This will be my last blog post for the next week or so, as I am heading on the road again, this time to the Nazareth family camp in St. Gabriel de Brandon, QC. Meanwhile, we had quite a full and rich week here at Madonna House.
Of course the most important thing this week was the death of Msgr. Thomas Rowland, which I wrote about earlier. The funeral is this coming Tuesday (I’m sorry to be missing it), so I don’t have much to add to what I wrote already. But of course a death in the community always focuses the attention of all upon that person, and so little photo displays of Fr. Tom have cropped up in various places, and he has been a topic of many a table conversation.
The other ‘big’ thing this week is the launching of our annual summer program, about which I wrote here. Our theme this year is “Love is Stronger: Hope and Faith in the World Today.” The mini-theme of the first week is “Love Chose Me: The Encounter that Shatters Loneliness”. Talks were given after lunch at the main house and the farm by various people, and yours truly gave a somewhat longer talk on Wednesday evening. Spiritual reading on the non-talk days has revolved around the general theme of love in the Christian life, drawing on Catherine’s writings and talks (it’s not exactly a marginal theme in her opus).
Friday evening at our usual fast supper there was a chance for our guests to reflect on the talks they had heard and what they had gotten from them. This week we had a weeding bee at the farm after that (weeding on an empty stomach - how barbaric!) followed by an evening of music up at the farm, just for fun.
And speaking of guests, I had mentioned a few times in this column that 2015 has been an unusually low year for guests coming to MH. The summer program has worked its mysterious magic on that front, and the walls of MH are bulging outwards with people, seemingly overnight. Honestly, it feels like people just sprung up from the earth, or perhaps they were all hiding in storage sheds and broom closets and sprang out all at once. One day the place was relatively empty, the next day, boom! Full house.
So that’s nice. From my point of view, it’s not that we have a lot of work to do here and our volunteer working guests are helpful with that, although that is no doubt true. But the bigger thing is that our MH life is so rich and beautiful, such a powerful instrument of grace and healing and a dozen other things for so many hundreds of people, that it always disturbs me a bit when our dorms are empty.
Of course the high point of the summer program is the venerable institution in MH of the Saturday Evening Seminar. This dates back to the heady days of the 1960s when youth began to ask questions and challenge authority and all that kind of stuff. Catherine Doherty and one of the MH priests began having a weekly Q&A session for the guests so that all issues could be tabled and hashed out in an open forum.
This has continued ever since, and now it is the three directors general of MH who are on the hot seat each Saturday in the summer to field questions on just about any topic around faith, the Church, MH, and so forth. This past Saturday there were questions about forgiveness, the value of manual labour, praying to saints, and more. This is always a lively and fun evening, and the MH staff get as much out of it as the guests.
Beyond that, MH is abuzz with work of all description. The addition to the farm house is moving along nicely, and the men are also installing an outdoor wood stove there, which will provide heat to several buildings. We have been moving in this direction on a number of our properties, as it seems to be a more efficient and easier way to move with our heating needs.
Meanwhile, gardens are weeded, the shops are full of customers, tours are a daily and sometimes thrice-daily event, and there is simply lots to do in the domestic front of cooking, cleaning, laundry, to keep the good ship MH afloat and habitable.
And with that, this man is going overboard for the next week, so I had better sign off now and get ready to hit the road. Know that all of our work, prayer, and life here is offered up daily for the world and for each of your intentions.