Sunday, November 22, 2015

This Week in Madonna House - November 15-21

This week in Madonna House we have been very mindful of the world and its travails as we go about our daily work and affairs. Our prayers and offering of our lives has been much taken up with what is happening in so many places right now, and the fears and angers so many are carrying right now.

That being said, the pace of our life is picking up somewhat. Guest numbers remain high, with new guests coming in still every week. Somehow we find work for all of them to do, the men at the farm mostly doing some of the clean up jobs that couldn’t be done in the crush of summer work, the women pitching in wherever. One of those ‘wherevers’ is the kitchen which is clearly moving into high gear of pre-Christmas preparations.

Yes, I know it is more than a month away, but we are a big family, and it takes a lot of doing just to keep us fed the usual three meals a day. The big feasts of the year require careful advanced planning and many things made ahead of time and frozen. I believe they did the shortbreads this week.
I was going to say that it is hard to believe Christmas is so close, what with the dry ground and the warm temperatures, but we woke up this morning to snow on the ground and a nice chill to the air. Hurray – winter is come… at least for today.

It isn’t all work, of course. We had one of our sporadic ‘movie nights’ this week, watching a film on Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy and human rights heroine of Myanmar whose party recently won a decisive victory in that country. We had a staff meeting one night this week, just for the staff assigned to the ‘training center’, our main house location, on the subject of ‘what does it mean to be assigned to the training center?’ It was a rich and thoughtful conversation, as our meetings usually tend to be.

The ‘liturgy class’ began for our guests. What is the liturgy class, you may ask? It is a venerable tradition in MH, going back more than 50 years now, in which the guests under the leadership of three MH staff, learn about the Advent season, its richness and beauty, and about our MH customs around this season which are many and varied.

This ‘learning’ is not academic and notional. It is hands-on and incarnational. That is, we have them actually be the ones doing the customs and leading the community through some of them. Today they are gathering evergreen branches to make an Advent wreath, which they will do later this week. As the season progresses they will do St. Nicholas cookies, St. Lucy bread, and various other lovely traditional things. All of which I will be happy to tell you about as the weeks go on.

In the same pre-Advent vein of things, we had a music practice last night to go over some of the Advent hymns, including a new one written by our choir director and a hymn written for the Year of Mercy.

In my own week I had the official book launch for Idol Thoughts, going into Ottawa for that happy event. Three other new books from Justin Press were launched at the same time, including one on the Canadian Saints, to which I contributed a chapter. While the event didn’t have the turnout we had hoped for it, we did sell quite a few books and it was an enjoyable evening.

The bush crew has officially launched, one of the main works of our men in the winter months. This is the work of cutting down trees and chopping them up for firewood. It is arduous, highly skilled, and dangerous work. Fr. Louis who heads it up reports being quite pleased with the men he has working with him.

Another job which is not quite underway but is in the offing is renovations to the house I live in, called Regina Pacis, where currently five priest staff live. It is a rambling old house which grew in stages, and one of the older parts of the house is badly in need of renovations. So far we have only begun the process of moving all the furniture, etc., out of that part of the house.

Well, what else is there to say? While our life has had a serious tone to it lately, the world being what it is, we are not without peace, joy, and beauty, knowing that all God asks any of us to do is to be faithful to the life He has given us and the work He has asked of us, and that in this we are making the best contribution to the peace and healing of the world that we can do. But you are all in our prayers, through it all.

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