These weeks in Madonna House have primarily been all about the people. Our guest dorms are full up and the dining room is packed with dozens of guests, mostly short-term ones here for a week or two, and hospitality is the order of the day, every day.
The summer program is continuing to bless us all, with weeks on the themes of “Made For Love: A Christian Anthropology” and “Love Casts Out Fear: Accepting the Risk”. I forget if I’ve mentioned the basic structure of the program. Besides our normal MH life, the primary content of the thing is that MH staff give the post-lunch spiritual reading on Monday and Friday, both at the main house and the farm. Wednesday evening one of the priests gives an hour-long class presentation. Friday at supper there is a chance for our guests to reflect back what they heard during the week, and Saturday is the ever-popular Q & A session with our directors general. Other activities may happen at various points.
For example, one of our men organized a number of the guests in presenting a play based on the Tolstoy short story “Where Love Is, God Is”. This may be known to some people under its alternate title “Martin the Cobbler,” in which the titular character is told in a dream that Christ would visit him that day, spends the day watching at his window with vigilance and so ends up serving various people in need, and is sad at the end of the day that Jesus never came, only to find that He had indeed come, in the people who Martin had served. It was staged simply but very creatively, and as always our guests gave their all in acting out the various characters of the story.
The biggest event of this past week, though, was that the priest giving the Wednesday night class was our own diocesan bishop, Michael Mulhall, who we had invited to come and do something for the program on the off chance that he would be available. He was delighted to come and gave a fine talk on intimacy with Christ, overcoming the passions, and the interior journey to God that is the heart of our life. Better yet, he spent 45 minutes fielding questions from the floor, and was masterful at meeting the young people where they were and giving very good answers to them.
Of course this was the second week in a row that Bp. Mulhall came to MH, as last week’s big event was the funeral of Fr. Thomas Rowland. I was away at the Nazareth family camp and so missed it, but it was a large funeral indeed, with 34 concelebrating priests and our large St. Mary’s chapel full to overflowing. Fr. Tom had been quite an apostolic priest in the diocese of Pembroke, always ready to help out anywhere, and his gregarious personality and warmth won him friends everywhere he went. So they came from all directions to bid him farewell.
His funeral supper, fittingly, began with nachos and salsa (he was Texan!) and ended with ice cream (his favourite!). The memory night—an MH tradition where we gather to share stories about the person in a relaxed familial way—was lively, often quite funny, and touching. All in all, we gave him a good send off, it seems.
Beyond that, life here is in high gear. The first cut of hay is in, a bit earlier than normal for these parts, and we had great dry weather for that job. The gardens are in absolute high gear, and many of the above mentioned guests filling our dorms are spending their days weeding and harvesting. At supper one night, a young woman guest exclaimed excitedly at the sight of the snap peas we were eating: “I helped pick those! This is so awesome!”
At the same time, the shops are full of customers, people show up for tours daily, Cana and Nazareth continue to take up the energies of the priests and (in the case of the former) quite a few of the lay people. The addition to the farmhouse is moving right along, with the trusses being raised this past week. And no doubt there is an awful lot more going on that I am personally not aware of—this is a big place and summer is just packed with activity.
Another facet of life right now in the apostolate is one that I cannot go into great detail about. I have a policy on this blog of (generally) not mentioning names of MH people, on the firm basis that just because I’m choosing to engage in this uber-public work of blogging, they are not and so shouldn’t be plastered all over the internet just because I’m doing this thing.
That being said, a big factor of life in MH right now is that there is a very large number of staff being transferred around right now, including some fairly major changes in houses—new directors being appointed and so forth. I can’t go into the details, but those who receive our paper Restoration can read all about it there. It’s quite a time of transition for many in the apostolate, though. All in the midst of a busy, full, and very lovely summer.
Know that we are praying for all of you through it all, and offering it all up for the world, the Church, and all people.