Archive of articles from the November 1999 issue of Restoration.
My Dear Family
DANCING UP THE MOUNTAIN
by Catherine Doherty
As we stand on the eve of the Great Jubilee, these words from Catherine emphasize that the essence of our faith-life, and of this next year, is to celebrate with joy the gift of salvation won for us through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Celebration is the song of praise coming from the heart of man to the heart of God.
Celebration is the dance of faith that we dance through our whole life—from birth to death—a beautiful dance with its ever-changing pattern that is now intricate, now simple.
Celebration is the expression of hope, even when we walk in darkness seemingly without anything good nourishing our hope except the dance of faith.
Celebration is a love that brings to earth the song of praise—the sound of dancing feet. It is the light that hope sheds in a total darkness.
It is exceedingly important that we extend our hearts to embrace new dimensions of celebration. For usually we think of it as song. We think of it as dance. We think of it as light.
We have many ways of thinking about it but, like all spiritual depths, we must not stop before one of its dark or beautiful landscapes. We must go on. Go on upwards, always upwards, unto the mountain of the Lord.
With every step, the life of the spirit embraces wider horizons, acquires new dimensions that we never suspected were there. In this, the pilgrimage up the holy mountain of the Lord, is what real spiritual life is all about—climbing to the heights where we, like Moses, meet God almost face to face, or, if at death, then face to face in truth.
Yes, we must plunge deeply into that joyful word `celebration’, for it contains so much more than what we attribute to it.
Celebration really is a song, a dance, a light. It comes forth from the heart of those totally ready to surrender to God’s will, who have begun to understand that each new surrender is a cause for greater celebration—even though it may lead to pain, sorrow, sickness, or loss, as well as to joy and gladness.
To celebrate means to bring joy and gladness into every step of our lives. Once this new dimension of celebration opens before our eyes, life changes completely! We bring to it new ways of helping and serving our brethren in the Lord.
By our celebration of all the events that the will of the Lord brings to us, we give courage and blessing to all we meet.
Who has not met the victim of a terminal disease whom people come to visit in a constant stream? They come to the sickbed to be given the clear notes of a joyous song praising God.
Into their hands is put a light that has been lit from the candle of hope. It dwells in the heart of one who should be hopeless, but isn’t.
Yes, the heart of one who celebrates constantly, without ceasing, the will of God in its life is equal to a choir that sings Glorias and Alleluias.
This chorus should become a clarion call to all who are seeking, and not finding, to all who have long ago ceased to sing and who have abandoned any kind of dance.
Come, let us together, hand in hand, climb the mountain of the Lord so that we might understand better what celebration means—and start celebrating!
From The Gospel Without Compromise, pp 148-150, available from Madonna House Publications.
The Pope’s Corner
THE FUTURE BELONGS TO HIM
by Pope John Paul II
In this concluding passage of the letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the Holy Father outlines the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church over the last 2000 years, and calls all the faithful to renewed faith and apostolic zeal.
The Church has endured for 2000 years. Like the mustard seed in the Gospel, she has grown and become a great tree—able to cover the whole of humanity with her branches.
The Second Vatican Council, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, thus addresses the question of membership in the Church and the call of all people to belong to the People of God:
“All are called to be part of the Catholic unity of the new people of God. … There belong to it, or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful as well as all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind which, by the grace of God, is called to salvation.” (Lumen Gentium 13).
Continuing this approach, we can appreciate more clearly the parable of the leaven (Matt 13:33). Christ, like a divine leaven, always and evermore fully penetrates the life of humanity, spreading the work of salvation accomplished in the Paschal mystery.
What is more, he embraces within his redemptive power the whole past history of the human race, beginning with the first Adam.
The future also belongs to him: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). For her part, the Church “seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ himself under the lead of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served.” (Gaudium et Spes, 3).
Therefore, ever since the apostolic age, the Church’s mission has continued without interruption within the whole human family. The first evangelization took place above all in the region of the Mediterranean. In the course of the first millennium, missions setting out from Rome and Constantinople brought Christianity to the whole continent of Europe.
At the same time they made their way to the heart of Asia, as far as India and China. The end of the 15th century marked both the discovery of America and the beginning of the evangelization of that great continent, North and South.
Simultaneously, while the sub-Saharan coasts of Africa welcomed the light of Christ, St. Francis Xavier, patron of missions, reached Japan.
At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, members of the laity brought Christianity to Korea. In the same period, the proclamation of the Gospel reached Indochina, as well as Australia and the islands of the Pacific.
The 19th century witnessed vast missionary activity among the people of Africa. All these efforts bore fruit which has lasted up to the present day. The Second Vatican Council gives an account of this in the Decree Ad Gentes.
In the future too, the Church must continue to be missionary: indeed missionary outreach is part of her very nature. With the fall of the great anti-Christian systems in Europe, first of Nazism and then of Communism, there is an urgent need to bring once more the liberating message of the Gospel to the men and women of Europe.
Furthermore, as Redemptoris Missio affirms, the modern world reflects the situation of the areopagus, where St. Paul spoke. Today there are many `areopagi’ and very different ones. These are the vast sectors of contemporary civilization and culture, of politics and economics.
The future of the Church and of the world belongs to the younger generation, to those who, born in this century, will reach maturity in the next. Christ expects great things from them, as he did from the young man who asked, “What must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt 19:16). I have referred to the remarkable answer which Jesus gave to him, in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor.
Young people, in every situation, in every region of the world, do not cease to put questions to Christ. They meet him and they keep searching for him in order to question him further.
If they succeed in following the road which he points out to them, they will have the joy of making their own contribution to his presence in the next century and in the centuries to come, until the end of time. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
While I invite the faithful to raise to the Lord fervent prayers to obtain the light and assistance necessary for the preparation and celebration of the forthcoming Jubilee, I exhort my venerable brothers in the episcopate and the ecclesial communities entrusted to them to open their hearts to the promptings of the Spirit.
I entrust this responsibility of the whole Church to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer.
May the unassuming woman of Nazareth—who, 2000 years ago, offered to the world the Incarnate Word—lead the men and women of the new millennium towards the One who is the true light that enlightens every man (John 1:9).
Our Lady of Combermere - Part 18
SHE IS OUR MOTHER
by Fr. Emile Brière
The main purpose of this column is to remind you of the love and tenderness of God and his Mother, Our Lady of Combermere, for you.
The next few months, I want to talk about a litany to Our Lady of Combermere I wrote a few years ago.
At the time, I felt that we in MH needed to grow in awareness of how deeply we belong to her and she to us.
She’s our mother. We have every right to ask anything of our mother, and she is only too anxious to give it to us.
As we face any problem, we should bring it straight to her, discuss it with her, and then bring it to Jesus. Then, if necessary, we should discuss it with others.
Always go to Mary first, though. We’re not bypassing Jesus; he gave us his mother to be ours, too. We have to realize that very deeply in our bones.
I feel deeply that we’re not depending on Mary enough. We’re not going to her enough and saying: “Help me, form me, shape me into the saint I’m made to be. Help me to become another Jesus.”
A few years ago I had cataract surgery. While I recuperated, somebody gave me a tape of a talk that Trudi Cortens had given to the staff in Toronto. She said: “Catherine told the directors that we must pass on the spirit of MH. I realize I’ve been remiss in passing on to you everything about Our Lady of Combermere.”
The word remiss was like a dagger in my heart. When I heard it I said to myself, “Fr. Brière, you too have been remiss.”
So I began to ponder who Our Lady of Combermere is. The word `remiss’ kept prodding my spirit. It was a great grace from God. And I started writing things down.
So how did I find out who she is? From three sources. First were insights—words from God—that Catherine received in prayer about Our Lady and wrote down over the years.
Second was Catherine herself. Who was she? What was she like? What were her virtues? They all came from God through Our Lady of Combermere.
Finally, what is MH? What are the good things about it? Everything good came from Our Lady of Combermere, and it reflects who she is.
From these three sources I came up with a litany of titles, the litany of Our Lady of Combermere.
Our Lady of Combermere: We have a little pamphlet that explains how this started. She is Our Lady of the nitty-gritty in daily life; Our Lady of the kitchen, the laundry; the one who helps us sweep the floor. She’s a lady of very practical things, which should appeal to all you practical people. Do everything with her: cook, sew, repair broken items, whatever. She’s a good housekeeper, a good mother.
Our Lady of the Trinity: This was one of Catherine’s favorite titles for Mary. She saw the Blessed Trinity making its home in Mary in a very special way. She is daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. So are we all!
We are all united in the body of Christ, the Church, which is daughter of the Father, bride of the Holy Spirit, and brings forth Christ in the faith and holiness of its members, who are us. Our Lady of the Trinity is an important title. It makes us reflect on our relationship with the Trinity.
Our Lady of Tenderness: This comes from Russia. Holy Russia brought us the tenderness of God. This is the great contribution that the Russian Church has to make to the whole world: to proclaim the tenderness of God. When perestroika started, I wrote the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, saying: “I want you to know that we need you. We need the Orthodox charism of tenderness. Please give it to us. It’s important because for centuries we have stressed too much the angry God, the God of justice.”
Our Lady of the Towel and the Water: Catherine wrote an entire book on this, to teach us how to incarnate love in a practical way; how to serve one another; how to incarnate the Gospel in the sewing room, the machine shop, the farm, the garden, etc.
What is the Gospel? It is to love God and serve one another. We love each other by serving each other. We are people of the towel and the water, following the example of Christ, who got on his knees and washed the feet of his apostles.
We wash each other’s feet by being tender towards each other and forgiving each other. Our Lady of the Wilderness: This is a strange one! It refers to the wilderness in my own heart. Mary will take care of the wilderness there. As Jeremiah says, nothing is so confusing, wild, tortuous, or deceitful as the human heart. The heart is a jungle, so Our Lady comes to tame it.
The other wilderness is that of the world, of secular society. God knows there’s a wilderness all over the world because we reject the moral law in so many ways: abortion, euthanasia, war, hatreds and animosities all over the place. We live in a wilderness, but Our Lady is with us in the midst of it.
Our Lady of Nazareth: We are just beginning to realize the importance of Nazareth. Most people are called to live the life of Nazareth. They do not realize that Jesus gave more glory to the Father by being obedient to his mother and foster father than by his public ministry.
We give great glory to God by doing little things well out of love in accordance with our duties in life. To prove this we now have a Doctor of the Church who lived this way: St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Let’s conclude this column with our usual prayer, saying it together:
Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you and praise you for giving us Our Lady of Combermere to be our mother, guide and director.
May we entrust our wills to her so that your divine will may be accomplished in us, namely that each of us becomes another Christ and that all of us together be formed into a living icon of love reflecting the love you share with your Son and the Holy Spirit. We ask this confidently through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A TIME TO STAND STILL
by Denis Lemieux
Well, here we are, folks! We’ve reached it, more or less: the Great Jubilee, the dawning of the third millennium. At long last, we stand at the threshold of hope, ready and eager to cross.
Whatever our attitude towards this milestone year in salvation history is, we’re here. Some greet the new millennium with fear, some with joy, others with indifference.
While some are aware of the religious implications of the millennium, most people seemingly associate it mainly with computer breakdowns or see it as an excuse for a really big party.
Among Christians, opinion is divided among those who expect apocalyptic turmoil, and those who look to a new era of evangelization and faith. Some anticipate the end of the world, others a new beginning for the Church.
Meanwhile, whatever the coming year brings, 1999 has brought us the usual atrocities and human tragedies: Kosovo, Sudan, East Timor, Sierra Leone, to name just a few.
Each year, the particular nations and peoples who have undergone catastrophic sufferings change, but the underlying reality—the mystery of iniquity and of free will—remains constant.
Meantime, in the `developed’ world, the culture of death with which we are all too familiar, alas, has continued to grow, with its fruits of family breakdown and personal misery.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. It’s a strong temptation for Christians these days to withdraw from the world. To stop reading the paper. To simply attend to one’s own back yard, because the global social and political scene has just become too overwhelmingly dark. The pain of the world has become too crushing.
And yet the Holy Father, who sees all this darkness and pain more clearly than anyone, has repeatedly spoken of the coming of the third millennium in terms of a new era of hope: a time of new evangelization, of renewed sense of mission in the Church.
It’s a time, he says, for Christians to move outward with zeal and fire, confident in the message of Christ, spurred on by the world’s desperate, if unacknowledged, need to hear the Good News of salvation preached.
Zeal and fire, confidence and boldness: yes, these are the virtues needed for the Christian of the third millennium. But where are we to find them? We who are so prone to half-hearted lukewarmness, who—for all the darkness of the world—find the darkness in our own hearts even more terrifying, how are we to move out to the `areopagi’ (meeting places) of the modern world to bring the Good News of Christ? We who at times aren’t even sure how deeply we believe it?
It is the 2000th anniversary of the incarnation. Two millennia ago, an angel visited a young maiden of Nazareth. Her fiat to God’s message brought about the salvation of the world.
But it was very small, in the beginning. A microscopically tiny life in the womb of the Virgin. An embryo, growing for nine months in silence and hiddenness, as all human babies do. A baby at his mother’s breast, helpless. A boy, and then a young man in the long hidden years of Nazareth, working at Joseph’s side.
Small, hidden, ordinary. Such was the incarnation of the Son of God. It seems to me that for us Christians on the threshold of the third millennium—anxious and afraid, perhaps, uncertain and confused at times—the key to the task of the new evangelization confronting us lies in the very smallness and humility of this first movement of our redemption.
The ways of God haven’t changed. If it was his will and pleasure to begin the work of salvation in the silence and hiddenness of Mary’s womb, then it is his will and pleasure that the new evangelization be worked today first and foremost in the silence of people’s hearts.
It is there that we will echo Mary’s fiat, that we will learn to be obedient as Christ was to the Father, there that we will go to Mary to learn from her the path of surrender, and stand with her at the foot of Christ’s cross.
Above all, it is there that, by keeping our eyes, minds, and hearts focused wholly and at all times on the Lord Jesus, we will find the fire and zeal, the boldness and confidence to carry the Gospel anew to the world, to those who have never heard it, to those who have heard and rejected it.
“True zeal,” said Catherine Doherty, “is to stand still and let God be a bonfire within you.” Paradoxically, it is only by entering our own hearts and encountering God there, that we will find the strength to move out to bring the Gospel to the nations.
It’s tempting, in the face of the world’s misery, to launch into a flurry of apostolic activity, just to feel you’re doing something to help people.
Perhaps, though, in light of the Great Jubilee, and taking our cue from the Old Testament injunction to let the land have its rest (Lev 25:4), this coming year should be a time for us to stand still, a time to let God light a fire of zeal in our hearts.
Perhaps this is not a time for feverish activity, for hustle and bustle, but one of listening, of quiet incarnation, of hidden surrender to God’s will. Of an obedience both total and joyous to the Father, here and now in the demands and circumstances of our daily lives, an obedience even unto death (Phil 2: 8).
Only God can restore the world. Only God can `pick up the pieces’ of the broken nations, of our broken families and hearts, and make them whole. But if we stand still enough, if we let God light that fire of zeal and boldness in us, we can be part of the new springtime. We can be a light to the world.
If we let him blaze anew in our hearts the flame of love and faith, the darkness will not overcome us, nor the gates of hell prevail against us.
Signs and Symbols - Part 3
THE ELEGANCE OF GESTURE
by Archbishop Raya
Having spoken last month of the pre-eminent liturgical symbol—the sign of the cross—the author now focuses on other principal liturgical gestures of the Eastern Church.
Repetition of the same gesture and words is a psychological necessity in order to enter into the dance of the spirit. Meaningful repetition brings the soul into the rhythm of things. It manifests our inner beauty through the external reality of symbol and the elegance of gesture. It is an imitation of free-soaring motion which God has imparted both to the cosmos and to humanity for renewal and re-creation.
The formulas said with the sign of the cross differ from country to country, and from culture to culture. The two most common, both in East and West, are: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen” and “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
In the East we also use other formulas. For instance, “Holy God, holy mighty one, holy the immortal one, have mercy on us!” Whichever formula is used, it is said while making the sign of the cross.
Besides the sign of the cross, there is in the East the metany, and in the West the genuflection. Both are gestures of worship and adoration.
There are two types of genuflection: one with the right knee bent to the ground, accompanied by the sign of the cross; and one with both knees bent to the ground, accompanied by a deep bow and the sign of the cross.
There are two types of metany, the great metany and the little one. The great metany is a deep prostration in which we drop on both knees with hands wide open on the floor. The whole body bends down until our forehead touches the floor. This gesture, like the great genuflection of the Western Church, signifies the utter self-abandonment and surrender of our whole being to God. It is a movement of adoration and repentance where we invite all the powers of our body and soul to worship God.
After touching the floor with our forehead, we stand up and seal the gesture with the sign of the cross.
The great metany has a special character of penitence, and is used mostly in times of utter repentance and deep regret for sins. It is also used in front of a superior, or a brother or sister whom we have offended.
There is also the `little’ or `short’ metany. The right hand is extended forward to touch the floor, while the head is bowed, the whole body bent down. The gesture is generally accompanied by a prayer of adoration, glorification, or compunction of heart, such as: “Lord, have mercy” … “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” … “Glory be to you, O Lord.” It is used in monasteries to greet a brother or sister, and especially a superior.
At the beginning of each liturgical celebration, the presiding minister invites the congregation to adoration by making three little metanies accompanied by the sign of the cross, saying: “Come, let us worship and bow down before God our King! Come, let us worship and bow down before Christ our King and our God! Come let us worship and bow down before Christ himself, our King and our God!”
When a Christian of the East approaches the holy and divine Gospel book, the Eucharist, an icon, the altar, or a holy person, he or she bows to them in metanies, sealed with a sign of the cross.
The sign of the cross, metanies, and genuflections are not the only bodily gestures used in our worship. The kiss of peace is also a conspicuous part of our worship. Greet one another with a holy kiss says St. Paul (1 Cor 16:20).
In the holy and divine liturgy, just before the Creed and the offering of the gifts, the people of God are urged to give each other the kiss of peace, with the words, “Let us love one another so that in one mind we may confess …”
We kiss each other, saying, “Christ is in our midst!” The response is, “He is and he always will be!”
This is done in accordance with the command of Our Lord: If you bring your gifts to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt 5:23-24).
to be continued…
LOVE COMES IN MANY FORMS
by Christine Herlihy
Catherine Doherty has said: “To create a community of love, we must do the will of the Father like Christ did. How do we do the will of the Father? The duty of the moment. We must give our whole self to it.” The duty of the moment—very much the essence of our life here—was the theme of our associate priests’ meeting this year.
In late September we were graced with the presence of 24 priests, five deacons, and their wives. Talks were given them by MH priests and by two of the lay staff, Denis Lemieux and Kelley Sheftall.
Fr. David Maher made first promises as an associate, receiving his MH cross. Fr. Erbin Fernandez and Deacon Gerry McMurray renewed promises.The faithfulness of our associates to the duty of the moment in their parishes and elsewhere is a great gift to us and to those they serve.
This month has been a whirlwind of activity and visitors. Not only are we processing food at the farm, we’ve taken advantage of the mild weather to work on many projects.
Regina Pacis, a priests’ dorm, is being enlarged. Joan Bryant’s poustinia was added to, to give more space for her iconography work.
Gerard Lesage and the men applicants repainted our dining-room floor, a project that involved working overnight to apply many coats of poly-urethane. For several days, we had breakfast in our dorms and picnic suppers while waiting for the floor to dry.
Other men worked to improve the area around the fish pond, and opened a new trail in the sugar bush. We now have access to 80 more trees for tapping in the spring—yes, more maple syrup!
St. Mary’s building is undergoing reorganization. The conference room, where we hold meetings and other events, is too small for our needs, so it will become a theological library. Fathers Tom Zoeller and Paul Bechard are busy making new shelves for it.
The old auditorium, which has housed many of the artists and their work, will become our new meeting room, with the artists dispersed to different locations in the building.
Our shops had a busy summer and now have moved into a winter rhythm. The museum and book shop are closed; the gift shop is on winter hours.
All the merchandise comes from donations, and the generosity of our benefactors necessitated weekly sorting bees of some type or other—clothing, books, miscellaneous items—all summer long. From old automobiles, to used clothing, to day-old muffins (a local bakery gives them to us), love comes in many forms.
It comes most especially in the visitors Our Lady sends to our door. This month had an international flavor. From the Emerald Isle came Nora Connick, mother of applicant Arthur, and her sister Peggy Kealy. It was wonderful to have them.
France was represented by Fr. Thierry de Roucy, a member of the Servants of Jesus and Mary. Along with the staff at MH Paris, he’s been translating Catherine’s staff letters into French. It is hoped that they’ll be published soon.
Our associate, Fr. Javier Hinojosa, came from Mexico to celebrate his 25th anniversary of priesthood. From New York were six nuns from the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, a new order. Their youthful enthusiasm was a joy. From New Jersey were Steve Hoffman and friends, our beloved meat cutters, who come each year to help process beef and lamb grown on our farm.
From Russia were Nick and Jenny Goryachkin, and baby daughter Katia. They are professional film makers, and brought us a video they made here last year about MH. It was shown to a packed house, and was well received—a great work of love.
MH has been filmed as early as the 1960s. Roger Leclerc, who made five films about Catherine and MH during his 32 years working for the French CBC (public television network), came for a visit with his wife Solange.
He gave an informative and positive talk to the us and friends in the valley—part of our Christian Culture Series—entitled: A Christian Vision of Television. Roger is a man of vision, and we are grateful for his time with us.
Films, videos, books—our hidden life is becoming more known. MH Publications has mailed out 15,000 book catalogues. Our mandate tells us to `Go without fears into the depths of men’s hearts.’ We seem to be going there not only in person, but in print and on film.
Catherine Doherty has said: “A priest is a man whose goal is to be another Christ; a priest is a man who lives to serve.”
She had a great love for the priesthood, which has become part of our spirit. We had the joy recently of celebrating Fr. Thomas Rowland’s 50th anniversary of ordination.
He joined MH in the 1950s, but was called back to his diocese after a few years, and was not able to come back permanently until 1986.
We began this festive day with a liturgy celebrated by Fr. Rowland. Bishop O’Brien, our ordinary, attended. He publicly thanked Fr. Tom for his faithful service to the Pembroke diocese.
The rest of the day we had a picnic, with lots of treats provided by the guest of honor. At Vespers, Fr. Pelton also publicly thanked Fr. Tom.
Fr. Tom’s actual anniversary of ordination isn’t until December, but by then he’ll be in our house in Ghana. He wanted to celebrate with us before he left. We’re grateful, not just for the celebration, but for Fr. Tom’s life with us.
Our month was filled with one `duty of the moment, after another. Days, filled with ordinary and extraordinary tasks—our work and God’s work, united as best we can.
As Catherine has said: “The duty of the moment, the daily routine of ordinary life, can uncover the face of Christ in the marketplace.”
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
by Fr. Paul Burchat
Editorial note: many have expressed their appreciation for this new column in Restoration. However, unless we receive more questions from you, our readers, this will be its last installment! So don’t be shy—write or e-mail us with any questions you have regarding the Catholic faith.
Question: A female friend of mine is being `ordained’ in the Anglican Church. As a Catholic, am I allowed to attend an ordination ceremony of a woman in an Anglican Church?
Answer: The primary factor to consider in this situation is the issue of scandal. If your presence will in any way scandalize your family or the Catholic community, then it would be best not to attend.
If there is no danger whatsoever of scandal, then you may attend, depending on your reasons for being there.
For example, if you worked for a filming company that was hired to record the event or if you were writing a paper and needed the information, these would be acceptable reasons.
If you attend it for the same reasons you attend a Catholic ordination, however, and see no distinction between the two, this is very problematic and shows a serious weakness in your own faith that needs to be rectified.
Finally, if you do attend the ceremony, you may not receive communion. I hope these guidelines are a help in your deliberations.
Question: How do you know if you have the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Can they be lost?
Answer: A person has the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord) by virtue of the fact that the person is baptized.
These gifts are increased when the person is confirmed (Catechism, #1266, 1303). They cannot be lost, once they have been received.
“The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism, #1830).
But these gifts need sanctifying (habitual) grace to make them fully functional. Without sanctifying grace they are ineffective, somewhat like the way a light bulb needs electricity in order to work.
We lose sanctifying grace when we commit mortal sin (Catechism, #1861) and have it restored again in the sacrament of Reconciliation (Catechism, #1468).
While we linger in mortal sin, the gifts are still with us, but they are dormant. When we go to confession, they are reactivated.
Question: What does the Church mean by designating 1999 as the `Year of the Father’?
Answer: At the heart of the declaration is the Church’s hope that, during this year, we will deepen our love and appreciation for God the Father.
He is the source of our existence and the endpoint of all of our activity, whether this activity be of a religious or a secular nature. The Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millenio Adveniente makes this clear when it says: “The whole of the Christian life is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature, and in particular for the `prodigal son’, we discover anew each day. This pilgrimage takes place in the heart of each person, extends to the believing community and then reaches to the whole of humanity,” (#49).
In numbers 50-54 the same document states the primary means by which we as individuals and the Church as a whole can enhance our relationship with the Father during this year:
Mail your questions to Restoration Editor, Madonna House, Combermere ON, Canada K0J 1L0 or e-mail us at email@example.com
The Father’s Plan - Part 8
A DIFFERENT KINGDOM
by Fr. Thomas Rowland
As we’ve seen over these past months, the Father’s plan was to have an active part in the everyday life of his people.
God chose Abraham as father of his people, enabled them to grow to a populous nation while living in Egypt, and sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt to the land he had promised. After their arrival in this land, God involved himself in their everyday life through Joshua, the priests and the judges.
When the people asked for a king, God permitted this, and continued to send prophets to pass judgement on the behavior of the kings as well as the people. God’s involvement in his people’s lives included permitting them to be taken into captivity in Babylon.
All during their history, God’s approval was perceived by the people when times were prosperous, when things were going well for them. Faithful service of God was rewarded by a long, healthy, prosperous life in which a man would live to see his family to the fourth and even, on occasion, to the fifth generation.
When the nation followed God’s will, it fared well in the political, economic and military realms. Even the prophecies proclaimed during the Babylonian captivity about the glory of Mount Zion, and how people would come from distant lands to worship on this mountain, were understood in a material sense: Israel would arise to a prominent place once again among the nations of the Near East.
But when the Persians let the Israelites return to their homeland, things did not develop according to the dreams of material splendor that had developed in the hearts of the people. The Persians were conquered by Alexander the Great and, after his death, the entire area was dominated by Greek generals. Despite heroic efforts by faithful Jewish remnants, such as the Maccabees, a new wave of enslavement and paganism covered the area.
Where was the Davidic line of kings who were to rule forever? Where was the resurgence of the pure worship of God on Zion? Where were the wonderful things that had been foretold in Babylon?
Thus there arose a new emphasis in the writings of the prophets and holy men of Israel. We find increasing references to the concept of glory and happiness in an afterlife.
We begin to see that the reward of a good life is not necessarily material prosperity but rather some intangible and spiritual happiness in the presence of God after death. There are increasing suggestions that the reign of the Davidic line of kings was to be a spiritual one, rather than a glorious material reign in Israel.
It began to be seen that many of the prophetic messages—which had been interpreted in regard to material events when they were first spoken or written—had a second meaning, referring to a different kind of kingdom.
What this kingdom was to be was not clear. A majority of the people still hoped for a more easily understood material prosperity, even if it was being delayed by the Romans, who had taken over from the Greeks. Unlike other conquerors, the Romans allowed limited self-rule. But this was certainly not the glorious reign of the Davidic kings that the prophets had spoken about.
It was in protest against this type of limited rule that the Essenes established their community in the desert fortress at Qumram. No one was sure what to expect, but most knew that this puppet self-government was not the glory promised to God’s people.
It was into this political situation that Christ was born. Strange as it seems to us who are brought up in the Christian tradition and who are accustomed to referring to events as occurring before or after the birth of Christ, the world of that time paid little attention to Christ’s birth.
It is significant that, even today, with all our knowledge of Greek and Roman history, we do not know for certain the day nor the year on which the greatest birth in the history of the human race took place.
Jesus, the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, awaited by his people for thousands of years, was conceived as a human being in the womb of Mary and born into our history. Yet, with a few exceptions, his birth went unnoticed.
God fulfilled his promise. The Father sent the Messiah as he promised. He proved his faithfulness to his people. He did everything he could to prepare them. And yet, when the Promised One came, for the most part his people were not prepared.
Next month, we will look at the New Testament writings and the beginnings of the Church, to see how a better realization has grown of the goodness and mercy of the Father towards us, his people.
Word Made Flesh
WHAT LOVE IS ALL ABOUT
by Fr. Patrick McNulty
A few Sundays before the feast of Christ the King, one basic theme chosen by the Church is that of the end of time and the beginning of eternity. Catholics begin the new year on the first Sunday of Advent, weeks before the secular world’s date of January 1, so it’s natural to focus on this theme in our liturgy at this time of year.
The last Gospel readings of the liturgical year are the parables of the talents, and the wise and foolish virgins. The warning is obvious: use well what you’ve been given, and be ready for the Lord’s return.
On the last Sunday, the feast of Christ the King, Matthew 25 tells us why our time on earth determines our eternal destiny: what we do to others, we do to Christ himself. It is an awesome revelation, and we could discuss at length some of its sociological implications.
We could consider the hungry, naked and imprisoned in our own lifetime, and our responsibilities to them as Christians. Perhaps we should. We can spiritualize everything to such a degree that, as far as we’re concerned, there are no hungry, naked, imprisoned people at all. “That’s the job of the State or the Church. In any case, they’re not my responsibility!”
We could also focus on the end of time as the year 2000 approaches. It’s certainly a subject on the minds of many people. In fact, this was what I had intended to write about—it’s one of my favorite themes at this time of year.
But I’d rather focus for a moment on the life-giving revelation by Christ the King: everyone in my life is Jesus Christ. Let’s assume we all truly believe this. It doesn’t make any difference if the person is friend or foe, alive or dead. The fact remains: that person, for me, is Jesus. How we respond to this fact determines the worth of our time for all eternity. To avoid any `heady’ spirituality, let’s do a simple, practical thought experiment.
Choose two real people: one, a close friend; the other, the most despicable criminal you can imagine, dead or alive. Now, see yourself going up to each in turn, looking them in the eye, and embracing them as you would if they were actually Jesus Christ.
You may think I am going to ask something like, “how did you feel?” I could, of course; but that’s not the point. The point is more simple. It’s about experiencing God’s willingness to embrace everyone as they are. It’s about our giving up whatever must be given up to do this. It’s about bringing life to others, whether they accept it or not.
How does God do this? By embracing us! With God, it’s about embracing people in love. It’s not about feelings or results. Christ reveals that we can’t understand God’s ways until we act as God acts.
This is not about wealth and poverty as we know it, about rich or poor, needy or not. This is about revealed truth: ever since the Incarnation, God `experiences’ everything we do to each other, rich or poor, free or imprisoned. Anything that anyone does is done to God, be the person a saint or sinner. In this awesome revelation, we learn that God wants us to live with others the way God lives with everyone all the time.
Yes, we need to embrace the hungry because they are hungry. But even more so, that we may learn something about the hunger God has for us until the end of time.
We need to visit the imprisoned because they are in prison. But even more so, to learn what kind of prison God is in as he waits for our love until the end of time.
We need to clothe the naked because they are naked. But even more so, to learn how naked God is before all of us— as Jesus was on the cross—until the end of time.
This whole `what you did to the least’ thing is about learning to live like God with each other. It’s not about changing the plight of the needy. That can only come later. Until we learn to live like God, he cannot teach us how to change the human condition of the needy, be they rich or poor, friend or foe, in or out of prison. We cannot truly help anyone until we see them as God sees them.
Jesus has revealed to us that this is what love is all about. And we cannot understand love until we do it!
We won’t get it until we stand before each other, eyeball to eyeball, with nothing to gain and everything to lose, and actually embrace one another as we are no matter what the response. Why not? Because this is what God does.
Love is not about results. It’s about doing it because God does it. When we love like this, God can reveal the depths and power of love to us; and nobody can harm us—no matter what they do or how we feel—in time or eternity.
Many ask, “Does it work?” Well, if the Gospel message we’ve been hearing all year is true, then nothing is impossible with God. No sinner is beyond the reach of love and ultimate repentance. Wealth does not need to imprison us in selfishness or greed. Shame or fear need not leave us naked before one another, without hope or healing.
All we need is for someone with faith to embrace us as we are, so that we might come to believe that God also embraces us as we are.
It can’t be that simple! Or, can it? Well, how else would you read Matthew 25? Maybe you see something I’ve missed, some clever way out of this eternal revelation about us and God. If so, let me know soon. I don’t have much time left!
My Story - Part 1
SHE’S GOING TO CHANGE MY LIFE
by Mary Ruth
It took me 37 years to find my vocation. One thing I say to any young people who have not yet found theirs yet is, be patient. God has a relentless way of getting you to it, if you don’t get in the way too much.
My mother had studied for the Protestant ministry, and because of her influence, I wanted from an early age to be a teacher and missionary. I never deviated from this. I wanted to find the right church to belong to, and that’s what I wanted to do when I got there. Still, it took me 37 years to find my vocation.
When you are struggling, you think there is no end in sight, that God isn’t listening! But he is, and he can bring you in a most unusual way to where he has planned from all eternity that you should be.
I became a Catholic at 17, after I realized that the Catholic Church was where Christ had really left his deposit of truth. I was working and going to high school at the time.
Not long afterwards, I entered the Sisters of Holy Cross. I thought this was going to be it! They had missions in India and I could probably go. How little I understood, and how immature I was!
I hadn’t been a Catholic very long and really shouldn’t have been there that soon. After a few months, I had a wonderful scrupulosity break-down. I saw sin everywhere. If I ate a little too much at a meal, that was a sin—gluttony. I was going to hell for that, and so on. I had a real emotional breakdown.
The novice mistress wanted to keep me. She said it would pass. She thought a lot of me, and used to call me her beautiful child from Maine. The others voted against her, and I returned home on the train.
That was the end of all my dreams. My plans were lying at my feet, and I wanted to die before I ever got back home. Now, I thank God with all my heart that it happened. I’ve had a full, wonderful life!
Being a Holy Cross nun was not God’s will for me, obviously. I came home, planning to go back to school and then to some other convent. I tried just about every order you can think of. I offered to be a lay sister. I offered to go to a French convent—anything!
They all said politely: “We’ve found that, when someone has been in another community, they don’t fit into ours.” In other words, “We don’t want you.”
For a while I worked as a fancy maid in homes, and as a governess or companion. I could write a book about those experiences. Finally, I went back to teacher’s college in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Later I taught school in Hartford, Connecticut. While I was there, a group of us went to New York and visited Friendship House. For some reason, we didn’t get much of a tour. We judged things superficially: “Well, if they’re going to restore the world, why don’t they fix that torn curtain over there!”
Later I worked for a summer in New York. I lived on 144th St. One day my roommate said: “You know, there’s a Baroness working on 135th St. among the poor. We ought to go see her some evening.
I said, “Yes, we should,” but we never got there. So you see how God doesn’t let things happen until it’s the right time.
I was teaching in Hartford, and had all these convent-refusals under my belt. Some women I worked with wanted to start a Dominican Third Order. This was a popular thing to do: a group of lay people would try to take on the spirit of a religious order and live by certain rules. It’s like a partial religious life in the world. A group of us got together to do just that.
Parishes weren’t offering much for people who wanted to do more than just the ordinary in the spiritual life, so many joined the Third Order.
So a few of us lived in community together for a while. It was a great source of spiritual strength, but I was interested in a lifetime of dedication to some organized group.
Florence, a friend of mine, had just been to Combermere. She told me about it, saying: “You know, I’m a nurse and I got to sit up with Eddie Doherty.”
I said: “You don’t mean the Eddie Doherty, that great writer!”
She told me all about Eddie and Catherine, and how things were at MH. Before we knew it, there was a huge crowd of people around us (we were at some kind of social at the time), and Florence was giving a lecture about MH!
Later she said to me: “Now Catherine is going to give a talk in Hartford. I’ll see that you meet her.”
I said, “Well if I ever hold you to any promise, it will be that one.”
So Catherine came to Florence’s house. I came a little early to talk with her, and it wasn’t long before I was crying on her shoulder, telling her my problems about trying to be in the lay apostolate, something that I wasn’t trained for.
In those days, there wasn’t a lot of understanding of, or practical guidelines for, lay apostles. So Catherine suggested that I visit Combermere; a priest there named Fr. Callahan knew all about the lay apostolate.
I was very impressed with the lecture she gave that night. In those days, we didn’t hear much about the Mystical Body, but she talked about it. She said that you and I are closer in the mystical Body of Christ than my right arm is to me. I never forgot that. I wanted to learn more about this fantastic stuff.
I went to my spiritual director, but he said not to go. I believed in blind obedience, so I didn’t. It felt awful, though; like I was drowning in the river and trying to do something for God, and here was somebody who could help me and throw me an oar, and I was told not to take it!
Well, I said to myself, the saints practice blind obedience. I guess I’ll have to, too, and trust what God is going to do. Meanwhile, I was still looking for my vocation. I had all kinds of plans. I was to go South and teach with some sisters there, or I was to go to New York and find something I could get into.
Meanwhile, Catherine Doherty was going through something very special. She had invited me to Combermere. She realized that my spiritual director had suggested I go to New York and see what I could get into there, so she went to Fr. Callahan and said: “I just don’t know. Her spiritual director has told her to do this, but I’m being pushed to ask her to come here.”
Fr. Cal replied: “Well, if you feel that way, ask her.” So she wrote and asked me to come. I was delighted. I had my trunk packed to go to New York on this marvelous adventure of getting into the lay apostolate somewhere. Instead, I went to Combermere.
I came in on the train to Barry’s Bay, was met by one of the staff, and taken the 12 miles south to Combermere. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had no idea of staying. I just thought I’d come and see what Catherine would do. I said to myself, “This woman is going to change my life somehow.”
to be continued…
THOUGHTS ON THE WAY HOME
by Andorra Howard
We’re all familiar with the story of the prodigal son. We know he left his father, lived in a foreign land, lost everything, and ended up in a pigpen. He then came to his senses and said “I’m going to go back to my father.” The next thing we know, he’s in his father’s arms.
It’s a beautiful story in the scriptures, but what we don’t know is what he thought about on the way home. And we don’t know what the father thought about while the son was on his way.
There must have been a thousand times when the son said: “This is crazy. Why go back there? I should turn around and go back to where I was.” Or maybe he felt lost or alone.
Meanwhile, the father must have just been there, waiting and waiting and waiting.
In my own life I’ve experienced the God who waits. You may have felt the same. You can get to a point in your life when you’re not `there’ yet. You don’t know which way to turn, how far to go, whether to go back, or anything.
There comes a point when you say: “I don’t know what to do! I can’t do anything—I’ve tried everything. There’s just nothing else to do.”
I’ve hit that point. I thought that I had to do something, and that God had to do something. Well this is true, generally; but there are also times in one’s life when there’s nothing that can be done.
You wonder if God has forgotten about you. Or maybe you’ve done something wrong, and now he can’t find you. You don’t know what to do.
So you’re in a dark place, and you cry. Or maybe you just say: “God, come and get me. Come and hold me.”
I have experienced a God who waits. Not a God who `kind of’ waits, while he’s doing something else; or waits while you make up your mind; but a God who waits with every part of his Godhead—who hovers over you, feels everything that you feel, and is in as much agony as you are as he watches you, waiting.
This God is like the father of the prodigal son who goes to the window every day, looking for his son, wondering if this were day he might return. Is he okay? Is he going to make it back?
For my first five years in MH, my attitude was: “Yes, God loves you. Have faith, have hope! Things are going to be great, things are going to be wonderful!”
In the next five years, it was more: `Don’t talk to me of God; I don’t know anything about him! Where is he?”
The last five years, I’ve said: “I’m not sure that I know who God is anymore.” This part of my life has been spent in discovering who God really is: he is a God who waits. That’s God the Father!
There’s another image I have of the God who waits. Image is such a weak word; I should say that I know in my guts, or in my soul, that God is also a Lover who waits.
I picture a husband in love with his bride. She falls ill, and lies on her bed, tossing and turning, unaware of what is around her. The man sits on a chair, next to the bed. He sits there attentively, his eyes never off the bride whom he loves. That is an image of the God who waits.
Each of us comes to a point in life when we can’t do a thing. We are no longer full of enthusiasm to go out and preach the Gospel. Somewhere in our heart is a spot where we are just sitting, or crying, or lying down. We need to know that there’s a God with us, who is waiting and watching.
Some people think that God doesn’t love them, or they don’t know how God loves them, or they forget about God. I’ve been all the above at various times. And I’m sure I’m going to be all the above again.
I think that, before I was born, I was held in an eternal embrace. God the Father held me in an embrace as I entered my mother’s womb. A deep part of me felt this embrace and knew what it meant. He sent me into my mother’s womb, and I grew there and was born; and life happened and I forgot about that first embrace of love.
What made the prodigal son get up and head back to the father? Food! He was hungry. Some part of him remembered being held. It wasn’t conscious, but a part of him knew that he’d once been held, and he wanted to get back to this embrace with all his heart.
We Christians are called to stand by others when they do not know God’s love, when their world is dark. We can witness to them, because we have experienced it ourselves. We can say, “I know that my God is waiting for you.” Perhaps we don’t even have to say this. We can just stand by them and love them. It’s the Good News.
In my own life, God has brought me to a point where it no longer matters that I can’t `do’ anything. It no longer matters that I sometimes say no to God. I can’t seem to say yes all the time. This is all part of normal Christian life.
I’ll end with a quote from Cardinal Basil Hume, written two months before he died:
“If only I could start over again, I would be a much better monk, a much better abbot, a much better bishop.
“Then I thought: how much better if I can come before God when I die, not to say `thank you’ that I was such a good monk, good abbot, good bishop, but rather `God be merciful to me, a sinner’. For, if I come empty handed, then I will be ready to receive God’s gift.”
The Catholic Parent Book of Feasts, by Michaelann Martin, Carol Puccio, Zoë Romanowsky. ©1999: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington IN; 191 pages. ISBN: 0-87973-956-8.
November is my least favorite month; it is bleak and enervating. The waning heat and light seem to sap energy from both soul and body.
Ah, for a friendly hearth where one could toast one’s toes by a lively blaze. Where one could gather for shared converse with family and friends, and sip mulled cider.
There, sparks from flame and human interchange would pierce languor and warm the spirit’s center. There, igniting soul-fire, they would confront the winter’s chill and night.
I dream and shrug off the enveloping shadows. The season’s specters tempt and mock. Grieving the loss of summer color, the flight of song birds and of fragrant scents, I sense soil’s frigidity, fecundity shackled, making forays on my mind. They whisper premonitions of death and can, if given play, demonize the heart. But these specters can be routed.
Yes, confronted can they be, and converted, if we but attune to the Church, our Mother. She has a time-tried patrimony to share, which will pierce the grimness and rout the demons of any month.
Great treasures are borne in her liturgical embrace of time and space, pooling from God’s ineffable inner Being. They pour out God’s intimate presence, bringing the flow of Triune love-vigor, not only to church edifices, altars and assemblies, but onward into workplaces and homes.
This flow seeks out anywhere folks have even a hint of desire to meet the Lord and to gather, two or more, in his name. It seeks only some simple interest, a touch of effort and a spurring by even one person who will turn the tap.
Encountering God is possible. Encountering him together creates a hearth for divine fire. For the family seeking to bond in God’s name, the Church is an unquenchable wellspring of help. She is a veritable warehouse of Word, imagery, liturgy, practical experience, holy exemplars—all waiting to divinize.
To tap into this rich flow, to turn the spigot appropriate to a particular need, guidance is needed. Tools are a must. One such tool is The Catholic Parent Book of Feasts. As its introduction says:
“The life of faith and its seasons are meant to be incorporated into our daily lives in practical, relevant ways. … This book is designed to help even the busiest family inject some of the Church year into their daily lives, to take their faith from the church into the home. This book is written for your average, everyday Catholic, just trying to live a good life.”
The book gives ideas for bringing hearth-fire into our year-round humdrum, even into the shadows of a bleak November. Really, November is far too soon to borrow from the glory of Christmas. It’s ridiculous to give ear to the mantra of materialism that encroaches at every turn.
November holds its own means of channeling God’s glory into our being and doing. Why not go to pages of this book, to open a flow of grace into your house?
For November alone, there are at least 20 references to various saints. A communal acquainting just with these can bring the brightness of sanctity to somber days.
The authors stress that the home “should be seen by the family and their guests as the dwelling place of God.” They rightly affirm that “we live in a world of deep mystery, in which even the most mundane of locations and chores hold in them an importance beyond our immediate vision.” How do we reach this beyond? “We start by reminding ourselves.”
Overall, the book is easy to use. Its activity guide alone offers a myriad of choices. There is a solid backbone of ideas upon which a family can build and adapt. A range of material can stir the imagination: ideas for display and decor, ethnic customs, traditional symbols, scripture passages, recipes, crafts, etc.
The book offers customs for the seasons of Advent, Lent, etc. It also includes festal references to saints, month by month. And it recaps for family use a number of traditional prayers, blessings and devotions. There are scriptural quotes, reflections, and fun events that can fan a lively faith-fire.
The layout encourages families to develop their own faith customs. It also has an extensive bibliography for those wanting more.
As I flip through the pages once again, I’m impressed with the wealth therein for connecting with God amid November bleakness. The section on Ordinary Time reminds us that each day of the week has a theme: Sunday is Easter; Monday, the angels; Tuesday, the apostles; and so forth.
A concerted addressing of any one theme—say, Wednesday for St. Joseph; or Thursday for the Eucharist; using activities suggested by this book—can make a wonderful year-end review, and be a source of grace for all.
The saints of the month can be a springboard for mini-celebrations, even for a few minutes at suppertime.
Read about St. Martin de Porres (Nov. 3) then “on your globe find South America and its countries.” Or meet St. Martin of Tours (Nov. 11) and make a Polish recipe for horseshoe-shaped cookies. The entry for Margaret of Scotland (Nov. 14) has a tasty scone recipe. Mmm—worth a try.
Since November ends the Church year, focus on the Lord of creation with several weeks of preparation for the feast of Christ the King (this year, Nov. 26). Discuss how your family can revere Christ the King in your hearts, workplace, school, household. Brainstorm together how to translate the Lordship of Christ into daily life.
Given such impetus and ideas, the specters of November can indeed be routed. Routine gathering places can be transformed into spaces of warm mystery—God’s hearth—sparking heart-fire.
MH Ottawa - Part 1
THE HEART OF THE HOUSE
by Martha Shepherd
MH Ottawa is a `poustinia in the marketplace’. What does this mean? Well, at times it feels like we run a spiritual B&B; but, in our case, this stands for Bed & Bread (not Bed & Breakfast). Some readers may be unfamiliar with the concept of poustinia, so I’ll start by explaining the basics.
Poustinia is the Russian word for desert. It’s also refers to a Russian desert spirituality, which Catherine Doherty brought to North America in the 1970s. Poustinia—originally a cabin where the poustinik lived—is any place where you spend time in silence, solitude, prayer, and fasting. You go there to listen to God and to experience him listening to you.
Traditional poustinias were located outside of towns, in the woods or some such solitary spot. It was Catherine’s innovation to create poustinias in the marketplace.
Our Ottawa house offers people a chance to have 24 hours of silence and solitude. Since we who live here serve people in other ways as well, poustinia is the spiritual base which enables us to do this.
Let me tell you about the physical setup. Our house is tall and narrow. Entering the front door, you see a large library/talking room to the left. Ahead, at the end of the hall, is the kitchen. To the right, a flight of stairs.
These lead to the second floor where there are three rooms: two poustinias with the chapel in between. There is also a bathroom and a little porch. The third floor is our dorm and office. This setup means that the poustinias and chapel are right in the middle of the house.
This reflects a deeper reality: they are—literally—right in the heart of the place. Our physical life is largely determined by them.
I said I often feel that we run a B&B. That’s because we do what those who run B&Bs do: make beds. With two to eight poustiniks a week, it means that, two to eight times, we clean the rooms, make the beds, wash the sheets. In addition, we bake two to eight loaves of homemade bread. In other words, those two rooms in the middle of our house determine how we spend much of our time.
It also means that, whenever there’s anyone in poustinia, we are too, in a sense. If we talk in a normal tone of voice on the first or third floor, it can be heard in the poustinias. So we keep our voices down, talk less, try to walk softly, and in general live more quietly. This takes organization, concentration, and awareness. Arlene is particularly good at this; she even washes dishes quietly.
The people in poustinia also affect our inner life. When they arrive, they may not say much more than “Hi!” They may not know us (or want to know us). Fine! They’re coming to pray, not talk. We show them a room and give them a blessing.
Even if we don’t know them, we can’t help having a sense of them. We can pick up how tired they are. Or we feel anger, confusion, or sadness. Since we can’t not be aware of them (what with all the whispering and tiptoeing!) we silently pray for them, `carrying them’ through the day they are there.
Of course, when we do know people (which is often), our relationship becomes more focused. They ask us to pray for a special need. Or we are aware that their marriage just broke up, or they’re coping with a teenager on drugs. We pray for them and carry them as we go through our day. The physical setup of the house helps us remember to do this.
Having two poustinias requires a constant presence. Ask anyone who has a B&B how often they get out! We must be available to let people in and to see them out, not to mention finding time to clean up in between times.
Those who come to us are a great help to our living the poustinia ourselves. Without them, it’s much harder to live with concentration and awareness, to be faithful in prayer and constant in presence. Those rooms in the middle of the house give us discipline—reminding us, wordlessly and constantly, of who we are and what we’re called to live. In many ways they make MH Ottawa into a poustinia house.
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