This week in Madonna House, I was actually away from the place most of the week. I was off giving a parish mission in this guy’s parish up in the north-east corner of the Pembroke diocese. I am very much in my talks-retreats-missions season of the year, and much of my time is taken up with getting ready for the next one and the one after that, while keeping up with my spiritual direction and other priestly duties. What is for most a quieter time in MH is factually one of my busier times of the year.
Meanwhile in MH, much is of a sameness from the prior instalments of this column. We continue to have a small number of guests, giving our life a quieter and more intimate feel. The work for the men has largely revolved around dealing with winter—lots of snow removal, path shovelling, wood sheds to fill. We mostly heat and cook with wood, and this is the season to be working in ‘the bush’, cutting down the trees needed for firewood and lumber for future seasons. It takes two years for the wood to cure properly for efficient burning, so this season’s wood will be burnt in 2017.
For the women, too, it is a time of year to simply keep things going. As I always say, there are perpetually meals to cook, laundry to do, office work and so forth. The handicraft center is a bit busier at this time of year than in the more outdoors seasons, and they are busy making the candles for our liturgies from all the donations of wax stubs and ends we get.
It is still a season of sickness as well, and our nurses have been kept busy enough with the various flus and other ailments. As our community ages, a certain amount of work is involved with the very simple needs of driving people to and from medical appointments and so forth.
We are getting ready for our winter staff study sessions, where we take a couple of hours on Friday afternoon to stop working and learn about some subject or other. This year, we will be looking together at various aspects of consecrated life in the Church, in response to Pope Francis declaring this year of consecrated life.
For fun, the skating rink has been a great draw this year, and there aren’t too many evenings or Sunday afternoons that do not see a crowd out there playing hockey or practicing their figure skating moves. We’ve also been having weekly documentary films in the evening on a wide variety of subjects in MH basement, calling it the ‘Basement University.’ This week’s instalment was on fractals, and someone wisecracked that it was the single nerdiest thing they have ever experienced at MH. I am not a mathematical type whatsoever, and was still away at the mission at that point. Attempts to explain to me what fractals are and why they are important met, I am sorry to say, with complete failure.
Also in the category of ‘fun’, for our post-lunch communal spiritual reading we are reading Fr. Eddie Doherty’s Cricket in My Heart, his autobiography covering more or less his meeting, wooing, and wedding Catherine Doherty, their coming to Combermere to start MH, and ending with his ordination to the priesthood in the Melkite rite. Eddie is a masterful and very funny writer, and this has been a nice light reading in what has been a somewhat heavy time (illness, death of Fr. Duffy, etc.).
It has also been a great chance for our younger members to get to know Eddie and connect with that history of the apostolate in a different way. Sadly, the book is out of print right now, so I can’t recommend it to you for purchase. (Edited to add: some of my faithful readers have pointed out that used copies are available, both at Amazon and at this link. Thanks, faithful readers!)
So I guess that’s about it for the weekly recap—at least the best I can do, given that I wasn’t even here this week! As always, know that as we go about our simple ordinary Nazareth life, we keep you all and the whole world in our prayers and hearts.