This week in Madonna House was largely taken up with the harvest, one way or another. The onions have been pulled from the ground and lay some days in the field to dry – it has been a good year for them. We also harvested the squash. Sweet corn and tomatoes have been on the menu almost every day. The apple harvest, such as it is, is ongoing (a late frost back in May was devastating to the blossoms). Food processors have been busy with all of the above as well as some peppers and tomatoes that we buy from Southern Ontario.
The annual ‘chicken bee’ went off without a hitch. This is our work bee to slaughter, pluck, gut and freeze the outgoing flock of birds so as to make room for the incoming pullets. Speaking of bees, the honey harvest also has occurred in recent days, and was all right – not a really big year, but not a bust year, either.
Heritage Fest was last weekend. What is Heritage Fest, you may ask? It is our annual craft festival, held over Labor Day weekend, where we open to the public that aspect of our lives. It has become a very popular event in the valley, especially for families. We have displays of all sorts of crafts, many of them interactive—wood carving, felting, pottery, origami, rope making, weaving. We have ice cream being made on the spot, and a bee keeping booth with samples of honey comb. There is face painting, balloon animals, and a puppet show for the kids, and live music for everyone. Of course the shops are all open and our pioneer museum.
It really is a beautiful thing, and while an awful lot of work to put together at an already busy time of year, it is fun, too. One of the highlights this year was the successful firing of our new wood-fired kiln for pots. This is kind of a big deal—the project of building this kiln was some years in the making, and it turns out to be quite a technical feat to successfully fire pots with wood. The interior temperature of the kiln has to read 1300 C, which requires no small amount of know how, and if it doesn’t reach that temperature, the pots are spoiled.
Since upwards of 70 pots are being fired at a time, you can imagine the tension of our potters as they worked at this, especially as it initially seemed that the kiln had not reached that temperature. But the kiln was opened Saturday afternoon, and all was more than well – the pots are beautiful. All these crafts end up sold in our mission shop with the money going to the poor of the world, so it all combines the rigors and joys of artistic creation with real and direct charity for the most needy.
The real harvest of the week, though, came on September 8, the feast of the Nativity of Mary. This is the day when we receive new applicants, men and women seeking to join MH and entering their time of formation and discernment. We have five this year—three women, two men—and received them at supper in a simple ceremony where they are presented with a cake adorned with a stark cross, signifying our vocation which is a sharing in the Cross of Christ, but which we find to be sweet once we embrace it.
Then they are presented each with the ‘brown folder’, a collection of essential writings of Catherine Doherty on the MH vocation and spirit. This brown folder is really important; it is for all of us our permanent reference and constant touchstone for questions about our life and spirit. After supper the new applicants meet with the three directors general of MH for a time of free flowing questions and discussion, which this year apparently went quite late in the evening!
Anyhow, they are a lively and lovely group of young adults (as always, blog protocol prevents me from mentioning their names!), and we are grateful to have them. Catherine always called applicants ‘SSGA’s – Sure Signs of God’s Approval! I hope and trust that is true; at any rate, we are glad for their presence with us.
So that’s the main events of the week, packed as it is with many other incidents and work. Coming back from holidays as I was this week, I was struck by the beauty and richness of our life here—not a richness of luxury and comfort, but of people, joy, love. It really is a ‘harvest’ time, but the real harvest is the grace, the prayer, the life of the community flowing down from God and up to God as an offering for the world, the Church, and for each one of you. Know you are in our prayers, always.