30 May 2011

Last Day of Classes

Today marks the end of another semester's worth - in fact another year's worth - of classes here for us. The next few days are free for last minute cramming before exams begin on Friday, and then continue on into next week. It was a productive and enjoyable semester. In case you missed it, and in no particular order, I've been studying:

1. The History of Byzantium - A romp through the final 1200 years of Roman history, from the transference of the capital of the Empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 to the fall of New Rome to the Turks in 1453 (the anniversary of which was yesterday, by the way). Especially interesting here, of course, is the insight which one can gain into the beliefs and practices of our separated brethren of the Eastern dissident churches. I wrote a paper on the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope St. Leo III, which occurred in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Christmas Day, 800. A terribly Western topic, I know, but it had some relation to Byzantium, or at least so I feebly tried to argue.


2. Pastoral Aspects of Marriage and the Family - This was the obligatory course for all Licentiate students, and it was basically just a summation of the basics, based on Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (1981). Basically, we need good marriage preparation programs, contraception is bad, so is divorce, fornication, adultery, etc., etc. In this one I wrote a paper on why people should be denied Communion or even formally excommunicated way more often than they are. Dietrich von Hildebrand called it the Charitable Anathema.

3. Theology of the 20th Century: Nature and Grace - We began with St. Thomas and the school of Thomists which followed him and interpreted his thought up until the early twentieth century, looking at the precise question of man's natural desire to see the essence of God (i.e. for the beatific vision). St. Thomas basically says that there is such a thing, that every natural potency for something is able to be fulfilled by a natural cause, and that the beatific vision is (obviously) not able to be fulfilled by any natural cause, but only a supernatural one - God. Thus did he kick off eight centuries of argument, kicked off anew in the early twentieth century by historian / theologian Henri De Lubac, S.J. This topic thus became the main theological debate of the whole twentieth century. Perhaps unsurprisingly to many of you, I regard De Lubac's position, which is the one that by now dominates almost the entire field, to be in error both as regards the interpretation of Aquinas and as regards the truth of the matter. No paper here, but a comprehensive examination next week.

4. Jesus of Nazareth - Here we read both volumes of Papa Ratzinger's recent private publications, the second volume of which conveniently came out midway through the semester. Ratzinger's treatment is by and large very good and certainly an important contribution to the field of biblical studies. If you haven't read any of the present Holy Father's private writings, these are good ones to begin with: challenging, to be sure, but more accessible than many of his works. We had our full share of criticisms in class, though, both of his methods and conclusions in some places, and my paper was written disputing his dating of the Last Supper, which he thinks was not a Passover Meal at all, or at least was not held on the feast day of the Passover. I still prefer to think otherwise.

5. Latin Liturgy - A particular interest of mine, of course. This was an intensive course packed into about two and a half weeks just after Easter. We dug into some of the historical sources from the earliest times to see what can be known about how the liturgy was being celebrated in various times and places. The Roman Rite in particular was the focus, though, and we traced its development from the point of its emergence from the mists of time in the fourth and fifth centuries right up through the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century to the Liturgical Movement of the twentieth century. We looked briefly at the New Order of Mass which replaced it in 1970. There was an interesting comparison at the end between Romano Guardini's book The Spirit of the Liturgy (1918), which served as something of a charter for the Liturgical Movement, and Joseph Ratzinger's book by the same name (2000), which is already being looked upon as something of a charter for a New Liturgical Movement.

22 May 2011

Getting ready for Summer!

With the heat of last summer still haunting us, John and I decided we needed a plan so that our kids could spend this year somewhere other than the bathtub. Last year our "yard" was a parking lot covered in small rocks, with broken glass and nails thrown in to make things exciting. A kiddie pool wasn't even an option. This year, however, we have a patio and grass lawn right outside our door. So, on our way home from the zoo, we stopped at a large store which had pools on sale. The kids were sleeping in the car, so I let John go in and pick the one he thought would be the best. The one he came out with looked like a lot of fun, but we were shocked when we pulled it out of the box and blew it up how big it was. I think the kids will like it. It even has a small area sectioned off with a drain so the water can't get higher than 4 inches, perfect for Edmund. Although I give him week before he figures out how to scale the "wall."

Thomas filling a bowl with water to wet the slide before he goes down.

It's fun for adults to soak their feet in.

Edmund hanging out in the shallow area, while Thomas climbs the slide. Maria's not in the pictures, because she decided it was still too cold.

21 May 2011

Another Day at the Zoo

For Maria's birthday we had promised to take her back to the Zoo for pony ride.

Edmund, waiting for Maria's pony ride.

Maria sets off!

There's the big five-year old on her pony.

A baby reindeer.

The rhinoceros was cooling off in the water.

Baby elephant.

If Maria gets to ride a pony, Thomas wants to ride an elephant!

The final highlight of the day was the feeding of the sea lions. What a show they put on!


20 May 2011

More pictures of Maria's birthday

Maria asked for a birthday party this year. The birthday parties here have got to be the easiest to plan, and put on, imaginable. We have such a wonderful courtyard for the kids to play, and there are tons of bicycles, tricycles, and a new sandbox for all the kids, I couldn't keep them inside, even at a party, if I wanted to. So we took all our goodies to a downstairs common room that has multiple doors looking out for moms to watch the kids, we sang happy birthday with tall the many, many friends Maria has here, ate some cake, and let the kids do what they do best...play outside with their friends until they drop from exhaustion. My kids have a good life here.

There are so many kids here, Maria got two cakes for her party. She requested strawberry cake with strawberry frosting. I only had enough red food coloring to make the frosting pink on one cake, but I liked the strawberry bits peeking out on the other one.

Thomas was VERY hungry looking at the cake....

Maria dressing up in her new shawl and hair clips.

Books from Grandma and Papou.

And for after dinner, Maria requested strawberry shortcake cake. Although I don't think she even cared about the shortcake, or the icing. She asked for just the bowl of strawberries I put on the table to top the cake. Someone takes after her Great-grandfather (or Big Papou, as she calls him)!

19 May 2011

10 May 2011

Edmund speaks

Those of you who are familiar with the linguistic development of my children may find this video amusing. For the rest of you, I suppose it might be cute. Edmund has just started babbling these syllables in the last few days.

03 May 2011

Pictures from the Octave

Uncle Tom and Aunt Cristin have come and gone, much to our joy and subsequent sadness. The kids still talk about them. Just today little Thomas confidently asserted that they would be coming back soon, and when we happened to be on the floor of the building where they stayed a few days ago, he looked up at me hopefully and asked if we were going to see them. Here are finally a few pictures from their stay with us over the Easter Octave.

Little Edmund with his Uncle Tom


Maria reading stories to her Aunt Cristin


The little princess in her Easter dress


On Tuesday we all went to the zoo in Vienna -
Thomas took a swat at one of the goats in the petting zoo


There were also lots of little baby goats running around


The fake animals are fun too


Checking out the Rhinoceros


Maria strikes a pose for the camera


A rare shot of the happy couple


Lisa's fine camera work from the Gloriette overlooking Vienna


Aunt Katie took her turn doing some of the heavy lifting


A long day at the zoo can be tiring


The next day in Salzburg


Back at home somebody slipped Edmund some Easter chocolate


And, in honor of the feast of St. George the Dragonslayer (April 23, relocated this year to May 1), Lisa made a special cake for Edmund. Thomas and Maria made sure it was dead with their knife-swords before we ate it.