This week in Madonna House was a quiet one, as these things go. The weather, while unseasonably warm earlier in the week, was for the most part deeply overcast. As I write this it is raining and windy, and the remaining autumn leaves are flying fast off the trees. The warmth has fled, and all over MH wood stoves are being lit more and more, the curl of smoke arising from houses and cabins in all directions.
The farm is heading into the final tasks of the growing season--with the butchering all done last week, this week was meat-cutting, fat-rendering, bones cooked down to soup stock. The last of the root crops are coming in, and there is a general sense on the farm of the page being turned, another chapter ended, and the next chapter--a wintry one--yet to be opened.
At the main house we mostly spent the week waiting around. Our main septic field needs to be overhauled--tank and lines replaced--and this will shut down the house, and particularly the kitchen, for the day. The plan (and I devoutly hope to be able to tell you how it worked next week) is that we will all have lunch, Mass, and supper together at St. Mary's on the day it happens. While this is quite manageable, really (it's just a matter of 40-70 people being fed in a different location), the difficulty has been (home owners will know what I'm talking about) that the contractors have been unable to tell us exactly what day they are coming.
So it was supposed to be Tuesday... and then it was Thursday... or maybe Friday... and now it is Monday. Of course this has meant the kitchen has had to plan its menus and its work under rather difficult circumstances! A case of literally not knowing where our next meal is coming from. So it's been 'one of those weeks' - lots of Plans A, B, and C, and associated schedules and duty rosters to juggle in consequence.
However, the real important events in MH this week were two in number. First, we had Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday. While we don't do the full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, we had a lovely meal, and everyone had gathered to make apple pies beforehand. One of the women had cut out 'leaves' from coloured paper, and we were invited to write down something we were thankful for and pin it onto a large display board. Alongside what one might expect to see--'God', 'my faith', 'the Eucharist'--there were some quirky ones: 'the bats in the Craigmont caves, which means we have a healthy eco-system,' for example.
Personally, I had a hard time narrowing it down. As I explained in the homily that evening, it's not that I'm not grateful for anything, but that it's genuinely hard for me to think of anything I'm not grateful for. I finally settled on the Scriptural formula: 'the heavens, the earth, the seas and what fills them.' Otherwise, we had some lovely readings at Lauds, at our post-lunch spiritual reading, and at supper where one of the guests dressed up as Eddie Doherty, Catherine's husband, and read in a passably good imitation of him from one of his books about the beauty of creation and his joy in it.
The other event was on Wednesday, October 15. This is the Foundation Day of our apostolate, commemorating Catherine's first going into the slums of Toronto to live with the poor and serve them. This was the rock-bottom beginnings of our apostolate, before there was even a community joining her, and long before there were promises or structures or anything of the kind. Just a woman in her late 30s giving everything she owned away to the poor and moving into a ratty little room in a Toronto slum street. She didn't know what she was doing; she had the words God had given her that we now call the Little Mandate, and not much else.
So we heard about this throughout the day. One of our applicants put together a presentation of some of her recollections and stories from those early days. The library put up a display which included a diorama someone made of that little room she started in with its bare brown walls and a few nails for her clothes to hang on. Another version of Thanksgiving for us, following on the first.
So that's about it for us this week. Our numbers of guests remains small, which makes it both a quieter time on one level, and a busier time on another (fewer hands to do the work). But in all of it, please know that we pray for you, for the world, for the Church, and for all God's children to be united in praise, thanksgiving, and faithfulness in his service.