My Encounter With a Burning Bush

by Marilyn Marsden-Busset

When I arrived at Madonna House in 1980, I thought I was at a pottery camp. A Catholic friend of mine had thought it would be a good idea for me to go there for a vacation and help sell the pottery they made to earn money for the poor.

Well, it wasn’t a vacation at all, and I never did sell pottery. I ended up spending nine months washing dishes and lugging heavy loads of dirty laundry.

But let me begin at the beginning.

I was a Protestant from a small anti-Catholic church. So what a shock it was to discover that I was in the midst of Catholics!

The night I arrived, we were all invited to the dining room to hear the foundress Catherine Doherty speak. I had no idea what a foundress was, but that didn’t matter; I was immediately touched by her authenticity. After the talk, she asked if there were any questions.

Casually I said, “Frankly, I find it quite disgusting the way Catholics cut up dead people’s bones and then kiss them. Could you explain this to me, please?” Immediately, everyone was looking at me: Who could be asking such a strange question?

There was total silence. Catherine laid her head down on the little table and didn’t move for at least five minutes. (Years later, I realized she was praying.)

Then followed the most beautiful explanation I have ever heard about the Incarnation of the Holy Spirit into our lives.

The desire of God is to love us, to transform us, and to abide within us, Catherine said, right to the very core of our bodies. She explained the veneration of relics, that it’s not bones that they kiss, but that they are venerating the work and the presence of the Holy Spirit in that person defined as holy by the Church.

Time went on. It was obvious that since these people were Catholics, they were not going to be saved. So why did I feel like I was on holy ground?

Moses said, “I will go closer and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” (Ex 3:3).

I felt like I was Moses in front of the burning bush, and I did what he did. I decided to stick around a bit longer, to get closer, to try to understand.

I was fascinated by the burning bush, by Madonna House. Why was there so much love?

I knew that God chooses the most unlikely people for singular graces. After all Moses was a murderer, and God still called him. Did that explain it?

I was also certain that lots of people at Madonna House were shocked by me; I was so ignorant of basically everything. Madonna House had a whole new language. What did “sacrament” or “Immaculate Conception” mean?

I had never heard of the concept of the Communion of Saints, but deep within me, I felt a longing for this truth. It was as if I had been waiting for it to be revealed to me.

Madonna House was a mystery to me, but everyone was patient, trying to help me understand.

About six months after I left, I was lying in bed one morning, and I started to say the Apostles’ Creed. When I finished, I realized that I believed every single article in it. In shock, I suddenly realized that in my heart, I was already a Catholic.

“Well, if I’m already a Catholic in my heart,” I said to myself, “I’m going to ask to become one.” I was filled with joy.

Three months later, I was received into the Catholic Church at Madonna House. Then, like Moses, I was sent away for a mission. But that’s another story.

Marilyn’s family is a Cana family. She and her husband Christian have six grown children, one adopted child, and varying numbers of foster children. For 27 years, they have been taking in handicapped and mentally ill foster children.

Marilyn’s article about this work, “Living With Weakness,” appeared in the September 2015 Restoration, and can be found at www.madonnahouse.org/restoration under “archives.”