This week in Madonna House was not a normal quiet week. Anything but, really. We were very blessed this week with the visit of the papal nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, who came for 24 hours over the weekend.
The papal nuncio is the official representative of the Holy Father in Canada, both representing him as a sort of ambassador to the Canadian government, and being his eyes and ears and liaison to the Canadian Church. So this was an event of some importance and a certain excitement for us.
He arrived just at lunch time on Saturday, and participated in the spiritual reading afterwards. Then Fr. David May, the director general of the priests, and one of the lay woman staff gave him a thorough tour of the place, going up to the farm, to the handicraft centre, to St. Mary’s, to Catherine’s cabin. In the evening he met with the three directors general. Sunday he was the celebrant for our community Mass, then stayed at St. Mary’s for brunch. He stuck around for a little while afterwards, just visiting informally with people, and left in the early afternoon.
It was all very informal and low key and friendly. Archbishop Bonazzi is a quiet, gentle man, very observant and very much interested in people above all—no matter where we took him, his entire focus was on the people there and their stories. He was impressed at the wide range of ages here—from our elderly members in wheel chairs to the very young guests and applicants. He was also impressed and surprised at what an international community MH is, with guests from Korea, Brazil, Australia, and all over Canada and the USA (in point of fact, we are actually less international than usual at this point, and quite often have quite a few more countries represented. Europe, where art thou?).
Upon leaving, he told us that he really came here just to breathe the fresh air, and that we were that air for him. He also had encountered us previously in our house in the Yukon, and so had a good idea of what we do in our missions. He told us that we should open a Madonna House in every city in Canada. To which Susanne, our DG of women, replied, ‘Well, pray for vocations, then!’
At any rate, it was good to have such affirmation and friendly support from high places. Somebody mentioned to him that I have a blog, so Your Grace, if you are reading this, please know that you are welcome in our home any time you need to breathe that fresh air again. God bless you!
Besides that, what else happened? Snow happened, of course, as it has for much of North America this week, and so out come the snow shovels, plows, snow blowers… all the gear of winter. The ‘bush crew’ – the men who work at harvesting our forest fire wood and lumber – are in full swing, doing the heavy labor of felling, limbing, and bucking up trees in various locations.
St. Raphael’s, our handicraft centre, is abuzz these days. We built a wood-fired pottery kiln this summer on the lawn next to St. Germaine’s guest dorm, and it was fired last week for the first time, primarily to cure the cement, but also with a few pots thrown in. This has been a project discussed and planned for many, many years by our potters, and now it is a reality.
There has also been great activity in the handicrafts with Christmas card-making classes. One of our priests makes cards from birch bark and gave a class on that one Sunday; another of the staff gave a class on other card-making techniques. And of course the early Christmas baking is already starting—we are a big family, and it takes a lot of work and organization to prepare the extra traditional foods of the feast in advance. I’m already scratching my head a bit trying to figure out when to make what has developed as my annual contribution to the feast—200-300 butter tarts, made with a little help from my friends (whoever shows up to help roll out the dough).
Besides that, what else? We had a couple of meetings to plan out the dates and themes of next year’s summer program, so that we could print up posters and brochures to send to various campus ministries and student events. There have been a number of transfers of staff in the last while (those who get our newspaper Restoration can read the details there), which always makes for a certain flurry of activity as people shift jobs and train replacements and others arrive back from their mission assignments to Combermere.
There’s been quite a lot else going on in the various corners of MH—really, for the ‘quiet’ time of year, we do manage to keep awfully busy. Know that we are offering it all up for the world and for the Church, and that all of it is blessed in that offering.