This week in Madonna House has been marked by death and bloodshed and much butchery. It has been a very peaceful and lovely week!
Yes, once again it has been the season of the ‘meat harvest’, the slaughtering, butchering, and meat cutting of the various sheep and cows who will be among our main sources of protein this coming year. We don’t eat a ton of meat in MH, but what we do eat is from our own farm, and is brought to the table by the labor of our own hands.
It is always a good experience for at least some of our guests who are city people to see the process by which a live animal is turned into first a carcass and then cuts of meat in the freezer. A reality check, call it. So many people in the world today are a bit removed from the basic facts of life a more agricultural society took for granted.
Besides being a major part of our harvest season, the butchering season also signifies that the farm is entering its ‘end game’ for the 2014 growing season. The root crops are coming in, as well as the cabbage, and these are the last to be reaped before the snow flies. The women who have done Herculean service in the food processing department are entering their final weeks before taking a well deserved rest. It has been a good year, a bountiful year, and we are very grateful for it as we enter this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
Another mark of change of season has been the initiation of our fall program this past Wednesday. What is the fall program, you ask? In part, it is the beginning of the Spiritual Formation Program that we have run as a service to the larger Church for over thirty years now. Young men who are discerning the priesthood come and live with us for six months, as a time of spiritual and human formation. They simply live our life, for the most part, but have classes and time for study and prayer one day a week.
This year we have a small group—the smallest possible—with just two men in the program. Wednesday is their class day, and in the morning we offer a class for all the guests on the Fundamentalsof the Spiritual Life, taught by myself. The course itself was developed by Fr. Robert Sharkey OP, now deceased, who was a priest of great distinction, wisdom, and (I believe) holiness, and who is really responsible for the high quality of the course content. I say that so that I can give myself permission to shamelessly promote the CD set and the MP3s we sell of the course to you all. It is a seriously good course on the basic verities and fundamental structures of life in Christ.
So every Wednesday morning the guests all gather for this class, and have time afterwards for personal prayer and study. While the other guests return to their work in the afternoon, the men in the program have a second class in the afternoon—this year, they are beginning with a course on Mary—and have further time for study and prayer.
Our experience over the past 30 years has been that the Spiritual Formation Program has been a tremendous grace in the lives of those who have participated in it. Those who have gone on to seminary and priesthood have credited it with truly helping them begin their priestly lives on solid ground; those who have discerned other vocations (we have quite a roster of married men among our alumni!) also have found it to be a good formation for their lives.
Besides all of that, I suppose the other news of the week is that our three directors general have departed for their annual vacation. This has an impact on my life, anyhow, as I am Fr. David May’s ‘second’, and have certain additional responsibilities when he is away.
As usual in this weekly column, I am quite certain that there is lots else happening in MH that I am simply not present for and not aware of—it is a big place with lots of little corners filled with all sorts of different activity. Please know that, as we go about all the tasks of our daily lives, we are uniting all of it in prayer for you all and for our poor world and all its troubles at this time. May we all have the grace to do just that, and be faithful to everything God is asking of us.