31 May 2009


This afternoon we took a lovely Whitsunday hike in the Ötscher Naturpark. Here are a few of the pictures, the rest of which can be seen online here. We began by hiking to Trefflingfalls and then climbing up, up, up to the top of the falls and then on to Hochbaerneck, a mountain with a great panoramic view of the Ötscher (we learned, by the way, that the name Ötscher is from the Slovak word for Father, which is quite appropriate for the daddy mountain of Lower Austria).

The Alpine meadows are gorgeous, and full of the sound of cowbells.

Maria took a short break from riding on my shoulders
to pick some flowers in the meadow.

The Ötscher towers above everything else in the vicinity.

At the top of Hochbaerneck we found a convenient viewing tower.

30 May 2009

Vigil of Pentecost

Sorry posting has been so sparse lately. Ever since graduation, life has been really busy. We seemed barely to have time to celebrate Maria's birthday, say goodbye to Katie, and celebrate our anniversary, much less keep up on the blog. Work has been going well. John is doing some serious moving of boxes filled with library books, and furniture from apartments. I have been trying to get hours in where I can, dragging the kids along with me to the Kartause, packing up odds and ends, cleaning the old dorm rooms until they sparkle, etc. A few days ago I was given a new assignment: buying food and cooking lunches for all the workers. I can do a lot of the prep work at home (or in the shop below home) after the kids are in bed, and everyone else is enjoying not having to spend most of their lunch break cooking and cleaning up. But I'm sure everyone around here will miss seeing Thomas taking naps inside empty boxes, while Maria makes messes with the packing tape.

All in all, even though life has been busy, we are enjoying the work, and the little trips around Austria that we take on our days off. Tomorrow the plan was to climb the biggest mountain in Lower Austria, but it has been cold and raining down in our valley, and cold and snowing on top of the mountain, so we may just spend it peacefully at home. Whitmonday is a national holiday here in Austria, (we heard it's also a holy day of obligation, although we can't determine if that's true or not - we'll go to Liturgy regardless), so if the weather cooperates, we just may take a small trip somewhere Monday.

26 May 2009


We love you and miss you! 
Congrats on graduating summa cum laude
by the way, 
in case I haven't said so before.

25 May 2009

Maria's Packages

Maria received two birthday packages today, one from Grandma and Papou, and one from Nana and Grandpa. In them were many new outfits (along with other things), so for now we have pictures in just one of the cute dresses Nana made.

24 May 2009

Sunday after the Ascension

It's been a very full weekend. On Saturday, our friends Scott and Simone were married here at the Kartause (as were Nate and Amanda back home - congrats to you both); on Sunday, little Sofia Terezia (daughter of one of our Byzantine priests) was baptized. After the celebratory agape we said goodbye to some dear friends (sniff), and then headed off on a miniature pilgrimage with some of the other Summer workers.

[N.B. at the prompting of a certain sister, we've finally began to add some more picture albums to the sidebar.]

First stop: the Minor Basilica Maria Taferl. Outside there is still standing an ancient celtic stone of sacrifice, upon which Elijah decided to place Maria. She doesn't look very happy about it, though. Smart girl.

The next picture is of the Basilica itself, which is a typical Austrian baroque church containing a miraculous pieta statue. It is on account of this statue that Maria Taferl is the second biggest pilgrimage destination in Austria after Mariazell.

Next, we made a visit to the nearby Schloss Artstetten, one time home of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the thrones of Austria and Hungary before his assasination kicked off the First World War. I think it is his great-granddaughter who now owns the place. Here we are on the porch.

We took the Romantikstrasse towards Melk, and pulled off the road to check out some castle ruins. We didn't get very far before running into a locked gate, but we got a nice view of Melk just down the Danube river.

Finally, Stift Melk itself. We managed to peek inside the truly impressive baroque church, but sadly the terrase overlooking the Danube was closed. This picture was taken from one of the town ice cream shops below.

22 May 2009

40 Games into the '09 Season

With a 4-3 win over the Colorado Rockies the Tigers have rolled up to the 40 game mark (1/4 of the way through the season) with a 7 game winning streak. They are now 4 games up on the second place Kansas City Royals in the central division, and have a .600 winning percentage at 24-16. Go Tigers!

Brandon Inge hit another home run in the 4th inning, his 12th of the season, which puts him on pace for 48 this year...

21 May 2009

Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord

We experienced the increasingly rare happiness of celebrating the feast of the Ascension of our Lord on the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, that is to say, on the 40th day after Easter. This is one place where Ascension Thursday has not turned into Ascension Sunday. 

Not only is this great feast celebrated on its proper day, but the shops are even closed! Inconvenient to be sure, but it's wonderful to see bits and pieces of Catholic culture still persisting.

Oh, and returning to the gripe about how so many dioceses transfer this feast to next Sunday - this completely disrupts the original novena! The whole idea of setting aside nine days (novena) of prayer is based upon the example of the Apostles who waited in prayer for the descent of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost.

Anyways, this afternoon a few of us took a van to the Ötscher Naturpark, the centerpiece of which is the 1,893 meter Ötscher mountain, the largest in Lower Austria (our region). Wikipedia has a great panoramic shot of the Ötscher. This is the same Naturpark through which we walk to Mariazell, but today we went only far enough in to find a nice place to jump in the river for a frigid swim.

A beautiful but cold mountain river

Max, Patricia, Lisa, and Elijah

20 May 2009

Vigil of the Ascension

O God, from Whom all good things do come, grant to us Thy suppliants, that by Thine inspiration we may think what is right, and under Thy guidance perform it. Through Christ our Lord...

4 years and 2 children later, we're happier than ever... 

18 May 2009

Work Begins

So just like that, two days after graduation, we started clearing out the library for the move to Trumau. I'm used to working during the Summer, but I don't think I've ever transitioned from studying to working quite so suddenly before. It's a nice change of pace, though. 

We celebrated Maria's birthday a little bit this evening for Katie's benefit, since she is leaving early tomorrow morning. Maria requested mashed potatoes with "onions" [leeks] in them, just like Rob makes them.

Maria opening her present from Aunt Katie

Putting the eraser on her new pencil

Trying out her pencil on some fun colored paper

17 May 2009


Lisa and Thomas took part in what may have been the ITI's last walking pilgrimage to Mariazell. Maria and I stayed home to keep Katie company, but Lisa had never made the walk before, and so when the day dawned sunny and beautiful, off she went with Thomas strapped to her. The walk is something like 26 or 28 kilometers through some really beautiful land. Maria and I joined the pilgrims at Mariazell (we came by bus) to sing the Akathist hymn to Mary in thanksgiving for the recently completed academic year, and for all the many blessings received through her during the ITI's time in Gaming, as also to ask for her continued aid and protection during the transition to Trumau.

The Basilica of our Lady of Mariazell.
Great Mother of Austria,
Ora pro nobis!

16 May 2009

Commencement 2009

9:30 Holy Mass
Offered by the Right Reverend Mag. Gregor Henckel-Donnersmarck, O.Cist., Abbot of Heilegenkreuz

11:30 Graduation
Invocation by the Abbot
Greetings from President Hogan
Sicut cervus by the ITI choir
Conferral of degrees by the Abbot in the name of Pope Benedict XVI
Oath of Fidelity
Speech by class speaker Katherine Gardner
Hymn to Mary sung by Fr. Juraj, Fr. Tomas, Fr. Josef, and Fr. Yurko
Commencement address by Dean Dolna
Te Deum laudamus!

2:30 Luncheon in the Praelatensaal

7:00 Barbeque American style!

And I have to say that I'm very flattered to have made the center-fold of this year's edition of Fuga Cervi, the student scrapbook of random fun and memories. It's a song about me, written by one of the other students here, and it goes like this.

Pompous John, 
Pompous John, 
He loves a good song.

1. But, only if men sing it, 
Men who are priests, 
Wearing vestments, 
Lacy lace vestments.

2. But, only if it's chant, 
Gregorian chant, 
Sung toward the East, 
Toward the rising sun.

3. But, only if it's Latin, 
Lingua Latina, 
So he doesn't like this song, 
Because it's not very good.

15 May 2009

The End of the Semester

What a busy day. I had my last exam this morning at 10:20. The class was Creator and Creation and the exam was mainly focused on predestination (a perplexing aspect of theology, to say the least). Then Ryan drove Katie and I to Scheibbs to get Katie's foot x-rayed. It turns out, she has a fractured heel bone together with some dislocation. So they put a cast on it to hold her over until she gets back to the States, and then when she's home they will probably have to operate on her to fix it.

After Mass this evening, Katie finally took her last exam, and then a handful of classmates came over to eat pizza and drink beer. Another year in the books. Please pray for Katie, and take care of her when she gets home!

14 May 2009

Commemoration of St. Boniface, Martyr

After a stormy youth, Boniface was converted to the Catholic faith, suffered numerous tortures, and was beheaded in 307.

Happy feast day to our new nephew, Gabriel Harrison Boniface! We've finally seen a few pictures and he looks great ( apart from the slightly wrinkly hands...).

Also, my brilliant little sister here decided that she would jump into the frigid creek the evening before her last exam. She survived the cold, I guess, but now she's laid up on the couch with a busted ankle on account of some rock.

Clara gets a bath

Posting has been sparse of late what with finals week and all, but this picture was too funny. I walked into the shower and bath room and found Maria giving her baby Clara a bath in the bidet.

In other news, we attended the ceremonial foundation stone laying of the new construction in Trumau (where we'll be living and studying next year) on Monday. I had a final exam this morning on Theological Anthropology, and have two more remaining. Moral Theology this afternoon and Creator and Creation tomorrow morning. Katie, I think, just has one left, tomorrow morning on the Catechism.

Graduation makes Saturday a very busy day, and then on Sunday we'll make our last walking pilgrimage to Mariazell. Monday we start working frantically to pack up the entire library for the move to Trumau and then on Tuesday Katie leaves us [:(] and Maria turns 3 years old! Wednesday is our 4th Anniversary, and Thursday is the great feast of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven. It's a busy week coming up!

Then, between working and relaxing a bit over the Summer, I also still intend to learn a little more German and to start work on a 60 page thesis dealing with St. Thomas Aquinas's theology of the Cross.

11 May 2009

We Have a New Nephew!

Happy birthday, 
Gabriel Harrison Boniface Poynter

We would have posted pictures, 
but the family has so far neglected to send us any...

08 May 2009

Maria's Masterpiece

I was in the other room when Maria drew this, but Katie insists she did it all herself. The only "help" Katie offered was suggesting that perhaps it would be better to draw the arms below the head, instead of sticking straight out of it. Anyways, according to Maria, this is a picture of Daddy, with a bat in his right hand, and baseballs on his other side. She doesn't know who the small person is. Perhaps her uncle/godfather could give his critque of the work. I personally think it's very good for an almost 3 year old, but then, I'm her mother, and what do I know about art anyways? (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Paper on Virtues

Good Habits and Their Connections
Summa Theologiae I-II, qq. 55-70

Having begun the prima secundæ partis of the Summa theologiæ with a treatise on happiness as the final end of human life (1-5), followed by treatises on human actions (6-21) and passions (22-48) by which man either approaches or falls away from his beatitude, St. Thomas moves to consider next the principles of human acts, first intrinsic principles and then extrinsic. The intrinsic principles are powers and habits, but since the human powers (intellectual and appetitive) were already dealt with in the prima pars St. Thomas restricts himself here to a treatise on habits (49-89), which is followed by treatises on the extrinsic principles, namely law (90-108) and grace (109-114). The treatise on habits begins with a general consideration (49-54), and then moves to treat of particulars, which are divided between good habits (55-70) and bad habits (71-89). It is with good habits that we are concerned here, "which are virtues and other things adjoined to them, namely gifts, beatitudes, and fruits," and especially with the connections between them.

Read on via the link on the sidebar.

07 May 2009


Thomas's skills on display: (1) elevating his chin off the floor; (2) sitting up for a few seconds unsupported before flopping over back onto the floor. Update: (3) drooling from chin to foot - click on the lower picture to enlarge for details.

05 May 2009

Cinco de Mayo

We had a Mexican feast at the Kartause. I've read that Cinco de Mayo is barely celebrated in Mexico (their independance day is 16 September), apart from the region where the battle that it commemorates took place. Apparently, it's mostly just an excuse for Americans to drink margaritas. I did find out, however, that the day has a connection to Austria as well. The story goes something like this. In 1861 Mexico stopped paying interest on money that it owed to France. France invaded. On May 5, 1862 the Mexicans won a battle against overwhelming odds. It was a great victory, but more or less meaningless in the long run - in the end the French took over Mexico. 

They then placed none other than Maximilian of the house of Hapsburg upon the throne as Emperor of Mexico. He and his wife Carlotta arrived supported by the French military and many Mexican monarchists, but they were opposed by many revolutionaries. As soon as the Civil War ended in the USA, Uncle Sam predictably began sending aid to the revolutionaries. When France withdrew military support, it wasn't long before Emperor Maximilian was overthrown and executed. It's quite a tragic story, especially since his wife Carlotta had in the mean time returned to Europe to ask for help from the various crowns and powers, and being repeatedly turned down had gone quite mad. I think Mexico would have been a lot better off under Hapsburg emperors, but that's how it goes...

On another train of thought, here is a really great picture of Thomas and Maria.

04 May 2009

Final Exams

This morning I took the examination for my class on the Trinity, which lays to rest the fourth of my seven classes for the semester. I wrapped up the Christology course just after Easter by submitting a paper on the worship of Icons; Canon Law was a mid-semester intensive 6 day block course; and I took and passed the Greek proficiency exam last Friday.

My remaining exams are for anthropology, moral theology, and Creator & creation. I also still have to write a paper for the moral theology class. It's hard to believe that our second year here is already winding to a close.

Also, some of you know already, I think, but our summer plans are finalized. We bought plane tickets for Lisa to fly home with Maria and Thomas from July 3 to July 16. That means they'll arrive back here on the 17th, which is the same day that Peter and Sara are arriving from Rome to spend a couple of weeks with us. We were really fortunate to come upon an offer from Lufthansa (a German airline) where kids fly for free (plus taxes and charges) beginning on July 3. So buying a ticket for Maria was much cheaper than we thought we'd be able to find. She is already very excited to go "to Michigan" with Mommy and baby Thomas in the summer.

01 May 2009

Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Wisdom rendered to the just the wages of their labors and conducted them in a wonderful way; and she was to them for a covert by day and for the light of stars by night. Alleluia, alleluia. (Psalm) Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Glory be to the Father...

Happy Feast day, Thomas Joseph!

To celebrate Thomas's feast day we bought an ice cream cone for Maria. And Katie acquired a baseball bat for me. And we are all (except for Thomas) eating pasta with red wine for a nice dinner. And then brownies for dessert for us, and nothing for Thomas. Oh well, better luck next year.