This week in Madonna House was mostly about winter and spring.
Winter, in that a massive dump of snow on Wednesday, on top of a similar massive dump of snow the previous week, meant that a fair amount of work time went to digging ourselves out and keeping everyone moving and safe. It’s really pretty here right now—vast mountains of the white stuff in all directions, and some gorgeous sunny weather to set it off quite nicely.
Spring, in that the thermometer is actually starting to climb noticeably (although the overnight low has been around -30 C several nights this week). Warmer days are coming, and that means one thing and one thing only. You got it—maple syrup time.
And so our bold men and their small army of helpers strapped on their snowshoes and began breaking trails, running lines, and putting in the taps in our sugar bush. The temperatures in the forecast are such that the bush should start running this week, and so there we are—off to another season of boiling down and sugaring off.
Besides the actual harvesting of this crop, which along with honey from our bees is our principal sweetener, the sugar bush is quite a place of apostolic hospitality and community life—there is a happy busy spirit about the place, and many of the guests and others gravitate up there on a Sunday afternoon to help collect the sap and generally hang out.
It’s a good thing, too, that we have this, as our guest numbers have taken a little climb upwards these last weeks. The women’s dorm, in particular, is close to full, and there are a number of men guests here, too. Always great to have them.
They continue to have their Wednesday morning class on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and are currently having three classes on the Church’s moral teachings. Staff continue their own winter study programs, which will end this week. We had a special class this week; one of our guests is a trained geologist and gave us an evening lecture on ‘Rocks and the stories they tell us’. You just never know who is going to walk through the MH blue doors next, and what skills and knowledge they will bring to the community. It was from all accounts a fascinating lecture.
Lent continues, and with Lent, the preparations for Easter. Pysanky—Ukranian Easter eggs—are being made, and classes on how to make them are offered each Sunday at our handicraft building St. Raphael’s. We follow the ancient folk belief of the Slavic people that the making of pysanky pushes back the forces of darkness in the world by proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ—certainly this year we are conscious of much darkness that needs pushing back.
The Easter bread koolitch is being made in advance of the feast, and the schola is hard at work practicing the music for the special liturgies of the Triduum and Easter itself. Lent is also a season when the MH priests go out and about doing things. Myself and another priest are out doing parish missions this week (mine is in the local area), while another is giving the Pembroke diocesan women’s retreat this weekend. In related news, a group went down to the Lift Jesus Higher charismatic conference in Toronto with a book table.
The biggest news of course (save the best for last!), is that the women’s department of MH has reached sobornost, that is, unanimous balloting, in electing a new director general. Susanne Stubbs, who has served with great generosity in that position for twelve years, will end her term of office on November 2, and Elizabeth Bassarear will begin a four-year tenure serving the family in that capacity. It is always a moment of great joy and of great awe when we come to that point of unity which is so much the heart of the MH vocation and spirit. Pray for both these women, as they enter this time of transition and ‘passing on’ of things.
And that’s about it for now… I think. As always, much goes on in this place that I don’t have a clue about. It’s a big place! Know that in all of it, always, we are lifting up prayers and supplication and offering our lives for the world and for each one of you.