This week in Madonna House was characterized by piles of earth heaped high, various heavy machinery driving in and out, and general mess. The long awaited new septic tank arrived for the main house on Monday, and so the great upheaval occurred at last.
The job went remarkably smoothly (for those reading this who know MH well, the area involved was St. Joseph’s garden on the side of the building, next to St. Clare’s), thanks in no small part to our own men working in close conjunction with the contractors. It did mean that there was no functional plumbing for the day in the main house, so we all trooped down to St. Mary’s, our community down the road, for lunch, Mass, and supper.
All is done now and in good order, although of course there will be quite a bit of landscaping yet to do to restore that area of our gardens to order and beauty.
Besides that, it was kind of an ordinary week. The farm is really moving into its winter work now, as the food processors finished up their last jobs—making sauerkraut, reducing bones to soup stock—and the woman who oversees that operation is now doing her records and paperwork before going on a much deserved holiday. The garden harvest has finally come to an end—quite late this year—and the man upon whose shoulders that big job rests will also be taking a break soon.
I noticed this week—teaching them a class as I do—that our guests right now are quite an international crowd. In fact, at the moment we only have one Canadian with us—the rest are Americans, with individuals here from South Korea, Brazil, Trinidad, Australia, and New Zealand. It’s not unusual to have people from all around the world, really, but the scarcity of Canadians is rather odd. O Canada, where art thou?
Mind you this all changed briefly on Thursday when we were invaded by nearly the entire population of Holy Spirit seminary in Ottawa. This is the Ukrainian Catholic seminary, with whom we have extremely friendly relations. Their rector is particularly close to us. This is the second year in a row (“That makes it a tradition!”, I told him) that they have come for a weekend immersion experience in MH life, living in the guest dorms, working (yay, we got the carrots harvested!), and praying with us.
The relationship of MH to Eastern Christianity goes deep, having its most profound root in our foundress’ own Russian heritage and Orthodox childhood, but also the presence in our community for many years of Archbishop Joseph Raya of Lebanon. We believe that MH spirituality is essentially an Eastern Christian spirituality being lived by a bunch of mostly Western Roman Catholics, which is no small thing to say, I realize. Catherine brought us, and taught us, so much along these lines, more than I can go into right now.
So we are always glad to strengthen our bonds with the Eastern churches in Canada and elsewhere. The same day the Ukrainians arrived we also had the blessing of four Jesuit scholastics from Toronto stopping in for Mass and supper. They were on their way to a retreat in Ottawa, one of them has family in the area, and wanted his brother SJs to see MH on their way.
The connection of our apostolate to the Jesuits is one of the more hidden ones, but it is very real. Catherine had Jesuit spiritual directors at various points in her earlier life, and the discipline and order of the Ignatian spiritual tradition formed her well in her youth. So it is always nice to have a little Jesuit connection.
Outside of that, it has been a week of cooler weather (some bad colds going around in the community, including me) and a quieter spirit to things. And, of course, in all this we carried deeply in our prayers the events in Canada this week, the attack on our Parliament buildings and the death of the two soldiers at the hands of unbalanced extremists.
We join you all for praying for peace in our world at this time, and for the healing of the wounds and spiritual sicknesses that are at the root of the violence of our times. May God show us the way to a more loving and merciful world.