Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Lenten Pilgrimage: Loretto

Blessed be Mary, Our Lady of Loretto!

It was prophesied that all generations would call her blessed. And we are 2000 years later calling her blessed and praising her for her intercessions, her motherhood, and her mercy.

We have been journeying together through Lent together as a family. Offering up our sufferings, doing penances, fasting together, praying together and pilgrimaging to Loretto.

The following is our journey from Candlemas to Lent. 

Hike/Sled trip with Jaro

It is an Austrian 'thing' to hike up mountains, drink a beer in the hut at the top, and then ski down and call it a day. So we thought we'd try the Austrian way. Jaro and I and my 3 boys decided to hike up the Stuhleck (1780m).

Our plan was simple. The boys carry up their sleds. I'll carry up a snowboard and have Tavi on my back, and Jaro will walk up with the furs on the bottom of skis.

The weather was sunny and cold and fantastic.

Admittedly, it was more difficult than what we bargained for. When we got above the tree line, it was super windy, Tavi started shivering, and we are were all huffing and puffing trying to make up the last steep incline to the hutte.

We made it and the place was packed. We warmed up and ate a few snacks. However, we couldn't linger as the sun was going down and we needed to be at the bottom before dark.

Above: a view of the Schneeberg - the highest mountain in Niederösterreich.

All the way up we told the boys, in order to motivate them, that would have the sled of their life down the mountain. However, they both were devastated when their sleds stuck on the snow and wouldn't move. Now we were in trouble. This would mean walking down the mountain in the dark. But Jaro had a fantastic idea. He harnessed the boys behind him and with very little effort got moving and then they flew down the mountain for the longest sled ride of their life!

and Tavi got to go on his first snowboarding trip!


Our Candlemas celebration seems to get a little bit bigger and bigger every year. This year we decided to, after our candles were blessed, to decorate them all in preparation for Easter Sunday.

And of course we had our usual Candlemas walk through Scripture with food.

Each item of food represents a different part of the story of Jesus' dedication at the temple. We we read a specific part, we eat the food that goes with it.

The white cheese represents Mary and her holiness and then there is the "sword that will pierce her soul" that was prophesied about her.

And our finished Easter candles!

The last thing we added was the burning of the Christmas tree. As Candlemas officially brings in a new liturgical season and ends the Christmas season, it was fitting to burn the tree.

St. Valentine's Day

We celebrate St. Valentine's feast day beginning with heart shaped pancakes in the morning and chocolate for all. One thing we decided to do new this year was for daddy to take the girls out for a date for St. Valentine's Day and to take the boys on a date for St. Patrick's day. So my two princesses and I headed off to Baden to feast on some treats and take a walk together.

Benedict took the writing of Valentines very seriously. Here are a couple as dictated to Mama.

Shrove Tuesday (Faschingsdienstag)

The end of the Ball season came upon us and the kids had a final Ball at the school. Here they are using their Venice masks for the first time.

Lent Begins:

This year we made a family Lent chart. On the chart was listed our family fast and feast, and our individuals fasts and feasts. This Lent we tried to not just fast, but also for the kids to begin to spend extra time in individual prayer, Eucharistic adoration, Bible reading and Mass attendance. 

Ember Days:

As is custom, we try to pray the Way of the Cross on Fridays during Lent as a family. This year we made the Way of the Cross our Ember Days activity.  We headed out in nature and found places in nature that represented each of the stations. The most neat one was the station where Veronica wipes the face of Jesus and his face is imprinted on the cloth - for this station the kids found a pool of water where we could see a reflection to represent the station.

In the photo below, the kids though hiding in rushes was a good representation of the station where Jesus is buried in the tomb.

And then we had some fun taking pictures!

As we headed back home we took a short cut and found an open quonset and we looked in. There was mountains of corn seeds! We couldn't resist.

Blessing of the Home

We always try to have our home blessed by the priest on or around Epiphany as is the Catholic tradition. However, our attempts failed a couple times and finally we had Fr. Luc come and bless our home and us too of course.

 Little Flowers

Becca took Lent as a time to begin the Little Flowers virtues program for girls. This year she has 5 girls involved.

Virtue:  Mercy
Saint: Saint Faustina

St. Patrick's Feast Day

We all received a dispensation to celebrate St. Patrick's with our Irish contingent here on campus. The Bishops in Ireland allow all Irish to break their Lenten fast on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate the great saint.

 We had Irish flute playing by Br. Evagrius and Melanie.

Here is Kate joining in the St. Patrick Day festivities (below):

And a little bit of Irish Flute.

Pilgrimage to Loretto

The highlight for us this Lent was our pilgrimage to Loretto, Austria. It was about a 22km hike starting at the campus and I brought the 4 oldest kids (though I had a stroller for Kate in case she needed it).

Loretto, is the place in Italy that has the house where Mary grew up and thus where God was first made incarnate (where Mary conceived after her announcement from St. Gabriel). No one knows how it got there and the history stories tell of angels that brought the home there after the Basilica surrounding it (built by Constantine) was destroyed by Muslims in the 1200's. The stones of the building are all from Nazareth and they match perfectly the foundation of the home in Nazareth today. 

Then eventually, a pius man made a replica of Mary's home here in Austria. Immediately miracles started happening and a Church was built. And then more and more people moved and the place became a town taking on the name Loretto. 

Now it is a pilgrimage site.

Here we are crossing through a farmer's field right outside Trumau at 7:15am.

Here is Benedict holding Kate's hand and helping her be a hiker girl.

Some places along the way were to boggy to stroller through so Fr. Kieran would take the stroller and I would carry Kate.

Lunch break!

Winter and Anna walked together and were often caught singing with Kristin along the way.

Along the way we passed a quarry and the boys were very interested in making that the pilgrimage destination!

Our first sighting of our destination!  The Basilica in Loretta!

Here is Winter caught in between Fr. Luc and Fr. Kieran.  All along the way were little pray shrines like this one, where we stopped and lifted up our intentions to God and prayed a decade of the rosary.

Loretto! 9 hours and 22km later!

Pope St. John Paul II visited here and they carved his Papal Coat of Arms into the front of the Basilica. Here it is below. 

Below is the shrine inside the replica of the home of Mary.

Stations of the Cross: Heiligenkreuz

As is our tradition, we prayed the Stations of the Cross on Friday and this time head off to one of our favourite places: Stift Heiligenkreuz - the Cistercian Monastery. 

Here is a picture of Kate beside her namesake. Note the broken wheel on the bottom left.

Benedict and Tristan racing back to the beginning of the stations to head home.

Benedict's Nameday (March 21st):

Brother Evagrius, the Benedictine monk here on campus, came and brought a St. Benedict card and medal to Benedict on the feast day of St. Benedict in the Latin ordo.

March 21st is believed to be the day that St. Benedict died. Here is Benedict with a statue of his patron saint.

Sermon from the Vineyard: Is Jesus God?

The first 600 years of Christianity were spent fighting heresy after new heresy on who Jesus is. There were so many heresies that if it were not for the infallible councils of the Catholic Church continually proclaiming and preserving the truth handed down by the apostles, the truth of Jesus' divinity and humanity would be lost amoung the seas of heresies and novelties. It is fascinating to see the development of the dogma around the 2nd person of the Trinity. Here is an short overview of some of the heresies that had to countered and anathematized:

1. Ebionite sect of Jewish Christians (first century): Jesus was just a mere man and suffered and died as one.
2. Docetism (1st century): The Son didn't become real flesh, but it just seemed like real flesh. He just appeared to live and just appeared to die, but didn't really.
2. Gnostism: (1st and 2nd century) : There were two - the man Jesus, and the Son of God Christ who is divine.
3. Marcionites (2nd century): There is a god of the Old Testament who is evil and vengeful, and Jesus is god of the New Testament who is a nice god.
4. Modalists (3rd century): God is a monade and just appears in the mode of father, son and holy spirit when he feels it necessary.
5. Origen (3rd century): Jesus was two persons in one body.  The human soul of Jesus pre-existed somewhere in the Heavens and was chosen to be the one to be unified with the divine Son.
6. Monarchianism (2nd and 3rd century): Jesus was a distinct substance from the Logos and the union between these two was a like a marriage between a man and wife. They become unified, but remain distinct individuals.
7. Arians (4th century): Christ is the highest of all things created, but is not God.
8. Apollinarianism (4th century): The Logos took on flesh and became the soul of that flesh. So Jesus didn't have a human soul and mind, but only a divine mind.

And despite all the heresies arising, despite at one time there being more Arian bishops then orthodox bishops, despite the treachery on behalf of the heretics to usurp the various Episcopal offices of the Catholic Church, the Popes and councils through the Holy Spirit kept the truth about Christ pure and true. That is: He is 100% God and 100% man. One person, two natures and consubstantial with the Father.  And God kept His promise to Peter, "the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church."

Kenton's Reading List:

Supernatural Fatherhood through Priestly Celibacy by Carter Griffen
De Incarnatione by St. Athanasius
To Light a Fire by Jack London
White Fang by Jack London
Radiation of Fatherhood by JPII
Oedipus the King by Sophocles

Pictures for the Grandparents:

Winter has taken up a new hobby and this is the results!

Little Tav got the pox. Now he is immune for life!

Prayer Requests and Thank-you:

1. Thank you to those who have donated some funds to us to help pay for tuition. We are so so so thankful! Please continue to pray that the funds will still continue to come in and more job opportunities will open up.
2.  We are still awaiting surgery for Winter to get this tumour gone. We were at the hospital for her surgery date and the morning of they decided they were too busy and cancelled and we had to go home. It is now scheduled for April 16th.
3. Thank you to Kathy and Art Lapp for providing a way for Becca and Winter to go home to Canada and for looking after them so well.
4. Thank you to my parents for looking after Becca and Winter as well and for their continual willingness to help us with all the details we need to cover to be here.

We would love to hear from you!
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 provided just write that the money is for the Biffert family. Or just drop off the donation at St. Mary's Church in Red Deer and they will get it to my father.

Pax Vobiscum.

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