Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Week in Madonna House - July 19-26

I was genuinely sorry to not be able to write this end-of-week wrap up last week, due to the fact that I wasn't here and couldn't tell you what all went on in MH. I felt bad about it, because we are really having an extraordinary summer here this year, and I really wish I could tell you everything that's going on here without missing any of it.

The house continues to be packed full of guests, a constant stream of people coming in and out. This in itself is not unusual for the summer here especially, but we have all been struck this year not just with the quantity of guests, but with their quality. At the risk of embarrassing any of our recent guests who may read this, the 40 or so guests who have been with us these past weeks are uniformly lively, engaged, interested, keen, energetic.

A good example was the last Saturday night seminar, a question and answer session with the three directors-general of MH, Susanne Stubbs, Mark Schlingerman, and Fr. David May. This is a summer institution in our community, established by Catherine Doherty from the tumultuous 1960s on, to allow guests to ask just about anything they want of the directors of the apostolate. It is usually not boring, and it's always good to see the real questions people have. Last week's though, could have gone on well into the night, as hands were shooting up in the air continually. From the humorous and somewhat plaintive 'why did God create mosquitoes?' to the heartfelt 'why does God allow abortion to continue?' and 'so why can't women be priests, anyhow?', to serious questions about discernment and hearing God's voice, the questions just kept on coming and coming.

Last week's theme had been on discernment and hearing God's voice, and from all accounts all the talks had been stellar on the question. This week the theme was on the mystery of suffering and joy. I was the presenter for the Wednesday evening class and basically presented Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris, which in my view is just about the best thing ever written on the subject.

My own schedule unfortunately prevented me from hearing the other talks this week, but I heard they were quite good. The week concluded last night at our Friday fast night supper with 'Rewind', a chance for the guests to share their thoughts on the talks they heard, followed by an optional holy hour in the chapel.

Another noteworthy events of the week was our annual summer day of recollection, held this past Monday. We have three of these days throughout the year, generally on Catherine Doherty's annivesary of death in December and on February 2, the feast of the Presentation, and then this one. The summer one is essentially due to our sense that this season in MH is one of intense activity and work--besides all the summer program stuff, there is a ton of work to be done on the farm, in the shops, in the gardens, at Cana, and so forth. So, just to communicate to our guests that we are not all about work here, and to communicate that to ourselves as well, we have this day of silence and prayer together in the heart of our busiest season.

The theme this year was on the importance of silence in the spiritual life. Fr. Blair Bernard gave an excellent homily about that at the Mass, and Fr. David May gave an equally excellent conference on it in the afternoon. Otherwise, we were simply silent, with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and lots of time to pray, read, and rest in the Lord together. For me, these days always pass all too quickly, and by the time Vespers and Benediction rolls around I'm nowhere near done revelling in the beautiful silence of the community together.

So aside from all that, life has been marching along at a pretty good pace here. The early harvests are coming in--snow peas, zucchini, green beans. The first cut of hay is in, and looks pretty good. We really have had exceptional weather this summer--lots of moisture and warmth, but also the spells of dry weather needed for the haying.

There are lots of little things going on in just about every corner of the place, perhaps too many to mention, and many of which I don't know about until I see it happening. The carpenters also have their busy season now, as they do their outside projects, and we have a new women's outhouse in consequence, and a new shed for a wood-fired kiln (we have some superb potters in the community).

Anyhow, it's been a truly grand summer so far, and it's nowhere near over, so I'll be keeping you posted as it goes, and meanwhile be assured of my prayers for all of you and whatever your summer holds.