I have noticed, in my nearly three years of doing this blog, that people are very interested when I write about Madonna House and our way of life here. The customs, the little ins and outs of community life, the particular way we feel called to incarnate the Gospel—all of that seems to resonate with a lot of the people who read the blog.
Of course I realize that at least some of you are friends of MH – people who have spent time here in the past or whose lives have been touched by ours in some way or another. That being said, I want to start a new feature on the blog, more or less weekly, giving some sort of flavor of what’s going on here in Combermere – ‘This Week in Madonna House’, at least a few of the bits and pieces that are suitable for public consumption.
The week started Sunday with the Divine Liturgy in the Melkite rite, celebrated by Fr. David May. February 2, which for us is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is in the Eastern churches the feast of hypapante, the feast of Meeting, or Encounter. The Lord comes out into public view for the first time, 40 days after his birth, to meet his people in the temple, God entering his holy house, the Messiah being received by expectant Israel in the persons of Simeon and Anna.
Our tiny sanctuary in the Island Chapel where we have our Byzantine liturgy was more crowded than usual, as we had visitors with us from the Points Coeur community founded in France, but with foundations in many countries now, who live and work with the poor. Two priests and two seminarians from a household in New York, including their founder Fr. Thierry Roussy, were with us for a few days. They have been long-time friends of MH, using Catherine’s writings in their formation, and were in fact the translators of many of her books into French. It is always good for us to be reminded that Catherine and MH’s influence has extended far beyond our own communal work and life and has affected many communities and individuals doing great apostolic work in the world.
February 2 is a day with many resonances—Candlemas, Presentation, Purification, and the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. It is also the day when Catherine and her husband Eddie made their act of total consecration to Jesus through Mary according to the St. Louis de Montfort way in 1951, a pivotal spiritual moment in the history of our apostolate.
For all those reasons, we usually have a day of recollection, which we moved to the following day. We have about three communal days of recollection each year. I had the Mass this time, and preached about the joy of Mary which was to welcome Christ into the depths of her being and give herself entirely to his mission of love in the world, and how this is the only real joy there is. Fr. McNulty had the afternoon conference, and spoke beautifully along very similar lines, presenting the titles found in the Litany of Our Lady of Combermere as revealing the vastness of Mary in our midst. Beyond those two events, it was a simple day of silent prayer together, a pause in the busyness and bustle of our daily life.
A few days later, our three directors general (DGs) left us for ten days or so, heading down to our house in Winslow Arizona for a visitation. Visitations of the various MH missions is one of the regular events in the life of a DG, as there is nothing that can substitute for actually being with the staff in a mission house and having that extended time to meet, discuss, and share in their common life.
Finally, we began our staff winter study days yesterday. Winter tends to be a slightly slower paced season in MH, at least for many of the departments, and so we take some time on Friday afternoons to learn together about various subjects of interest. Some years we have an overarching theme (last year, because of the Year of Faith, we studied the documents of Vatican II and Church history as seen through the lives of the saints). Other years, like this one, we just solicited ideas from anyone and organized groups from those ideas.
It is a mélange of topics, from music appreciation to the New Evangelization, from Korean culture and history to the saints of Northern England, from ‘The Joy of Math’ (a video series) to a new volume of the history of our own apostolate (1963-88) which just two of our members just wrote. A group of musically inclined staff are learning some Celtic pieces to play together in an ensemble; others are watching and discussing a series of Polish teleplays dramatizing the Decalogue. It is in times like these that the diversity of interests and gifts in MH is evident.
Beyond that, we are in a truly ordinary time of life: always the meals to be cooked, laundry to be done, animals to be fed, cows milked, and snow shoveled, and all the nice normal stuff that makes up our days and weeks. We join with you in lifting it all up to the Lord that he may bless it and unite it to his offering to the Father.