Madonna House

Combermere Diary (September 2014)

by Paulette Curran

What to say? Where to begin? The main events of the time-frame this column is covering were so rich, so filled with gra­ces and beauty and joy: Pentecost; the feast of Our Lady of Combermere, Promises, the ordination of one of our laymen to the priesthood, his first Mass, Corpus Christi.

The first three took place on the same day, June 8th; the last three, on June 21st and 22nd .

Let’s begin with Promises Day. It’s the day those entering the community make their commitment to this Madonna House way of life, the day others in temporary promises renew them, and the day those who have lived seven years in promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience make them “forever.”

Of course, it is a day of great rejoicing for Madonna House, but not for us alone. As always, family and friends come—from all over, for our members are from all over—for what is, in some ways, similar to a wedding.

On the other hand, Aliz Trombitas’ family and friends, who weren’t able to come, celebrated in Hungary with a Mass and buffet supper. 45 of them!

This year, promises were made in three languages: English, Hungarian, and Italian.

Who can fail to be moved by young people, one after the other, saying their promises with strong or trembling voices, giving their lives to God? And it is the word, “forever,” that stuns many people.

It was a day of celebrating vocations, all of them. Fr. David May said in his homily:

“It is very mysterious and we won’t always understand, but the Spirit gives us the courage and the gifts to persevere… . The joy comes from being united to Jesus; that’s true in any vocation, all vocations.”

Then as soon as Promises Day was over, we were preparing for another celebration of vocation: the ordination of one of our members, Michael Weitl, to the priesthood. Once again, what to say?

As with Promises Day, all was prepared beautifully and with love. For example, Aliz Trombitas made a beautiful fabric banner based on a painting of the foot washing by a German priest, Fr. Sieger Koder.

At St. Mary’s, the dining room was hung with yellow and blue banners, and there was a display of fish and nets with the words, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men (Mt 4:19), lettered by Irene Sullivan. Peter Gravelle had woven a stole as the house gift for Fr. Michael.

Fr. Michael Weitl is from an Iowa farm family, and many of his family and friends traveled here for the occasion.

The bishop of our diocese, Bishop Michael Mulhall, presided at the ordination Mass, ordained Michael, and gave the homily.

Many people commented on the power of his homily. The bishop spoke about the fact that our culture is dying.

“The culture, so often in the past, gave us supports which were not essential: positions in society; authority, respect. If those things disappear with a culture that is dying, so be it. They are not essential.”

What is essential? The Mass, the Eucharist, the gathering of the faithful, the forgiveness of our sins, and the priesthood through which these essentials come.

The role of the priest, he said, is to nourish the people of God so that we can go out to the world and proclaim Christ.

The world we are in, the bishop told us, is in many ways similar to the world to which the Risen Christ sent the apostles.

An ordination is a very beautiful thing: the promise of obedience to the bishop, the anointing of the hands, the actual ordination which happens during the prayer of ordination recited by the bishop after the laying on of hands by the bishop, first, and then the assisting priests.

At the end of the Liturgy, according to a custom, Fr. Michael gave his mother, Sharon, the cloth which was used to wipe the chrism off his hands and which will eventually be buried with her.

His father, Howard, presented Fr. Michael with a small purple stole which he would use to hear his first confession. His father will eventually be buried with this.

Fr. Michael had the chance for a quick bite at the reception and then he was back in the chapel giving his first blessing until after 4 p.m. At the end someone asked to go to confession; so he blessed the stole that his father had given him and used it.

The next day was Corpus Christi and Fr. Michael’s first Mass. In the afternoon, we had Exposition followed by a Eucharistic procession from St. Mary’s to Our Lady of the Woods. Fr Michael gave Benediction.

In the evening, Fr. Michael’s father Howard told the story of Fr. Michael’s very premature birth and how both mother and baby nearly died. Then he gave us a slide show of pictures of Fr. Michael’s life.

On July 16, 2014, we had another celebration of priesthood, this time a 25thanniversary, that of Fr. Gerry (Gerhard) Wallner. It occurred very close to deadline, so we will tell you just a bit about it in the October issue.

“Going out to spread the Good News of the Gospel” is a major theme of Pope Francis and of our bishop in his homily, but for us in the summer, it is more a case of people coming to us wanting to be nourished—mainly, the families at Cana Colony and young adults at our summer program.

Catherine Doherty started Cana Colony, our one-week retreat/vacation for families over fifty years ago as a response to the request of Pope Pius XII to “take care of the family.”

Young people coming in numbers in the summer, with or without a “program” have been a constant in our life since the beginning. The current “program” consists of people simply living our life with us along with the addition of talks and various activities.

The theme this year is, Path of Life—Fullness of Joy. Each of the five weeks has a sub-theme: “Finding God through Beauty, Truth and Goodness,” “Discerning God’s Call,” “The Mystery of Suffering,” “Receiving and Giving Love,” “Growing in God/Prayer.” The coordinators are Michael Amaral and Doreen Dykers.

How it happens is a mystery in God, but in both “programs,” we see lives touched and changed.

Meanwhile, of course, our life goes on. The farm and gardens are filled with growing life—animals, fruits, and vegetables—and in summer are a major focus. For most of our working guests, it’s a first experience of working on a farm.

One big project this year is digging holes and planting blueberry plants. (It’ll be three or four years before we have a crop of berries.)

The carpenters have been busy. They built a new cabin for Cana Colony, and, though they haven’t finished yet, they have renovated the adoration chapel to the point where we can have adoration again. The shops, too, are at their busiest season, and almost daily people are coming for tours.

Ah, summer! Each season has its beauty; may we have the eyes to see it and may that beauty bring us closer to its Creator.