This week in Madonna House was a pretty ordinary one, all things considered. By far the most striking feature of our lives these days has been the quite wonderfully large group of young guests who have come to share at least part of the winter with us.
They keep coming – several more arrived this week, and it seems like there are a few more in the offing. Guests are not such a strange novelty for MH, to say the least. We always have some guests, after all, and have even had winters with a good number like this. It is more the constant stream arriving, and the overall quality of youth, energy, and good spirits among the ones here, that is striking all of us.
In other words, we are having a typical MH summer… in November. But hey, there’s still room for more, so all you young adults out there, finding yourself at a loose end or whatever—come to MH for the winter! It is (apparently) the happening place to be.
The guest experience at MH is a pretty simple one. We have minimal ‘programs’ here. This time of year I am offering this course on Wednesday mornings, but other than that, it is just ‘y’all come and do whatever we’re doing here!’ It has been our consistent experience that people just coming and living our way of life, praying and working alongside us, has been the most formative and transformative ‘program’ we can offer.
So they live in dorms, eat our simple plain food, do manual labor, enjoy free time in the evenings and one afternoon a week… all very simple and ordinary and seemingly not too interesting. But… well, all we can say is that God acts, and that people have the most powerful and life changing experiences here. As our venerable staff worker Mamie Legris used to say, we don’t figure it out: “We pour the tea and God does the rest.”
So what ‘tea’ have we poured this week? The addition to the farm house is starting to look less like a construction site and more like someone’s home—the drywalling is done, the electrical outlets and switches are going in, and it really is starting to look like a finished project – at least it’s getting there. This will provide much needed extra living room for our crowded farmers.
They have been doing the fall field work—manuring the fields, plowing one of the hay fields under for spring planting, getting a massive boulder out of one of the pastures. It is almost time to start the winter ‘bush crew’ – the men who work in our thickly forested uncleared land to cut down trees and chop them up, providing the firewood we will burn in two years’ time (that’s how long it takes to cure the wood properly). So there are lots of little shifts in the men’s department to free up a certain number of people to do this vital heavy work.
Giant piles of leaves are everywhere we look, the fruit of many hours of raking. These provide an important element in our composting, so another job lies ahead of hauling them to the compost pile to let nature do its thing with them.
Advent and Christmas are really not that far away, and our handicraft center St. Raphael’s has begun holding classes on creative Christmas card making techniques. Since I am the original uncrafty person, I cannot tell you more than that…
We continue to listen to that course on St. Francis and his world for our post-lunch spiritual reading, and most people seem to be enjoying it quite a bit. It’s quite a different thing for us to listen to a series recorded university lectures for this aspect of our lives, and we probably wouldn’t do it as a general thing, but this particular course is really good and provides much material for reflection on the Franciscan spirit and how to live it out, along with a wealth of historical detail around it. The Franciscan charism is an important one for MH, as Catherine Doherty was much influenced by it from her earliest childhood and very much considered herself a spiritual daughter of St. Francis.
Well, that’s about it for this week, I guess. As I always say, there’s lots more happening here right now – I just don’t know about it! And I’m just as happy about that, as I do have quite enough going on in my own little corner of the place. Do know that as we go about our simple and really very ordinary life here, we are continually praying for you all and for our world at this time.