Saturday, February 28, 2015

This Week in Madonna House, February 21-27

Well, I'm writing this from Mississauga, Ontario, a rather booming city flush next to Toronto, where I am going to be giving a parish mission this coming week at St. Ignatius of Loyola parish. I am grateful for all prayers for that event.

Our week at MH continued to be marked by fairly severe cold--it was -35 C when I got up yesterday, and while that's the coldest we've hit, it's been pretty much down in that range almost every day for the past month. So, lots of the work for the men in particular has been at the most basic level of keeping the place warm by delivering loads of firewood to pretty much all of our buildings. This is of course the season to be providing the firewood for next winter as well, so a crew of guys are out in the bush, felling, bucking, sorting, chopping, so that the wood will have a full year to dry before we burn it.

It is worth mentioning that MH works the bush in an environmentally sensitive way. We have enough forested property that we never have to clear-cut, or even come anywhere near to that, but simply rotate around the various locations culling the mature trees so that the younger ones have room to grow. If you know what you're doing, and do it right (and our men are very experienced and capable in this matter) you can harvest firewood from the bush forever. It is... what's the word... oh yeah, sustainable.

So that's going on. Lent continues its course among us. We have among our guests a young woman who is not baptized and has requested to be received into the Church this Easter here. So we began the formal rites of the RCIA this past Sunday with the Rite of Election. It is a simple, but very beautiful ritual, whereby the Church, in the person of the celebrant of the rite, formally declares that this person has been chosen ('elected') to be a candidate for baptism, confirmation, and eucharist at the coming Easter Vigil.

This is always a great joy for us in MH, recalling us to our own baptismal commitment as we journey as a community with this person. Unlike the parish setting where you see the catechumen(s) on Sunday and may not see them otherwise unless you are personally involved with them or the program, we get to spend the whole week working, eating, recreating alongside our catechumen. So we have lots of chances to either help the catechumen with our good example... or not, as the case may be!

We are reading a wonderful new book for spiritual reading. Well, new to us anyhow--the book dates from 1978. It is To Believe in Jesus, by Ruth Burrows, the English Carmelite author. She writes in deliberately provocative style about the nature of faith, the reality that we quite often do not believe what we say we believe, since our lives do not show forth the works faith should engender, and goes into the profound mystery of who Jesus is and what it means to put our trust in him. It is all written in the elegant and accessible English prose those familiar with Burrows' writings would expect. It has certainly been provoking good discussion and reflection among us, and I recommend the book highly.

Our Directors General--Susanne Stubbs, Mark Schlingerman, Fr. David May--have left on visitation to three of our mission houses, the 'Eastern houses' as we call them of Washington DC, Roanoke VA, and Raleigh NC. Meanwhile I am not the only priest running about doing missions and such. Lent is the season for such things, and so one of my brothers is giving a weekend to the seminarians of St. Augustine's in Toronto while another is giving a diocesan women's retreat in nearby Maynooth.

I should mention in closing that this week in Madonna House I am being relieved of one of my jobs (and yes, the word 'relief' is quite appropriate in this context!), in that I am completing my term as the assistant to the director general of priests, and being replaced in that capacity by one of my brother priests. I'll still be his replacement for the times when both he and Fr. May are away, but otherwise I have one less thing to worry about now.

And there were a few transfers announced this week--staff being moved from one house to another--but since it is my policy to not mention names of MH people on this blog, you'll have to read about it elsewhere, those of you who know the community personally.

And that's about it - still a fairly quiet and indoorsy time of year in MH with the late winter cold and all that. Easter preparations are looming, mind you, and spring is (at times) in the air even in the midst of the deep freeze. Know that we keep you all in our prayers, always, and the whole world waiting for the great Spring of hope and love that it needs so badly.


  1. I too was formed and received into the Catholic Church through the MH community... arriving May 31 (The Visitation). and being baptized Sept 14 (Triumph of The Cross). followed by an act of public consecration to Our Lady on Sept 15 (Our Lady of sorrows). I was a vagabond... a wayward son, Loved and received into the faith which has marked every aspect of my life for the past 15yrs.

    1. I remember it well. God bless you, and hope you are keeping well.


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