Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Week in Madonna House - June 20-26

This week in Madonna House was family week, with the central event being our annual Cana cleaning bee, which involved almost everyone in some capacity. What is the Cana cleaning bee, you may ask?

Well, MH runs a camp for families. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but for those who don’t remember, it is the one apostolate we do that is the direct result of a papal mandate. Without going into the whole story, Catherine Doherty in 1951 had a private audience with Pope Pius XII. Among other things, he asked her to always remember the family in her apostolate, since the fate of the family, the fate of society, and that of the Church are all interwoven in an unbreakable bond.

Coming back to Canada, she initially simply added a ‘Family Week’ to the already existing MH summer school, but within a few years and under the guidance of Fr. John Callahan (MH’s first priest and Catherine’s spiritual director) who had some prior experience in family ministry, the present Cana Colony was built. It now runs for six weeks each summer, has room for up to nine families each week, and has been a source of grace and beauty for hundreds of families over the decades.

Cana is a rustic family experience. If you think of it as staying in a hotel, you will be sorely disappointed, but if you think of it as camping it is actually very plush. There are eight one-room cabins and a tent site in a rough circle around a large field. A chapel is at one end of the circle, two cook-shacks at the other. It is only these latter that have electricity and running water, the families sharing stove, counter, and sink space to prepare meals, etc., while each has its own shelf, fridge, and table.

A beautiful lake is just off this main compound. It has a shallow, gently sloping bottom, perfect for little ones to splash around safely. There is a giant sand pit where toddlers have been known to play for hours on end, a volleyball court and a soccer pitch.

So much for the physical layout. We have found that the whole thing together works really well both for bringing the family together (nothing like sharing a one-room cabin for a week for that!) and bringing the families together into a community (the facility is smallish, and people really do get to know each other over seven days).

The schedule is simple—Mass in the morning, a conference for parents in the afternoon, an optional rosary in the evening. And… that’s it, basically. Cana is a place of peace and great beauty, unstructured family time, and a real chance to simply let the world go (no electronic devices allowed!) and be together with God in God’s creation.

Well, all of the above needs to be cleaned, organized, and set up. The woman who is responsible for Cana has been working away at all that for some weeks, but virtually the whole community went out to give her a hand, to scrub and scour, polish and pain, fix and trim and mow every corner of the place. It is a wonderful day each year, when MH comes together as a family to work for families in this very focused way.

Cana itself will start on Sunday. Incidentally, I will be the priest there for that first week, so will not be blogging.

Other than that, it’s been a pretty ordinary week. The farmers are farming—the hay is being brought in as I write—and the gardeners are gardening. An invasive species of bug called a ‘rose chafer’ has attacked our apples trees the last few years, and since we will not use pesticide sprays we have to remove them one by one, by hand. So this has been a job for many hands.

It is a bit of a sad job this year, since a hard frost in May wiped out our apples this year, so the trees are barren. Apples are the one fruit that does grow in this area, so this is a most unfortunate happening.

Otherwise our lives continue on with much labora and hopefully adequate ora to make it all fruitful. Be assured of our prayers for you all as you go about whatever your summer holds.


  1. Thank you all of the MH community for this wonderful work! We have been so fortunate to attend Cana and it is such an amazing, transformative experience. I wish we were coming this year! Beyond the time for the parents to spend time together at the conferences and know that the kids are safely cared for - it is so lovely to see the kids make friends and grow in independence and confidence (within the boundaries set for safety). I hope we will have a chance to attend next year :) A retreat for the whole family .... sorely needed in this world ....

    1. Praise God! Glad you have been blessed by our apostolate. Have I been with you at Cana ever?


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