This week in Madonna House was marked by three things basically. First, we had a lovely visit from a priest whose books many of us have been reading to great profit over the last few years, Fr. Michael Gaitley.
He had been in Ottawa for the New Evangelization conference there (which several of our members attended, and sounds like was a roaring success). We had invited him to come here afterwards, just to have some quiet time to rest and restore, and he took us up on it! It seems he has been familiar with MH for some years, and was happy to have a chance to connect with us.
He also brought five men with him who have been under his guidance this year, doing mission work of various kinds while living a communal life of prayer and brotherhood. They all plunged into our MH life with great enthusiasm, and a good time was had by all.
It was also the season for our directors’ meetings to commence, and so the whole week was one of many happy meetings, as the local directors of our various MH mission houses all winged their way here from various corners of the earth in preparation for this time of communal consultation and discernment. From as far away as Krasnoyarsk, Russia and as near as St. Joseph’s house a kilometer down the highway, they came, and the meetings began Thursday with a two-day retreat for all attending.
Otherwise, the big theme of the week is spring, and the attendant work of that season. The weather finally warmed up mid-week, and we are now enjoying daytime highs in the 20s (Celsius, that is, or in the low 70s F). It is nice after the long and very cold winter, but on the other hand we haven’t had any rain so far, and we certainly will need it for the gardens.
And the gardens are going – field work to prepare for planting, and greenhouse work to begin many of the crops—lettuce, broccoli, cabbage. The lambing season finished and was very successful, and of course the final clean up and putting away of the sugar bush was done this week (a smaller year for us on that front, due to the weather patterns).
The gift shops and museum are in high gear getting ready for the summer crowds. For those less familiar with us, these are the shops where we sell the nicer donated items people give us—jewelry, collectibles of various kinds, religious goods, and the like—as well as our own handicrafts and fine art. We also have a pioneer museum to preserve and pass on the heritage of the first settlers in these parts. All of the goods for sale are donated or made here, and every penny we make goes to support the work of missionaries throughout the world.
It is a beautiful vision of transforming the surplus luxury items of our affluent society into bread and clean water, schools and housing and medical care for the desperately poor. We distribute all the funds, not to large impersonal organizations but to specific individuals who are actually on the ground in these countries, working through the local churches there, so there is great accountability and assurance that the money is going directly to meet the needs of the people.
One evening this week we all helped write letters to the different missionaries to accompany the disbursements of money and goods (we also send a lot of books to these places, especially to seminaries and other formation houses in the developing world). This is one of the perhaps hidden works of MH—ironically hidden since of course the shops are the only part of our life that many people see and in fact are quite thronged with people most of the summer. But the fruit of it all is deeply hidden, even to those who work there, and will only be known in heaven.
The other news of the week was the arrival of my new book Idol Thoughts: The Captivity of the Mind and Liberation in Christ, which I will be writing about a bit more on this blog in the weeks ahead. It is on display at the back of the dining room. So far the main concern seems to be the cover. “Who’s the lady on the cover, Fr. Denis?” “Uh, Petrarch’s wife.” “Why is she on the cover of your book?” “I have no idea. But her head appears to be on fire.” “….?” “Like, her thoughts are, ummm, out of control, and she’s, like, burning up? I think?”
Anyhow, nobody’s actually gotten to the point of reading the book, so that’s the extent of its critical reception thus far. And that’s more or less the news from MH this week. Lots else going on, but that’s the high points as far as I’m aware!