Sunday, 7 June 2015

Christendom's most precious relic

Christendom's Most Precious Relic

What is the most precious relic in Christendom? The Holy Shroud of Turin.

In this blog we journey through the Easter season ending with celebrating the Ascension of Christ in Turin to see the Shroud. Could this be more fitting?

Holy Thursday

Mommy and Winter were in Canada this Easter for Auntie Sarah's wedding so the kids and I held down the fort together and celebrated Easter the best we could without them.

As is our tradition, we celebrate the Last Supper as Jesus did with a Seder meal and remember how He gave Himself in the Eucharist for the first time and instituted the priesthood as well.

Then, as Jesus did, I washed the kids feet.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, I was feeling domestic, so I made hot cross buns and after the Veneration of the Cross at 3pm, we ate them.

Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday we made a Pascha bread and went to venerate the tomb where Jesus lay. This below is the new Byzantine chapel and in the makeshift tomb there is an icon of the shroud.

Easter Sunday!

We woke up and broke our lenten fast with a chocolate easter egg hunt, pascha bread, apple cider and much singing!

A few pictures of the easter egg hunt:

Then we packed up a basket of food to be blessed and headed to Divine Liturgy.

Here is the food being blessed by Fr. Juraj. Afterwards, we went upstairs in the Schloss and had a great time feasting and celebrating.

Following Easter Sunday we celebrated the octave with an Easter ball with the theme of Fairy Tale characters.

Here is Dr. Gotia as the witch in Hans and Gretel, with Fr. Juraj as a .... viking?

Zygmunt and Mary as Hansel and Gretel themselves.

We had a quite a few Hansels and Gretels. It seems to be a popular fairy tale. My self as Hansel.

Franz as Pinocchio.

Margi as ... a pregnant mom! (A fairy tale to be sure!)

Georgia as Little Red Riding Hood.

Alex as Sinbad.

Florian as Aladdin.

2nd Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday

To celebrate this feast day, Becca made a divine mercy cake to match the divine mercy icon. The strawberries represent the blood and the blueberries are for the water that gushed forth from the side of Jesus. Jesus, we trust in you!

And we as a family, prayed with ITI the chaplet at 3pm in the Schloss Kapelle.

Little Flowers
Becca continues her Little Flowers group as they go through various saints and their virtues. This week was the virtue of Mirthfulness and they learned about St. Clare of Assisi. The flower for this week was an orange tulip.

The snack coincides with the virtue and flower colour so this week Antonia and Terezia brought oranges carved into the shape of flowers. Very creative!

 3rd Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday

As we usually do, we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday with shepherd's pie. I made the dinner this time and the mashed potatoes were not as creamy as my wife usually makes them. Alas. However, this time the shepherd had side burns!

 The popcorn represented the sheep and there was wolf dropping cookies for dessert.

Winter has been on crutches since her surgery. At the time of this blog being written it has been 5 weeks. She still can't put pressure on it but the 5 inch slice in the bottom of her foot is healed up nicely and the tumour has been mostly removed. What the doctors couldn't get was cauterized.

....and in her spare time she crocheted a blanket.

 April 23rd: St. George the Dragonslayer

On this day we celebrated the feast day of Tristan's patron saint. As per our family tradition, we had a knight's meal of roast goose and this time Becca made a dragon out of vegetables!

Can you see it's lettuce wings, fire-breathing nostrils and tongue?

 The bad part of the day was that Tristan had a fever this day and could hardly eat any of the good food. Poor guy.

We ended with renewing our Knightly vows and being knighted by Princess Winter.

 But she had to knight Tristan as he lay down sick on the coach.

 Here are few of Winter's crochet accomplishments - she made these for the baby shower of 4 ladies having babies here at ITI.

Little Flowers:

Saint: St. Katharine Drexel 
Flower: Daisy
Virtue: Generosity
Snack: Daisy cupcakes

4th Sunday of Easter: Ice Cream Sundae Sunday

This week we talked about the promised land flowing milk and honey promised to the Israelites and our promised land in Heaven. Though I'm sure the Israelites never had ice cream sundaes and I know Heaven will be much, much more than this ... it was a taste of something greater to come.

Winter finally unveils her foot for all to see!

Katie learns to ride a bike!

Try once:

and try again:

and ... ok... those plants seem to be always in the way!

and she does it!!!

Spring fun on a cold day in the sprinkler

When its cold and dreary one can always have fun in a sprinkler especially when wearing a wool jacket to help you keep warm!

St. Patrick's day in May???

For St. Patrick's day the boys were to have a date with Dad. Well, we had to post pone the date until this day in May. So I took Tristan and Benedict for a hike to a Hütte for some nature and ice cream.

The forest floor was so covered with these white flowers it almost looked like we had just had a light snow!

...and after a victory ice cream, the joy was in the running back down the mountain barely in control!

5th Sunday of Easter: God's glory is in all creation

To celebrate this Sunday we biked to a park (with crippled Winter in a chariot) and had a wonderful family outing.

As food is a Catholic way of celebrating and eating together is so important in building a family, Becca made us a wonderful picnic.

We had thunder, rain and hail pasta, puffy white cloud cupcakes (with a sun poking through in the icing underneath), lightening juice and a turkey leg!

6th Sunday of Easter: Jesus breaks bread with His disciples

On this Sunday we remember how Jesus met the disciples on the beach and they knew Him to be the Lord by the breaking of bread. It is here as well that St. Peter receives his commission to feed and tend all God's sheep.

We had a picnic of bread and fish by the river. 

Well, the kids mostly just played while Becca and I picnicked.

Little Flowers:

Saint:St. Angela Merici
Flower: Purple African Violet
Virtue: Prudence
Snack: Grape and nut chocolate bars

Ascension Thursday: Pilgrimage to the Shroud of Turin!

We were blessed to end the Easter season with a pilgrimage to the see the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is only unveiled once every 5 years or more, so it was a great opportunity for us at ITI to make the journey down into Italy.

Becca and I had a debate about who was going to go- she or I. Winter couldn't go (despite many tears) because of the amount of walking required on a pilgrimage and her still being on crutches after her surgery. Our two youngest, Kate and Tavi, wouldn't do well on a 10 hour overnight bus ride. So it was decided that Becca would take the two boys. BUT ... then we found out that St. John Bosco's relics were in Turin and he is my patron saint - so I was the new elect.

So on the eve of Ascension Thursday we headed off on the bus at 10pm to drive through the night to a little town called St. Michael. This was a 10 hour drive and admittedly we hardly got any sleep with the rising sun breaking in our windows at 4am. Sheesh.

We arrived at the Kuen's Schloss in south Tirol. South Tirol used to be a part of Austria so they all speak German and Italian here.  The Kuen brothers (students at ITI) have had the Schloss in their family for 400 years.

Here we are, after a hair-raising ride through small winding streets with a huge bus, walking up to the Schloss Englar.

Here is Benedict entering the courtyard through the old stone wall.

The courtyard.

Here is the barn.

And their chapel on the hilltop through the vineyards.

The Schloss had three terraced areas to gather.  Here is where we had breakfast overlooking the valley on a beautiful sunny morning.

Katarina and Milda watch as Alex throws Benedict overboard!

And through the another stone wall we enter onto another terrace.

A video tour below.

Now on a pilgrimage, one is not to have so much luxury. So we helped in the vineyards tying young saplings to the rebar. Below is Fr. Jurai and Danilo working hard.

Here is Jacob Kuen, our foreman, checking to make sure Nathalia and Briege get it right.

We did not do much this day except relax and rest as we weren't heading to Turin till the next day.
This is the entrance to the third terrace where we ate our dinner.

Jaro and I chatting in the old window frame.

Dinner and prayer in the chapel and then bed. We had to be at the bus at 5:45am for our 7 hour drive to Turin the next morning.

Turin, Italy: Home of the Holy Shroud

We arrived a bit late for our scheduled time and got in the long line up. 

They had all of us shuffle through security. We had to remove all our weapons, bombs, and water bottles.

Our group loved to sing. Here they are singing in line as we shuffled forward.

Before we entered the area of the Basilica where the Shroud was displayed, we watched a solemn video on the different blood stains on the shroud to give us some context when venerating it.

On the shroud you could see the blood stains from the nail in his hand, in his feet, from the thorns in his brow, and the countless places where the flogging had torn away his flesh.

Here is a close up of his face with a negative photograph of it.
Seeing and being able to venerate the Shroud was as close to Calvary as I've ever been. We had only 4min or so in front of it. And most of the time I was holding Benedict up so he could see better. However, being so close to the blood that was shed on my behalf was ... moving (to say the least).

Veneration of the relics of St. John Bosco

After we finished, we headed off to find the Basilica where St. John Bosco's relics were enshrined. 

... a bike stand of some sort ...

After a half hour jaunt we found ourselves in front of the 'Maria Help of Christians' basilica as seen in Latin below.  St. John Bosco had a special devotion to our Lady of Help of Christians.

We arrived and were surprised at the enormity of the facility. This is the home of the Salesians - the order Bosco founded to help young people. The courtyard where he played soccer with the boys was there and many areas where ministries to youth were happening.

We went into the basilica and had time before Holy Mass to enter the crypt.

A small chapel was there containing a piece of the cross of Christ.

A replica of the statue of St. Cecilia and her martyrdom. 

Here below is the exact spot where Mary put her foot when she appeared to St. John Bosco and told him to build a church on this spot. And here we are in that Church right now! The picture above depicts the story.

Upstairs in the basilica proper there were three significant (for us) side altars.
The first was the shrine to St. Dominic Savio and his remains. As we knelt here it was a great opportunity to retell the story of the young boy's courage to my own boys.

The second was a shrine to Our Lady Help of Christians. It was massive and beautiful!
Here we prayed and lifted up many intentions to her to intercede for.

Thirdly, was the shrine to St. John Bosco.

Here we knelt for a while. I prayed for all three of my boys that he would pray for them and guide them to hear their vocations. And that I would be a great father as he was.

Here are some of the young ones on the pilgrimage: Basil, Kathryn, Clement, Benedict, Benedict K., Juraj and Tristan.

Then we got back on the bus and began our 7 hour drive back to the Schloss to the spend the night and to get ready to leave in the morning.

The morning woke us with another beautiful day.

We had Divine Liturgy in the morning in their chapel on the hill.

We put in a couple more hours in the vineyards before we left. Here is Margi and Travis working hard.

It was a 10 hour drive home and we stopped in Innsbruck, Austria for dinner. We found a nice nature park where the kids could play and get some energy out before heading back on the bus again.

We arrived home at 2am, shook the kinks out of our backs and lay down exhausted.

Thoughts from the Vineyard: Family is the Great Adventure

Is there any place more full of opportunity to love, fight, grow, and learn than the family? Family is God's plan, His way to sanctity for us. Within the family there are bonds that bind us - not just blood, but tradition, memories, relationships and sacrificial love. It is these bonds that give us joy and peace and fulfillment. It is in the family where we learn to sacrifice, depend and become independent.  It is in the family where we learn who we really are and how we tick. The family becomes the safe place, the sanctuary where we can relax and be loved without a persona or mask.

This has become more and more clear to Rebecca and I over these past few years. As we watch our family grow in number and size, as we watch the kids mature and grow with each other, as we discipline and celebrate - we become more confirmed in our calling as father and mother. Our vocation has begun to become more and more clear: My purpose is to father. Rebecca's purpose is to mother.

I come to the fulfillment of my masculinity in fatherhood.
Rebecca comes to the fulfillment of her femininity in motherhood.

All my 'outward' ambitions become 2nd, 3rd, 4th place as I look inward into my family. Our choices, our work, our Sunday night walks all circle around how to grow our family into a stronger unit. How can we increase our kids love for God? Did we celebrate that feast day in a way that made the truth real to the kids? Did we discipline in love? Was it effective? Where do our kids need to grow? What changes do we need to make in their education? All these questions and more bear much discussion as we plan and intentionally build our family into a pillar of society.

And this planning and building and loving is a joy. No... The Joy in our lives. We pour everything we are into our family and the benefits are overwhelming. It is worth every sacrifice and every coin and every minute. Family, the great adventure, is worth it.

(If you remember, we were filmed by a Catholic network in Slovakia about building a Catholic family. Here is the link below: It aired about a month ago I believe.)

Kenton's Spring Reading List:

The True Icon: From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello by Paul Badde
Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax
The Hour of Jesus by Ignace de La Potterie
Commentary on the Gospel of John by St. Thomas Aquinas
Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc

Pictures for the Grandparents

Kate doing Tavi's hair.

Whistle making in Dragonslayers: though it was tougher than we thought it would be so the adults most of the work.

Please Pray for us:

We have one year left here in Austria. We are applying to homeschool all the kids for Sept. and are praying for approval. We are tired of fighting with the Austrian education system and the principal of the school.

And for continued health and finances. This year we are applying for student loans to help us through the last year. We are praying that this comes through.

We wish all of you a blessed summer. May God bless you this summer with much rest and family time. 

  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. 

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