of prayer), and edible candles to represent Jesus.

Holy Springs

In Austria they have a plethora of hot springs and even more cold springs.  Out of the hundreds and hundreds of cold springs there are some that are categorized as holy springs because a miracle(s) have taken place at the spring.  If you know us well, you know that we used to love to go and collect spring water in Canada.  So we jumped on the opportunity.  We drove all over following poor directions in German and finally with some help we ended up at the spring.  

You can see the little red light in the corner indicating the grotta around the spring opening.

But alas, alas.  They have the spring water coming through pipes and they were turned off.  So we drove all this way and had no water to show for it.  We were very very sad.



This is a combination of the Kim Chi recipe and the Fancy Sauerkraut recipe below. I was soooo good!


A dear student on the ITI campus generously shared her SCOBY with me and I could finally learn how to make Kombucha!! The whole family adores it and the kids even have a Kombucha dance they do b/c they get so excited to drink it! Tristan thinks it tastes like beer and the rest think it is pop- awesome! They have no idea it is healthy for them - haha! Below are the simple instructions.

Celebrating St. Valentine

To celebrate St. Valentine we had heart shaped pancakes for breakfast, Valentine cards and chocolate for course.  In the evening, the students arranged a huge pizza and movie celebration for the kids and provided free babysitting for all the parents so we could go on dates.  It was a great evening.

Austrian Balls

In Austria, they have a Ball Season from November to Shrove Tuesday (or Faschingsdienstag).  It is an ancient tradition put in place to help the people get through the cold winters and to celebrate the harvests.  In Vienna alone there are over 300 Balls per season.  We had our ITI Ball, there was a Volkschule Ball for the kids and all the surrounding towns had Balls.  And as we get closer to Ash Wednesday, then more and more Balls crowd the schedule.
Well, this is the Monday before Ash Wednesday and the monks at Heiligenkreuz hosted a Ball and invited the ITI students to dance, beer, frankfurters and a theological competition.  It was a blast!

There is always a dress code at Balls.  This one was a costume Ball.  Here is my lederhosen I borrowed from Rupert here on campus.

Sean and I dressed to kill and some good dancing by Breige and Jacob.

Little Flowers

The Little Flowers Tea Party was an initiative of Fr. Lasance's classic "The Catholic Girls' Guide" written in 1906.  The focus is to teach virtues to 8-10 yr old girls by symbolizing the virtue with a flower and it being exemplified in a saint. 
Becca started a Little Flowers Tea Party on campus. The girls start with prayer and recitation of last week's homework. Then they craft and colour while Rebecca gives the lesson on the virtue as well as telling a story about a saint who exemplified that virtue. Here are Winter, Anna and Magda crafting a page about their first virtue: Faith/Sunflower. The girls then have tea and snacks that are the same colour/theme as the flower of the week.

Here is their first virtue of faith and St. Catherine of Sienna.

St. George the Dragonslayer Club

Well, not to be outdone by the girls, I decided us boys also needed to learn about virtues.  But a tea party just wasn't the right format.  Thus: the Dragonslayers club.  We meet every second week and in the castle gardens and learn about knighthood.

We begin with prayer and saying the knight's creed.  Then we practice our sword fighting skills.  Some of the dad's join us and the students as well.  Above, David and Clement dual to the death and below Johannes fends off a blow from his father.

Next we learn about a virtue using a physical activity to help it sink in.  Our first virtue was perseverance.

Then we learn an outdoor skill.  Our first skill was most basic: building and starting a fire.  Most of us did so with a flint!

Here are Benedict and Tristan with their own fires.

And then we end by eating meat!

Above: Jacob, Tristan and Clement roasting their sausage. Below: Johannes and his dad, Dr. DeMeo

St. Patrick's Day

It is such a joy to celebrate together as a community.  The key factor is that we actually have something to celebrate.  The Church calendar not only walks us through the life of Jesus every year but gives us reason to celebrate our history and our saints.  Celebrations build traditions and tradition binds the family closer together.  
So here we celebrate St. Patrick recalling his miracles and pleading for his intercession.

Brother Evagrius brought out his Irish flute and played several tunes for us.

Winter and some of the girls have been learning Irish dancing from Margi (an STM student) and it was a great time for them to do a small performance.

After a dinner of Irish Stew, scones and beer we had many songs that brought us late into the evening.

The DeMeo family all dressed in green enjoying the great food.

Tristan and Eli enjoying the party!

Community Garden

Here are Justina (with baby Jakobus strapped to her), Wyrka, and Augusta working on our garden plot. We have to get the land dug up all the way to the manure pile at the back.  Good old fashioned work!

Kate and Tavi are both sleeping.  Tavi on mommy's back and Kate - face first in the grass!

Our hope is to have the land ready so we can plant in the beginning of April.  We have big plans including broccoli, watermelon, brussel sprouts, butternut squash and so forth.  It'll be a great harvest this fall!

Sermon from the Vineyard: 

Question: How is it that we are most free when we get to Heaven and yet we are incapable of choosing to sin? 

The question of freedom has been a topic of much debate and consternation for many centuries and for many people.  Philosophers were so disgusted with the Catholic ideal that we would submit our will to God that they wrote much on how it is bondage to submit your will to anyone or anything other than yourself.  And on the surface they sound right, don't they?  Is it not bondage to submit my will to another?  In doing so don't I lose my autonomy - my source of dignity?  Scripture even talks about being a slave to Christ (I Cor. 7) - how is this freedom? The struggle lies in the definition of what freedom is.  Catholics agree with the philosophers that liberty (free will) bestows on man a great dignity not seen anywhere else on earth.  But what is freedom?

Freedom is the unimpeded exercise of a faculty.  In other words freedom is not being trapped. If my foot is in a trap it is impeded from being used as it is supposed to be used.  Freedom for my foot would be my foot out of the trap unimpeded. From here we have to realize that freedom is in two ways: moral freedom and natural freedom. Understanding both solves the question:

Natural Freedom: 
This is essentially free choice, which is the power to select a means to attain some good (eg: choosing the type of clothing to wear as the means to staying warm).  If we are not impeded by force or by ignorance of what is good or by error than we are free. Ignorance of the weather outside may result in us wearing the wrong clothing and being cold.  If my goal was to be warm, I'm not free to be so as I'm wearing the wrong the clothing.  Error and ignorance can cause us to do something we don't want to do and they thus impede our freedom.  Thus the more we know and understand, the less chance there is of error and ignorance and thus we are more free. We have free choice about means all the time and in many hundreds of ways daily.  However, we don't have the freedom to choose our end.  What?!  This is where the hiccup comes in. We are all created for one end: union with God.  We don't have the freedom to choose our end.  What?!  Of course I can choose my own end!  We were created to be in union with God in Heaven and there is nothing else that will fulfill our purpose.  You see, for freedom to exist you don't need two things to choose from.  I don't need a trap there ready to trap my foot in order for my foot to be free.  To act and choose unimpededly is freedom.  We can freely choose our means to our end (God) - for all good things come from God and lead us to Him and we are always choosing something that is good or perceived to be good.  But, we can't choose our end.  It is what it is. Now some would say "I don't choose God." One can do this, but you can't no longer call it natural freedom.  It'd be like choosing to trap your foot.  Or throwing yourself in prison and calling it freedom. To call it freedom to choose to reject God is not freedom at all, but rather death.  To choose to sin is to choose bondage and thus the choosing to sin is not freedom. Our end is set.  It is what it is, vis. God.  To say we have no end would be to call ourselves god as the only one who is without an end is God himself (as he is the beginning and end of everything).  Thus we are free if we choose God and damned (literally) if we don't.

Moral Freedom: This is essentially free will - the power to attain the good we are seeking.  It is knowing the Good and being empowered to adhere to it.  Our will desires the good and is constantly looking to be fulfilled.  St. Augustine says in his Confession, "my heart is restless Lord until it rests in Thee." With graces from God we adhere to the good and by his mercy attain it when we get to heaven. Thus in heaven we will be unable to sin.  Why?  Our will be at rest.  The infinite in us will be fulfilled by The Infinite Himself. In heaven we will apprehend perfectly without confusion because we see God. There will be nothing else we will ever desire as all our desires will be fulfilled in God.  Thus we will no longer need natural freedom (free choice) as there will be no more means to choose from as we have reached the end goal we were created to reach.  So we are most truly free when we attain fully that which every heart longs for: God Himself.

Jesus is our perfect model.  He was completely free.  He had the beatific vision, apprehended God (as he was God) and His human will was at rest.  Therefore it was impossible for Him to sin.  There were no choices for Him to desire as His one desire was the will of His Father.  Just as it will be impossible for us to sin when we get to Heaven when we see what He sees.  And this is freedom!

Little Flowers Tea Party #2:  Virtue of Hope

Dragonslayers #2: Virtue of Perseverance (again)

This week we nailed the Knight's Creed to the tree and put our shields around it as we said the Creed together and prayed at the beginning of our session.

The focus on perseverance this time was the 4th Station of the Cross where Simeon helps Jesus to persevere to Golgotha.  In the same we need to help each other persevere.  Thus all our physical exercises surrounded helping eachother to persevere to complete.

I tried to create a handicap in some way to make it difficult to get the end so the teammates had to help.

Above: Benedict Kelly, Marco and Clement Below: Tristan, Eli, Johannes, and Benedict

Our outdoor skill this round was to make a water filter out of natural substances. Here is our dirty water that we have to filter and drink.

We used rocks, grass and charcoal to make layers to filter the water.

One then pours the dirty water through over and over again until it is clear enough to drink.

And finally it is clear enough to drink... almost.  It needed some moss to really catch the finer grime, but alas there was none to be found.

And finally, we roast some sausages!

Kenton's Reading List

Life of Moses by St. Gregory of Nyssa
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant
Song of Roland
Inferno by Dante Chivalry by Leon Gautier The Church Speaks to the World: the Social Teachings of Pope Leo XIII An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume Murder in the Cathedral by TS Eliot Council of Nicea Council of Constantinople I Council of Ephesus Council of Chalcedon

Photos for the Grandparents

 Can you tell these two are brothers?!

Daddy teaching Tav and Benedict how to play Risk!

That is all!  We wish all of you a blessed Holy Week.  We pray that you will be able to spend some time prior to Easter reading through the Passion of Christ in each of the 4 Gospels and have take some time to contemplate again the sacrifice He made for us and of course we wish you a truly blessed celebration of His resurrection in the 50 days of Easter that follow!
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 Or online via the ITI website: - in the space titled 'notes' just write that the money is for the Biffert family. 

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