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Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Cardinal and the Little Flower: 20th Anniversary of the International Theological Institute

by Susan Fox

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”Jesus called a little child to stand among them. “Truly I tell you, He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18: 1-4)

Trumau, Austria -- In 1961, I was a young girl sitting on the floor in the family room in Placentia, California, 
St. Theresa of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Carmel
engrossed in reading the life of St. Theresa of Lisieux contained in my Catholic children’s Treasure Chest magazine.

Little Therese was playing on her swing at the age of four, and ignored her father’s request for a hug. So he went back into the house. This pierced her heart so deeply she jumped off the swing and ran to greet her beloved father. So began the Little Way of holiness of the future doctor of the Catholic Church, Therese of Lisieux.  

I was about eight years old, and at that age, she became my big sister. I had no other sibling, so she held a very important place in my heart. 

Little did I know that my devotion to big sister Therese would blossom into my attending graduate school now in Trumau, Austria, later in life. Here today, on Oct. 1, 2016,  the Little Flower of Carmel became my mother.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical International Theological Institute (ITI) by Pope Saint John Paul II. 

We celebrated this great event with numerous priests and bishops of both the Roman and Byzantine Rites and Cardinal Christoph
Cardinal Schönborn at ITI today
Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and Grand Chancellor of the ITI. 

He gave the homily at Mass today celebrating the Great Feast of St. Theresa of Lisieux, and the anniversary of our school.

He said when Pope John Paul II asked for a pontifical institute in Austria, the Congregation for the Catholic Education picked the date the school would be started, and it was Oct. 1. “The Little Flower is the founding date of the ITI,” he said. “We saw it as a sign to be under her protection. She was our first Patron.”

So Theresa’s “Way of the Child” became the way of ITI, Cardinal Schönborn explained, “The Little Way is to be like a child in the arms of the Father.” He also explained it the way St. Theresa herself did. By doing little acts with great love, you enter an elevator (the
Cardinal Schönborn speaking about St. Therese at Mass  on Oct. 1, 2016
Father’s arms) and He brings you up. She developed this method of holiness because she felt she could not — by herself — become a saint. And Therese passionately longed for holiness. 

“St. Theresa wants to be a child, but she also wants to be a mother,” The Cardinal said. “And ITI is full of children. You are in good company.”

He then told the story of St. Theresa’s first child  Henri Pranzini, serial killer whose brutal murder of two women and a little girl shocked the people of France in 1887.

One woman “was found on the floor of her chamber dead, her throat cut and her body terribly mutilated. Lying near the door leading from the chamber to the drawing room was the dead body of Annette, whose throat had also been cut, and in her bed in another apartment was little Marie . . . her head almost severed from her body by the murderer’s knife. It was obvious that Annette had gone to the rescue . . . and had been struck down by the assassin, and that the little girl had been murdered to put out of the way the only other witness of the terrible crime.”

Therese Martin — then 14 years old — read the account in a newspaper. “Everything led to the belief that he would die impenitent. I wanted at all costs to keep him from falling
into hell, and to succeed I employed all means imaginable, feeling that of myself I could do nothing. I offered to God all the infinite merits of Our Lord,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul.

As the time of his execution approached, Pranzini remained unrepentant. Little Therese increased her prayers. He was brought before the guillotine on Aug. 31. He refused
confession, but at the last minute  before he was to put his head in the guillotine, he took hold of the crucifix and kissed the Wounds of Christ three times!

Therese understood this to mean that Pranzini was saved from hell, and she called him her “premier enfant” — my first child. “I want to spread the Blood of Jesus over the whole world, so Divine Love may touch all souls,” the Vienna Cardinal said quoting St. Theresa.

Then he told the students and those gathered to celebrate the ITI anniversary, “So don’t be afraid to be under the protection of the Little Flower. You are in good company with Pranzini.” His remark was met with gentle laughter. Regarding ITI, the cardinal said, “He (Jesus) is really leading it.” 

Since ITI was founded, 269 students from 30 countries have graduated. Our students study primary sources written by great masters of the Western tradition. The library is so full of great books that my husband, Lawrence, wants to spend his vacations reading there. 

The international character of the school allows students to experience the genuine beauty of the Universal Church with both Eastern and Western traditions. 

We have a rich community of priests from both the Latin and Byzantine Rite, seminarians, religious, married families, and lay single.

ITI offers all a solid theological education, ending in a Master of Sacred Theology, Licentiate in Sacred Theology (allows you to teach in seminary), Doctorate in Sacred Theology and Master of Studies in Marriage and Family. We also have a one-year course for people graduating from high school, known as the Studium Generale. This offers me no end of delight because I love these young people and their enthusiasm. 
Cardinal Schönborn, The Grand Chancellor,  and St. Therese, patroness of ITI, with friends 

Susan Fox is working on a master's degree in Marriage and Family at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria. 

Interested in studying at the International Theological Institute? You can apply here.
Each student at ITI is only charged 6,000 Euros a year in tuition, but the actual cost of the education is 20,000 Euros.
Donate here

Or contact: Dipl. Ing. Alexander Pachta-Reyhofen, Director of Development (Europe), International Theological Institute, Email: a.pachtareyhofen@iti.ac.at

1 comment:

  1. I had just put a new SIM CARD IN PHONE ,& there you were with this amazing story.Prayer can soften the hardest of heart.I said the Divine Mercy Prayer over a Luke warm Catholic who refused Last Rights week before dying,at the time of death Priest wouldn't administer. I hope
    It helped.I would love to help pray with those who are dying. Happy you love what you are doing.GBU