Saturday, February 14, 2015

This Week in Madonna House - February 7-13

It's been another quiet week in MH, mostly characterized by the same severe cold weather much of the north-eastern corner of North America is experiencing. Living out in the country and heating most of our buildings with at least some wood heat, this does make for a certain focus in the work, especially for the men who are very busy these days keeping ahead of the demand. Sheds to fill, and trees to cut down for future seasons' needs.

Lent, and following Lent, Easter is starting to become a focus. One evening in the kitchen we had a sugaring down--turning maple syrup into maple sugar. The process is fascinating. The syrup is heated up to a precise temperature, then taken off the heat and left alone. When it cools to a certain point, crystallization occurs, and at that point, the syrup is stirred gently, so as to stimulate the crystal forming. Eventually the whole mass of syrup becomes a thick, crystallized mass (not unlike wet sand, but still very hot).

At that point there is work for many hands, as the sugar needs to be broken up, pounded, sifted, so as to evaporate all the water from it (otherwise it cools down to a solid brick). The final product is a lovely tan colored granulated sugar, which we will use for the special Easter baking--the koolitch bread which is so central to our celebration of the feast here.

At any rate, all of that feels a long time off as we contend with wind chill temperatures of - 35 C and blowing snow.

This week of the year is also a time to remember our MH history. February 14, Valentine's Day in the rest of the world, is for us the Foundation Day of Friendship House in Harlem, founded in 1938, where Catherine laboured long and hard in the incipient civil rights movement, then called the inter-racial movement. She was a radical pioneer at the time, a white woman living in Harlem, founding a community where white and black would live together as brothers and sisters and serve the poor together.

We have displays of photos and archival articles up right now, including a large model of the original FH storefront complete with miniature bookshelves and desks in it. We cherish our history here, and as the years go by and it becomes a somewhat more distant history, we try all the more to remember and celebrate the extraordinary woman who began our apostolate and her immense courage and love.

Beyond that, life is much of a muchness. I am actually writing this post in Ottawa, at my cousin's house, since I am giving a talk at a Vocation Fair on consecrated life sponsored by the archdiocese. In fact, I will now wrap up this post as it is time for me to get out the door and over to the event. Have a good week, and try to keep warm, eh?

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