Providence at Work in New Ties with Austrian Youth for Life

Note: This is the third of Eric Scheidler’s four reports on his pro-life mission to Germany and Austria. The first covers the March for Life in Berlin September 17. The second details his time with the German Youth for Life September 17-18.

Eric at Hohensalzburg Fortress

Eric at Hohensalzburg Fortress, with a view of the many steeples of Salzburg behind [Photo by Bryan Kemper]

After a long day of touring around the beautiful city of Salzburg September 20, I was ready for some spiritual respite. I took out my iPhone to view the snapshot I had taken of a poster on display at St. Rupert’s Cathedral in the center of the old city, listing all the church services in town.

This is one of my traveler’s tricks. If I see a poster or sign I might want to refer to later—a bus map, for example, or in this case a list of church services—I snap a picture of it.

I found several options for an evening Mass, and more or less at random chose St. Sebastian Church on the north side of the River Salzach, which would afford me the opportunity to walk along the river for a while and still get to church with enough time to pray before Mass.

A Providential Choice for Mass

Walking into this stunning baroque church, I was immediately struck by the rich smell of incense, quite common for my usual Byzantine Rite parish back home, but unusual in a Roman Rite church, especially on a weekday.

The explanation, as I realized the moment Mass began, was that at this parish Mass is celebrated according to the old Tridentine Rite. I had chosen well.

St Sebastian Church altar, Salzburg

The altar at St Sebastian Church, Salzburg [Photo by EJS]

At communion time, I noticed a young man in the congregation, apparently in his 20s. I regretted that I did not have enough German to invite him to the meeting I was attending that evening with the Austrian Youth for Life at Haus Wartenburg, the hotel I was staying at with my travelling companion and fellow pro-life activist Bryan Kemper.

I figured a young man attending Latin Mass would certainly be strongly pro-life. So imagine my delight, on arriving at Haus Waternburg, to see that young man there! His name was Josef Eder, and he was one of 11 children. A sister and another brother from the Eder family were also in attendance.

Moreover, I learned that St. Sebastian is the spiritual hub of the pro-life youth movement in Salzburg. This is just the kind of gentle providence I am blessed to see at work so often in the pro-life movement, and it set the tone for the evening meeting.

Accomplished Austrian Youth for Life Group

The leader of the Austrian Youth for Life, Lina Kogler, was unable to attend the meeting, but fortunately I had already met her in Berlin. In her place was YFL spokeperson Carina Broucek, whose mother is American. In fluent English, Carina described the work of YFL.

Austrian Youth for Life group picture

Eric Scheidler and Bryan Kemper (back left) with the Austrian Youth for Life

Austrian Youth for Life was founded in 1987, and has flourished ever since. They speak in schools throughout Austria, hold public education campaigns in major cities, hold demonstrations against abortion, defend the rights of pro-life activists and call on Austrian politicians to enact policies to protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion.

So effective have they been, that the Austrian group was the model for reactivating the defunct German Youth for Life a few years ago. It was at the invitation of the German group’s Michael Botzke that Bryan and I were visiting Germany and Austria, and he had arranged this meeting in Salzburg.

Inspiring Stories of Youth Witness in Action

Bryan spoke of the tremendous difference that pro-life youth can make, bringing a new vitality and enthusiasm to the pro-life cause.

Bryan shared some amazing success stories from Stand True Ministries’ Silent Day of Pro-Life Solidarity, including a student whose teacher sought her out for help because of her silent witness, and another young women whose own mother cancelled an abortion—this girl saved her own brother or sister!

Blessed Are They Who Mourn

My remarks took a more solemn tone, perhaps in response to the quiet Mass I had just attended. I reflected on Our Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are they who mourn,” which Pope Benedict XVI has reflected on profoundly in his book, Jesus of Nazareth.

“As much as we celebrate saving babies form abortion,” I told them, “we should never think it a failure when we don’t save them. And usually we don’t. We have to accept that, but also realize that when we mourn for these children, we are doing a great work.”

Austrian Youth for Life meeting

Meeting at Haus Wartenburg with the Austrian Youth for Life [Photo by EJS]

Following Pope Benedict, I explained that mourning for these children deprives death of its power. You only mourn the loss of that which matters. Abortion tries to strip any value from these children’s lives; in mourning them, we restore value to them.

I also cautioned them not to overlook the contributions of older generations. Yes, the youth bring a new energy to the pro-life movement, but they should recognize the sacrificial efforts of those who have gone before them, those whose wisdom and experience they build upon.

Bryan and I both expressed how inspired we are by their witness. Just knowing that such committed pro-life youth are hard at work across the ocean brings a renewed sense of purpose and passion to our ministry in the United States.

Austrian Contacts Already Paying Off

On returning to the United States, I received an e-mail from a young Romanian woman studying in Vienna, was looking for help setting up a pregnancy center in Timisoara in western Romania.

Again, I saw providence at work. I am a parishioner at St. George Romanian Rite Catholic Parish in Aurora, and though I have never been to Romania, I feel a close kinship with that nation. As a cantor, I have come to love Romanian as a liturgical language.

Now here was a Romanian pro-lifer living in Austria, from which country I had just returned, asking for my help. I sent her contact information for the Austrian YFL, along with several other helpful contacts I had made in Germany. I also asked the Romanian Rite monks in America to pray for her success.

The hand of gentle providence is truly behind the increasing ties within the international pro-life movement. It is both humbling and inspiring to be a part of His work across the world.

Final Report Upcoming: Praying at Munich’s Oldest Abortuary

After our time in Salzburg, Bryan and I spent a day in Munich, including a visit to the Lebenzentrum (Life Center) and Munich’s oldest abortuary—where sidewalk counseling is illegal. Check back soon for a full report.

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