Austria Adventures: Little joys


Update: Austria is still good. Here are some highlights from the past week.

I took a train for the first time. At 9:00 a.m., the man sitting across from us pulled out a beer and a giant sausage. He used a pocketknife to cut the sausage, and it was fabulous.

I missed a train for the first time. Despite the 96 percent on-time arrival rate of Austrian trains, the train for which we had five minutes to make our connection unfortunately arrived six minutes late. It was the last train of the night. The only taxi company in the area was closed. A man we met at a nearby hotel drove us home for 150 euros.

Jenny and I celebrated her birthday early, before she left for Ireland for the weekend. We drank peach wine, which is an Austria favorite. I couldn’t find wrapping paper, so I wrapped her present in a plastic bag and tied balloons to it. We dipped things in peanut butter, like we used to do when we lived together last year. I love Jenny.

Saint Francis’s feast day was of course a big celebration. “We pull out all the stops,” the Rev. Matt Russick, TOR, told us. “If there’s a stop, we pull it out.”

Sr. Agnes Maria Kilonsky, TOR, and I hung up a huge banner of Saint Francis. It slightly blocked the entrance to the church, but I explained to Russick that it was fun like streamers.

At the Transitus the night before, we had the opportunity to be blessed with a relic of Francis. When Russick held the relic up for me to kiss, instead of kissing it, I accidentally slammed my nose into it. Whoops. After the Transitus, we drank hot chocolate and ate almond cookies (Francis’s favorite) that the TOR sisters had made.

On Saint Francis’s feast day, we had a pig roast. It was a beautiful night and a great way to bring the community together.

In Salzburg this past Saturday, Rachel and I wandered into a high-end dirndl store. A young woman asked us in German how she could help us.

“How do you say, ‘we’re just looking’ in German?” I asked her.

“Wir schauen nur,” she told me, repeating each word when she saw my face, looking totally lost. “Wir. We’re. Schauen. Looking. Nur. Only.”

She laughed as I attempted to put the phrase together on my own.

“Yes, exactly.”

It has become my routine on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, since I don’t have class, to spend time walking around the little town of Gaming. There is one shop in particular that I am absolutely enthralled by. It seems at first to be a generic kitchen/home goods store but hidden in the midst of simple baking sheets there is a ladybug cake pan, and on a shelf with plain white mugs I found a moose-shaped cookie cutter. It is such fun.

As I walked in today, the lady who is always there greeted me in German.

“Wir schauen nur,” I told her. “Danke.”

Wrong pronoun, but I answered in German. Nailed it.

(By the way, I bought the moose cookie cutter.)

Overall, Austria continues to be full of little joys and surprises. I am trying to focus on being fully present in each moment. After all, God doesn’t give us grace for things that happened in the past or for the thing that’s happening tomorrow; he gives us grace for the moment that we’re in. And that grace is sufficient.

God gives such good gifts, and I am learning to consciously choose to be delighted by everything. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, happiness is an activity that consists in contemplating the good. How cool is that?

Ps—Please pray for us as we go on our 10-day break, especially for those traveling to Lourdes and Eastern Europe for mission, and for all those whom we will serve!

All the glory to God.

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