“For the glory of God, and because I desire with all my heart to respond to the call of Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel with my life, I, N., promise with the help of Our Lady to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience (for one year, two years, forever) according to the Madonna House spirit and mandate.”
Yes, it is June 8, the anniversary of the blessing of the statue of Our Lady of Combermere, and hence Promises Day in MH. This year we are very blessed, with four making first promises and receiving the Pax-Caritas cross, four making final promises and pledging their whole lives to this vocation, and six making temporary renewals here and in our mission houses. God is favouring us with vocations at this time, and it is truly a great and joyous thing.
The house is packed with guests already for the big event—families and friends of the eight firsts and finalists mainly, and there are quite a few coming up just for the day today. There will be a festive Mass, with our bishop Michael Mulhall as the celebrant, followed by a reception. Unfortunately it is looking like a pretty wet and soggy day which will make the reception an indoor (and hence very crowded) affair.
Later on, weather permitting, we will gather at Our Lady of Combermere and pray the rosary together, followed by supper with all the trimmings. Trimmings, in MH language, means such luxury items as… butter… and cream for the coffee… and napkins (!)… and wine. When your daily life is relatively simple and austere, it is amazing how these little touches make for a feast day atmosphere.
I had the great privilege of coordinating the retreat for the promise-making people. I chose the theme, based on the current year of prayer for consecrated life and the coming jubilee year of mercy, of Consecrated to Mercy: A Two-fold Jubilee. That really is what it’s all about. Our MH life, so simple and little and ordinary 95% of the time, is all about making God’s mercy visible.
As I said in my Little Mandate series last week, putting love where there is not love. Expressing that love in a thousand little acts of service and direct care of those God sends us. Doing little things well, and in that building a house of love, a place where God is loved and where people are loved. The Gospel on Saturday, the last day of the retreat, was the widow putting her two coins into the treasury of the temple. It’s that kind of thing—giving all we have right now to create a house for God to live on earth.
We are not alone in this work, of course. It is no part of the MH spirit to pretend that we’re the only people who are doing this kind of thing. All sorts of people lay down their lives every day to build a house of love on the earth.
But it is the only point of MH’s existence to do this, and in a sense we are unique in that we understand that this and this alone is what counts in all of our lives, all our vocations. The parish priest, the consecrated religious, the married couple, the single person living in the world—whatever else they are doing, the value of what they are doing lies in the love they put into it, the love they are bringing into the world by doing what they do. Mercy is the face of God’s love in this world, and that is why the last three popes have put such strong emphasis on this work of mercy.
MH has a certain prophetic quality to it, in that we really have nothing else to offer—our lives are about this, or they really are about nothing at all (it’s a pretty pointless place apart from that, to be quite honest). So pray for our four first promisers and our four finalists, and the six renewers, that they may make their promises with full and sincere hearts, and live them out with ‘the help of Our Lady’, and so restore all things in Christ by their lives of love and service ‘according to the Madonna House spirit and mandate.’