Sunday, August 16, 2015

These Weeks in Madonna House - August 1-15

I have been neglecting the ‘This Week in Madonna House’ posts on this blog lately. As I said a few weeks ago, around this time of the summer the weeks do start to merge together a bit, as we go into high gear here around the farm and the harvest. Every week a small army of men bring another of the early crops in from the fields; every week there is a small army of women working at the farm to blanch, freeze, dry, can or whatever that crop into its preserved form.

It’s all very high energy and picturesque, but there’s not too much to say about it beyond that. MH relies on its farm for most of its food; the late summer is the peak busyness time on the farm for said food; farming is the order of the day here.

Meanwhile, our summer program ‘Love is Stronger’ has wrapped up, and seems to have been a great success all around. The talks were well received, the Saturday seminars filled with interesting questions from our guests for our directors general, and a good time seems to have been had by all.

One notable event late in the program was a music night where anyone could perform any kind of musical presentation. We do these events a couple times a year—certainly always as part of the summer program—and it never fails to amaze me the talent and variety that turns up here each time. 

This year we had a number of Celtic pieces, a Peruvian song (courtesy of a long-term guest who is from there), bluegrass, a barbershop quartet, and a performance of the pop song ‘If I Had a Million Dollars’ with a few of the lyrics altered for the MH context (‘If I had a million dollars, all the jons would have heated seats’).

The ‘big event’ of the last weeks, though, was yesterday’s feast of Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven. This has always been one of the chief feast days in MH, ranked in solemnity only behind Easter and Christmas for us. Besides being the feast that it is (see yesterday’s blog post for all the deep theology behind it!), it was Catherine Doherty’s birthday, Fr. Eddie Doherty’s ordination anniversary, and was one of our Promises Day for many years.

Because of this latter it is now the day when we honor our jubiliarians—those celebrating 50 and 25 years in promises. I usually don’t mention names on the blog, but will make and exception here—Diane Lefebvre, Arlene Becker, and Fr. Tom Zoeller were the 50 year honorees, while Pat Probst, Peter Gravelle, Lisa Coxe, Catherine Lesage were the 25 year ones (the latter two remained in their mission houses to celebrate). We are grateful to all of them for their perseverance.

The feast began the night before with the Akathist Hymn, a beautiful Byzantine prayer service in honor of the Mother of God, which we have done at MH for many years, and many of us have come to cherish deeply. It praises the Mother of God in lavish fulsome terms, an outpouring of childlike love and delight in the Woman God chose to be the vessel of salvation for the world.

Meanwhile, Assumption is the one big feast that occurs in the height of summer, and so it is the feast of flowers here. The MH dining room is filled with these, hanging baskets over all the tables making the place into a riot of color and scent. Assumption is also the great feast where God exalted the gift of the feminine in His exaltation of Mary into heaven. We echo this by honouring our women in a particular way. The men of the community pick flowers the day before and, as each woman is coming into the chapel for the liturgy on the feast, make her a corsage to wear for the day.

And so the day goes, festive as anything. For the 50 year jubilarians we had a tea in the afternoon where they were feted. Another custom of the day is that it is the time when the new applicants are announced for September 8. While my rule of ‘no names on the blog’ holds here, I am happy to say we have four new applicants accepted for the fall—two women, two men—and much rejoicing on that account. God is blessing us with beautiful young people willing to try out our vocation right now.

As I always say when I’m wrapping up this column, I’m sure there is much, much more going on in MH besides what I’ve mentioned. This place is a constant flurry of activity, and yet mysteriously peaceful in the midst of it all. Please know that we carry all of you in our daily prayers and offering, and that our little house tucked away in the Ottawa Valley is open to, and given for, the world and all who dwell in it.

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