Thursday, May 1, 2014

This Week in Madonna House - April 23-30

Last week in Madonna House was, of course, the rich and very beautiful days of the Triduum and the Easter feast. This week we were happy to get back to something more like our regular rhythm of life. As a result, it was something of an ‘ordinary’ week here.

One highlight of the week was the conclusion of our annual spiritual formation program for young men considering the priesthood. This runs from October-Easter each year, and has done so for over 30 years. It mostly involves the men simply coming and being part of our communal life, like any other guest who comes here. They have one day a week where they have extra classes, study and prayer time, a weekly meeting with the program’s coordinator Fr. Tom Zoeller, and various other events throughout the year.

There were four young men in the program this year, and they always conclude their time with us by making a short speech reflecting on their experience. It’s always a bit of a shot in the arm for us to hear our guests reflect on their experience of MH—we have a policy of not asking people personal questions while they are here with us, and often the work of God in people’s lives is quite hidden, so when they share with us what’s happened to them and the graces they have received from being here, it’s a good encouragement. And the four men who spent the winter with us did, in fact, receive many graces.

That being said, they all left the next day… as did almost all the other guests! This is not unusual for the post-Easter season—in the summer we tend to have lots of people come for shorter visits, while in the winter we have a smaller number come and stay long-term. Easter is the time, then, for the winter crowd to leave… and leave they did, with a small handful of guests remaining.

Apparently the guest list is full for the next months, and our dorms will be filling up again. Such is life in an international training center for the lay apostolate. They come and they go… and they come again, and go again…

Meanwhile, we are in a definite change of season which is impacting the work quite a bit. Winter appears to have finally released its grip on the land. Buds are appearing on the trees, and (alas) bugs are appearing as well. My own personal gauge of springtime is when I decide it’s warm enough to do spiritual direction with people sitting outside on the tea dock. A few shivers aside, we appear to have reached that milestone.

Meanwhile spring brings a lot of outside work. The gardeners are busy pulling mulch off the flower beds, and the farmers are busy with the spring field work, preparing our seven acres of vegetable gardens for the planting time. The baby lambs are all born at the farm and are doing their baby lamb thing, leaping around adorably, etc. Lettuce has been planted in the greenhouse (I actually got to help with that this year, which I love—I used to work in the gardens, and until recently went to the farm one day a week to help out). The arrival of ‘real spring’ also means the end of our maple syrup season. The taps have been pulled and the cleanup of buckets, lids, and lines is underway as we speak. It ended up being a decent enough year in spite of the extremely late spring, and so we have enough syrup for our needs here (whew!).

Spring also means the arrival in Combermere of all the ‘local directors’—those given the responsibility of leadership in our various mission houses. These houses are as follows: in Canada, Rimouski QC, Ottawa, Combermere, Toronto, Windsor ON, Regina SK, Edmonton AB, Vancouver BC, and Whitehorse, Yukon; in the USA, Washington DC, Roanoke VA, Raleigh NC, Alpena MI, and Winslow AZ; elsewhere, Carriacou West Indies, Robin Hood’s Bay UK, Resteigne Belgium, and Krasnoyarsk Russia.

We all meet, these local directors, the three directors general of the whole community, and some others of us stationed here in Combermere, for roughly the first three weeks in May to pray, discuss, listen, and pray some more about the apostolate, what God is doing in it now and what He might wish us to do in the immediate future.

It is an exercise in unity, prayer, listening, docility, and trust in God and one another. And that’s what I will be involved in for the next three weeks, starting today. Those of you reading this who know and love MH can remember us in your prayers. And that’s what  is happening here in Madonna House this week, at least as far as I can remember.


  1. I was only there for a week, but it feels like a childhood home that I miss. I wish I had been there for the lambing!

    1. Yes, we get that a lot! Well, you'll just have to come back, then. Meanwhile, isn't it great that I'm coming in August!!!!!!!!!

  2. Great post, Fr. Denis. It is nice to hear that the sugarbush crew had a successful season (although they always seem to...) and that Spring is bringing a new load of work for MH. My prayers are with you and the directors as you endeavour towards sobornost. Cheers and blessings!

    1. Thanks, Cameron. Well, Fr. Louis really does know what he's doing out there in the bush, which actually does make a big difference (competence matters - who woulda thunk?).


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