This was a quieter week in Madonna House, in one sense. After the big events of last week—August 15 and all that went with it—many of our guests left, and we are a smaller house now. A few new guests have arrived, mind you, and so our life goes—they come and they go and the work of hospitality rolls on and on.
It is also more of an ordinary week in our work life, too. Ordinary does not mean inactive or unbusy, but simply that we are quietly attending to what needs attending to. I realize that this column has started to read like the farm report lately, but that is the simple fact of life for MH at this time of year. Our food for the winter hinges on the labor being done by our farmers and food processors at St. Benedict’s Acres, our community farm, and in late August and onwards, that means it is the main event of our life.
So this week we all went up one evening and harvested the onions, and nice big onions they were, too. A good crop, thanks be to God, as this is one of our food staples. They will cure and dry in one of our barns for a few weeks before being put into winter root cellar storage.
Meanwhile, the women who do the herculean job of processing the incoming harvest have been dealing less with our own garden produce and more with donated items that needed processing. Apparently I have been remiss in not mentioning the gargantuan amount of peaches that has dominated the lives of our women guests, who have washed and chopped them endlessly for canning. Meanwhile, two of our men went to southern Ontario to pick up a large donation of tomatoes and peppers that will get the same treatment.
We do try to grow as much of our own food as we can, for reasons of holy poverty, but there are some crops that just don’t do well up in our parts—most fruits, for example, and grains and legumes—so we are profoundly grateful for the benefactors who have given us these items over the years.
I have referred to the ‘food processors’ more than once in recent weeks, but it is worth noting that this job is actually just about the main work of the MH women’s department at this time of year. Most of the other departments reduce down to skeleton crews and just about every able-bodied woman, including most of the women guests who are with us, is up at the farm washing, chopping, slicing, dicing, canning, freezing—the crops start coming in all at once right now and with the exception of the root vegetables they all need something done to them to preserve for the winter.
The three or four women who run the operation go up to the farm early in the morning and often stay well into the evening—it is a genuine labor of love and service to the family without which the herculean labor of love and service of our farmers would go to waste.
So, that’s the farm and food report for the week! Elsewise, our applicants have gone on pilgrimage to Quebec City, where they will visit the saints of Quebec who founded the Church in this country, and go through the holy doors at the cathedral there. It has become something of a tradition that the first-year applicants do something of this nature at this time of year, coming back from the trip no longer first-year, but second year, ready to greet the new applicants who will be joining them on September 8.
Odds and ends: the men in the maintenance department have been doing lots of small repairs around the place. Those who know MH remember all the little railings that surround our lawns and parking lots—they had all gotten pretty time-worn, and are all being replaced with new logs. The place looks great. The shops continue to be busy, and the ‘hospitality department’ (aka, whoever is around the house to receive and give tours to stray visitors!) is in demand just about every day.
As always, I’m sure there are virtually dozens of things going on in MH that I am simply unaware of, but that’s all I can think of for this week. Know that you are in my prayers, and that all of us here are very much aware of and interceding for the world in these troubled times, and offering up the work of our hands and our hearts for the restoration of peace and for all the victims of violence and hatred in our days.