Restoration

Restoration

Posted April 01, 2001:
April 2001

Archive of articles from the April 2001 issue of Restoration.

Easter

THE ASCETICISM OF JOY

by Fr. Bob Pelton

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:1-4)

“Above” is not a place. It is a life, God’s life. Our homeland is in heaven, says St. Paul in Philippians (3:20). Our homeland is God, and we have come home when at last we have no life but God’s life. We live “above” when the Spirit given us by the risen Christ brings us home to the Father’s ceaseless joy.

No adverb, then can do justice to this “above” that St. Paul uses to describe the life we now share with Jesus. “Above” is not “up.” The sky is up, and the sun and the stars, and God is certainly higher, more exalted than these; but God’s highness is not spatial.

Thus God is not really up or out or beyond because he is not more present in one place than in another—except in a mysterious way, within the human heart. Because he made us in his image and remade that image in his Son’s embrace and offering of our humanity, God lives and reigns, not just past the limits of the stars, but at the center of each human being.

If we accept what God has done for us in Jesus, we discover that “above” has made its home within us. We are a new creation. The Kingdom lives within.

But how are we to realize this, to lay hold of it not only with our minds, but with our lives? St. Paul, echoing the Lord himself, tells us that we will become fully what the risen Lord has made us if we practice compassion, kindness, patience, meekness, lowliness, forgiveness, and above all, love.

Yet it seems to me that the first step is faith, the acceptance of the asceticism of joy.

When the Lord greeted his disciples and friends after his resurrection, he said, “Shalom,” or, in English, “Peace.” He simply used the Jewish greeting, which meant “`Good morning,” or “Good day,” or “Good evening.”

But what did this greeting mean on the lips of the risen Jesus? It was the proclamation of the world’s healing. It meant that the whole plan of the Father had been fulfilled, that the mystery of the Kingdom lived now in the universe, that the glory of God was being poured into every atom of creation through the transformed mind, body, heart, and soul of Jesus the Messiah, the risen Son of God.

It meant that all the broken relationships in the universe had been healed at their root: that our separation from God was no more, that our alienation from one another, our enmities and misunderstandings, and all our estrangements were over, that our individual fragmentation had been healed, that our separation from the animals and from all of material creation had ended in reconciliation.

Jesus’s greeting meant that the harmony of God’s perfect order, the fullness of his life, was filling all things as it was meant to at the beginning.

Easter is light, radiance, and splendor, clarity, luminosity, and brightness because it is the dawn of the new creation. It is a new day, the eternal day, and Jesus says, “Good morning.”

Why do we find it so hard to say “Good morning” back to him? The answer is obvious: because we don’t see this new day, and we don’t believe in it very deeply. We accept it intellectually, but like the rabbi who was asked why he did not accept Jesus as Messiah, we say, “Well, when I look out the window, I don’t see the blind seeing and the deaf hearing.” Jesus scandalizes us, too.

Even if we don’t look out the window, we have only to look at ourselves to see anger and sadness, loneliness and fear, darkness and stupidity, and the inability to love. Is it any wonder that we rejoice for a few hours on Easter night, but can hardly sustain it through the next day, let alone a week or seven weeks?

We lack the asceticism of joy. We laugh sometimes at our ancestors who danced for three days at a wedding and celebrated Easter for forty days. We marvel at the saints, who even in great pain, were radiant with joy. But what we attribute to culture or charism is in truth due to the power of the Holy Spirit working in a heart that has truly accepted baptism.

Joy is not a question of good feelings or positive thinking or even the healthy optimism of a sane self-image. It is, rather, a matter of faith, of allowing our death and resurrection in Christ and his presence within us to govern our lives—even when our actions, thoughts, and feelings stubbornly hug the earth instead of sailing “above.”

If I look at the face of a man or a woman who takes the Gospel seriously, what do I see? I see someone who experiences keenly his or her own weaknesses, who carries more than an average share of the world’s pain, who hears clearly the cries of anguish rising on all sides.

But I also see someone radically committed to the asceticism of joy, to letting go, in faith, of his or her own darkness so that the risen Christ can shed the light of his new creation into and through the heart that God has made his home.

This decision is the great vehicle of love, which is the work and the play of the new creation, because it hands over to the Lord of glory all that is still inglorious that he may make it as radiant as he is.

Some days we may be doing well if at the very end of the day we can say to Jesus, “Good morning.” Sometimes we may go for weeks or months before we can truthfully say “Good day” to him. What matters is not our success so much as our striving to live in the light and our conviction that the new light is shining, not because we are good, but because God has exalted his Son.

The fact is that Christ is risen, that the world is redeemed, that the Easter sun is shining, that the morning of the new creation has dawned. If we allow our lives to be shaped by that fact then we are leading the risen life, and the glory of Christ’s joy within us is making the world what it already truly is.

Sin is everywhere, but its root is cut. Death is inevitable, but it no longer has dominion. All the evil that we experience has been lifted by the Lord’s cross into the glory of God, and all of it is already radiant in his love.

And in all those broken people who see only the ugliness of their pain, the risen face of Christ is clearly shining. It is for them, finally, that we are called to live in the joy of glory—that we may see their beauty and show it to them by our love.

Our joy in the risen Lord, who has raised us up with him, will bring hope and healing even when we have not a single word to say to them. Reality is no longer finally harsh, and after Easter we can never go back to the normality of death. The new creation is normal now because the deepest truth is that Christ is truly risen and we have been raised up with him.

Psalm 34 says, Look to him that you may be radiant. That is our risen life: to look to our glorious Lord, to see his death for us, united with ours for him, to receive the joy pouring forth from his throne within us, to let it flow outward in compassion and love.

Christ is truly risen; and if we keep looking at him, no matter how dark the night of faith, his light will wash over us, kinder than the spring sunshine, and even our bodies will learn how to rejoice.

In that joy we lose our fear of the world’s pain and brokenness, and as we embrace it, it too will be lifted “above,” into the glory of God.

Our heart’s eyes already see his light, shining on the face of Jesus; and if we live in the joy of that light, we will hasten the day when it sets blazing with praise every created thing and draws from each the single cry of victory: “Jesus Christ is risen!”

From Circling the Sun, pp. 95-98, available from MH Publications at $11.95.

 

 

Combermere Diary

THE LIGHT OF SPRING

by Mary McGoff

This season is one in which we see dramatic changes in nature, in our liturgy, and in some of our work. I am the housemother for the women guests and, in the morning as the spring sunlight comes earlier and brighter each day, I like to pull up the blinds to coax the dorm into wakefulness.

On our “commute” past two parking lots and across a causeway to the island chapel for morning prayers, at this time of year we often pass by specially chopped channels in the ice, channels which direct the watery run-off and keep the slush and mud to a minimum. But we aren’t able to give up our boots just yet.

Our “journey” also carries us around the apple orchard where we check to see how the snow is melting. Guesses for our when-will-the-snow-go-from-the-orchard contest range from the optimistic March 31st until dates at the end of June!

Upon arrival at the chapel, we remove our boots, slip quietly across the pine floor and, for those of us who arrive early enough, have a bit of meditation before Lauds.

As housemother, I give the women guests their work assignments for the day. Our way of life is dependent upon many hands making light the work as we sort, sweep, iron, dust, chop, peel, polish, and sort some more. The kitchen with its Easter baking and the cleaning department are especially glad for extra hands these days.

Most days we have some time for recreation. It is not unusual to see whole work departments out for short walks on sunny afternoons. And, for a holy and specifically Lenten form of recreation, our handicraft center offers instruction and materials for making Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs). And in the evenings there are usually some people playing cards in the dining room. Cribbage seems to be popular. On February 14th, we celebrated the anniversary of the founding of Catherine Doherty’s second house—Friendship House Harlem in 1938. The library put up a display of letters, photographs, and articles from Catherine’s early days working in this inter-racial apostolate in Harlem, New York City.

Blanche Lepinski, a former Friendship House staff worker, who long ago married a local man and lives in Combermere, joined us for supper and then treated us to some informal recollections and reflections about the early days of our apostolate.

We also had our annual pre-Lent event, a festive variety show which we put on every year. It includes lots of skits (many of them take-offs on life at MH) and songs. Gerard Lesage and Mary Speicher served as MCs, and this year we even had a “sponsor”— kombucha complete with humorous “commercials” urging us to drink it. (Kombucha is a very healthy and good-tasting fermented tea which Mary Davis makes and made available to us at teatime.)

This year a skit called “Rubber Dance” (a humorous take-off on a well-known Irish dance group), which was performed by the farmers, was one of the highlights.

The applicants are currently reading our MH Constitution and enjoying staff speakers on various topics. So far they have heard from Marie Javora and Kieran Kilcommons on chastity, Reyna Smith and Mike Huffman on service, and Miriam Stulberg and Chris Hanlon on obedience and poverty.

Several staff have attended workshops and conferences. For example, Mary Davis, Sandra Wood, Ronnie MacDonnell and Kieran Kilcommons, four of our gardeners and farmers, attended a workshop on organic gardening; and Mary Lynn Murray, who is in charge of our health care annex, attended a faith-based workshop on geriatric care and nursing.

One of the hardest things about guests is that we have to say good-bye. Last month we told you a bit about Fr.

Birendra Soreng, a priest from India who spent a year with us. Well, just before he left us, he became an MH associate priest and made St. Louis de Montfort’s Act of Consecration to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Other comings and goings have included the following: Catherine Lesage and Trudi Moessner, who are stationed at our house in Russia, left for St. Petersburg where they will live with families and immerse themselves in a Russian studies program. Cynthia Donnelly was on the road again with the play, A Woman in Love, this time in Colorado and Arizona. Fr. David May gave a parish mission in Ottawa, and Fr. Tom Zoeller visited our house in Moncton where he experienced the coldest day of their winter (minus 43 C. plus the wind-chill factor). Dina Lingard, Peter Gravelle, and Reyna Smith traveled to the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where they manned a booth about Madonna House for a Lay Ministries Vocation Day.

Jo-Anne Paquette and Mary McGoff (myself) attended a planning forum for World Youth Day 2002 which will be held in Toronto from July 18 to 28, 2002. It was the first time the Canadian youth ministers have ever gathered nationwide.

With Combermere only 3½ hours away from Toronto, we are going to be involved in the upcoming World Youth Day, and we are already making plans to receive extra guests that summer. We’ll be keeping you updated on this.

Fr. Brière has a new book out in French—L’Experience de Dieu de Catherine de Hueck. It is #25 of a series by Fides Publishing Co. on the spirituality of various saints and holy people. This book is composed of an introduction by Fr. Brière and excerpts from Catherine’s writings. It’s available from MH Publications ($14.95 in Canada and $11.95 in the US) and Fides.

Well, it is now almost 5 p.m., and everyone is heading once again towards the island chapel, this time for Mass. Whereas not too long ago, the darkness of winter surrounded us as we hurried to the chapel, now the evening light is reflecting brightly off the trees and water. This dramatic increase of light is a symbol of the light of Christ. And, by the time most of you receive this paper, the Easter candle, another symbol of the Risen Lord, will be burning in churches across the world.

In the words from the Easter Vigil Service:

“Jesus is the light of the world!” “Thanks be to God.”

The Pope’s Corner

THE NEW EARTH

by Pope John Paul II

In the following excerpt from a general audience on January 31, 2001, the pope reflects on Christian hope in an ultimate future of freedom and peace, which Scripture describes as a new heaven and a new earth.

———-

Sacred Scripture weaves a golden thread, as it were, through the weaknesses, miseries, violence, and injustices of human history and leads to a messianic goal of liberation and peace. On these sound Biblical foundations, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just, sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ….”

This new human and cosmic creation was inaugurated with the resurrection of Christ, the first fruits of that transfiguration to which we are all destined….

This faith perspective can easily be doubted by those who live in history under the weight of evil, contradictions, and death. (This doubt or disbelief can be seen in) the disheartened attitude of those who renounce every effort regarding history and its transformation….

The temptation of those who imagine apocalyptic scenes of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom and who close their eyes, weighed down with the sleep of indifference, is opposed by Christ with (the vision of) the quiet coming of the new heavens and the new earth. This coming is similar to the hidden but vigorous growth of the seed sprouting from the ground (cf. Mk 4:26-29).

God entered the world and human history and proceeds silently, waiting patiently for humanity with its delays and conditioning. He respects its freedom, supports it when it is gripped by desperation, leads it step by step, and invites it to collaborate on the project of truth, justice and peace of the kingdom. Divine action and human effort must therefore be intertwined.

“There is no question, then, of the Christian message inhibiting men from building up the world or making them uninterested in the good of their fellows: on the contrary, it is an incentive to do these very things.” (Gaudium et Spes, or On the Church in the Modern World, n. 34)

Thus a theme of great importance, which has always engaged the Church’s work and reflection, opens before us. Without falling into the opposite extremes of holy isolation or secularism, Christians must also express their hope within the structures of secular life.

If the kingdom is divine and eternal, it is still sown in time and space. It is “in the midst” of us, as Jesus says.

The Second Vatican Council forcefully stressed this close and deep connection: “The mission of the Church, consequently, is not only to bring people the message and grace of Christ, but also to permeate and improve the whole range of the temporal order with the evangelical spirit” (Apostolicam Actuositatem, or Decree on the Laity, n. 5).

The spiritual and temporal orders “are distinct. They are nevertheless so closely linked that God’s plan is, in Christ, to take the whole world up again and make of it a new creation, in an initial way here on earth, in full realization at the end of time” (ibid.).

Heartened by this certainty, Christians walk courageously on the world’s highways, seeking to follow in God’s footsteps and to cooperate with him in giving birth to a horizon in which steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; justice and peace will embrace (Ps 85:11)

 

 

LOOK AT THE LIGHT

by Jean Fox

Do not look at the darkness. Do not look and get pulled down by the culture of death, but keep your eyes lifted to the mountain top. Keep your eyes filled with the vision of life that is the true inheritance of the Christian.

As Archbishop Raya says so often, “You become what you contemplate. Beauty, love, life, goodness, and truth will feed your heart and soul with what is eternal.”

Pain will only strengthen you. The joy of the cross will give you the courage to walk day by day into tomorrow, no matter what comes knocking at your door.

Pray for faith. All you have to do, all any of us has to do, is ask.

 

 

THE LIGHTS ON THE HILL

by Mary Ann Glendon

The following is taken from an address by Dr. Glendon of Harvard Law School to the Congress of Catholic Laity on November 27, 2000. Though it speaks about conditions in the United States, it can be applied to much of the rest of the present world.

———-

The main challenge to the Christian witness in America is a set of habits and beliefs that are so deeply entrenched that they amount to a “culture.” The Holy Father calls it “the culture of death” and warns us that it is spreading (throughout the world) with alarming speed….

The main elements of the culture of death are easy to enumerate (materialism, consumerism, secularism, relativism, and hyper-individualism), but if one is actually immersed in such a culture, it’s not always easy to recognize the forms they assume.

Often it is the poet or the novelist who sees more deeply than the rest of us and who is thus able to hold up a mirror showing the true face of our society, as Charles Dickens did in 19th century England.

Last year the American author Tom Wolfe offered us a disconcerting portrait of the United States in his best-selling novel, A Man in Full. Late 20th century America, as Wolfe depicts it, has some uncomfortable similarities to Rome in the time of empire.

The old Republic of our ancestors is fading from memory; its democratic elements are diminishing. We now have a polity that is more like an oligarchy than a republic.

To be sure, this new polity has its excitement and attractions. There is far more wealth and social mobility than in the Republic. And there is far more personal liberty, if you’re not fussy about the distinction between liberty and license!

Manners are relaxed, behavior formerly frowned upon is now tolerated, and marriage is easily terminated. Games and spectacles abound.

Wolfe shows us a society that has become unusually careless about its “moral ecology”—the moral foundations upon which both a free market and a free polity depend.

The fabric of customs that once helped to civilize the relations between men and women is frayed, and motherhood receives little support or respect. Children spend more waking hours with the TV, the Internet, and in government-run schools than with their mothers and fathers.

Technology has, so to speak, democratized the vices, in the sense that forms of self-indulgence once known only to emperors are now available to persons of modest means.

This prosperous, permissive society is thus a new kind of mission territory, but quite different in one important respect from the pagan lands that Christians evangelized in former times. Paganism at least had the virtue that it was open to mystery and transcendence!

But, in the affluent countries of North America, paganism and Christianity alike are increasingly being displaced by an arid secularism, materialism, and nihilism. And a society that has banished transcendence, we are beginning to realize, can be a pretty frightening place.

The bleakness of the picture, however, is relieved by the continuing presence of unusual opportunities for Christian witness. The United States still has a much larger proportion of regular churchgoers than any other country in the world.

And the endless opinion polling that took place prior to the recent presidential election revealed that the majority of voters consider the most important issues facing the country to be moral issues, and that they perceive the country to be in moral decline.

But the same polls also show a great reluctance to embody moral positions in public policy. That strange mixture of attitudes prompted the Catholic novelist Walker Percy to begin a story this way: “Once upon a time in the latter-day, Christ-haunted, Christ-forgetting United States” …

Many religious leaders regard this disjunction between what Americans say they believe and what emerges from the political process as evidence of a culture war: a war of ideas between different segments of a divided society holding different values—with secularism, materialism, and individualism more pervasive among the elites than among the population at large.

There is a good deal of truth to the culture-war theory. The values of the men and women who hold key positions in government, political parties, corporations, mass media, foundations, and universities are often quite remote from the concerns of the average citizen.

Strong ties to persons and places, religious beliefs, attachment to traditions and even to family life are apt to be less important to those at the top than to the men and women whose lives they affect. (And incidentally, the elements of American culture that spread most rapidly around the world tend to be the values of these elites…)

But the culture-war image… has its limitations. Those who see society through that lens often see themselves as engaged in a struggle along the lines of the old western movies with good guys in white hats on one side and bad guys in black hats on the other.

Recently, after a number of setbacks in that struggle, notably the Supreme Court’s decision holding that states cannot ban partial-birth abortions, several Protestant evangelical leaders publicly declared their belief that the bad guys had won.

They announced that they would no longer be active in public life; that it was time for Christians to withdraw from that corrupt sphere.

The fact is, however, that the culture war is more complicated than a fight of white hats against black hats. The fact is that most American Christians who take their missionary vocation seriously have been operating with two theories that are on a collision course.

On the one hand, we keep insisting that the majority of the American people possess more good sense and common decency than comes through in media images and public policies.

But for years we have maintained that the American character is being adversely affected by the abortion mentality, the divorce mentality, sexual promiscuity, and indifference to the poor.

Now it stand to reason that, if the second proposition is correct, it will at some point undercut the first. The balance at some point will shift in favor of the culture of death.

I do not believe, as some of the more pessimistic evangelicals do, that we have reached the point of no return. And even if I did, it wouldn’t matter, because our duty to witness remains the same.

But I do believe that if you want to be a missionary, you have to know the territory…. And no American has been untouched by the effect of living in a society where for nearly 30 years abortion on demand has taken one and a half million lives a year.

My point is that the culture war is real, but it’s not just a struggle between different groups in society. It’s a war within the mind and heart of every American. The difference between what we say we believe and what we do is the same old moral impotence of which Paul wrote to the Romans: I do not do the good I know (Rom 7:15).

The wordsmiths of the culture of death have been quick to exploit that weakness of human nature. About 30 years ago, they came up with one of the most insidious slogans ever invented: “Personally, I’m opposed to (here you can fill in the blank), but I can’t impose my opinions on others.”

That was the moral anesthesia they offered to people who are deeply troubled about cultural decline, but who don’t know quite how to express their views in public. The anesthesia worked.

That’s why we have these strange polling results where the same people who say they consider abortion to be an unspeakable moral crime say “yes” when they are asked whether the decision to have an abortion should be left up to the woman.

The Christian witness of countless good men and women has been silenced by that diabolically clever little phrase. Only recently have a number of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews stepped forward to reclaim their right to a voice in public affairs.

They point out that, when we advance our religiously grounded moral viewpoints in the public square, we are not im-posing anything on anyone. We are pro-posing.

That’s what citizens do in a democracy. We propose. We give reasons. It’s a very strange doctrine that would only silence culturally conservative viewpoints….

When all is said and done, the challenge for Christian witness today is the same as it was when Our Lord told us 2,000 years ago that we must be the leaven in the loaf, the salt of the earth, and lights upon the hill. Though it’s still a daunting challenge, at least it’s a familiar one—part of our regular job, so to speak.

That should be encouraging. It’s also encouraging to know that great works can grow from little seeds. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, Do you not know that a little yeast has its effect all through the dough? (1 Cor 5:6)

So, some of you might be wondering, what’s the matter with American Catholics? After all, 62.4 million of us is a lot of yeast! But, as you may recall, St. Paul had some other things to say about yeast. Just as good yeast spreads all through the dough, so can bad yeast.

He told the Corinthians, a prosperous, self-satisfied, commercial people, that they had to get rid of the bad yeast that was in themselves as well as in their community (5:7). To us Christians living in North America, he would surely say what he said to the Corinthians: Do not conform yourselves to the spirit of the age (Rm 12:2). In other words, when you are trying to transform a culture, make sure that the culture is not transforming you!

Having painted a rather somber picture, I want to conclude by saying why I remain confident that with prayer, witness, and determination, we can overcome these obstacles.

Our Catholic social and moral teaching corresponds to all that is best in American traditions. Our social teaching gives us a vision of society that welcomes the stranger, that supports and honors motherhood, that lends a hand to the needy, that honors families engaged in the task of raising children because it knows that good parents are not just doing something for themselves, but for all of us when they raise their children well.

Our moral teaching resounds with the cherished American belief in the possibility of a fresh start. We believe that there is no sin that can’t be forgiven if one faces up to it, sincerely repents, makes amends, and reforms one’s life.

The challenge for Christian witness is first, to live those teachings by example, and second, to find ways suited for our times and places to articulate our Catholic vision in its fullness.

We have to find and build on what is true and good in the culture, and denounce and reject what is false and harmful. That is what Christians have always tried to do, in and out of season, in good times and bad.

That is what Christians will do in North America regardless of what history has in store for that continent.

MH Magadan

A TIME OF SOWING

by Alma Coffman

“It is springtime in Magadan,” said our Bishop Ezhi Mazur on January 14th in the frozen city of Magadan. The occasion was the solemn celebration of the tenth anniversary of the parish of the Nativity of Jesus. Both he and Archbishop Francis Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska, were there. And what a celebration of faith, hope and love it was!

This parish, begun only two years after the fall of Communism, is the first Catholic parish in Magadan, a city Stalin had built specifically to be the administrative center for the slave labor camps in the Russian Far East. And the Mass was a big thanksgiving for all that God has done in the parish during the ten years of its existence.

The Gospel was from St. John—the wedding feast at Cana. At the homily, Bishop Ezhi said, “At the wedding at Cana, there was no wine. So Mary told Jesus to make wine for the people. Ten years ago Archbishop Hurley visited Magadan and there were no priests and no church. So Our Lady told him to start a church.”

During the Mass, there were one baptism and two confirmations, and then several parishioners, people of all ages, told of their memories and involvement with the parish. After that, a few women came forward with roses for the bishops and parish priests, Fr. Michael Shields and Fr. David Means. And finally, at the end of Mass, we knelt and made our consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. No wonder the Final Blessing and prayers almost got forgotten!

Then something else very exciting and very holy took place. Up until now, our church has been an apartment, but we were planning to build a real church. And now we were all going to the blessing of the site.

After Mass, two “airport size” buses took us there, and we sang joyfully all the way.

It was a gray, breezy day and the temperature was about minus 22 degrees Celsius.

First there was the blessing of a beautiful sturdy wooden cross made by Fr. David Means. About seven feet tall, it will be put in the new church.

Then, singing hymns, we walked through the foundation—an abandoned bath house with open walls about twelve feet high. There were about a hundred people, enough of us to surround the foundation as we walked in and out.

The snow was dirty and stained, and half-hidden under it were cans, bottles and other trash. The path, too, was dirty and so slippery that Sushi said the main thing she remembers is walking with an elderly woman and hoping that neither of them would slip and fall.

Two men climbed on the walls and took pictures, and a group of little girls of about eight, who happened to be walking by, joined in the “procession.” It made me think of the triumphal Palm Sunday procession.

With my physical eyes, all I saw was a group of very cold people walking through a big abandoned foundation, a place where people throw their trash. But my soul was experiencing something very holy. Some day, at this site, God willing, there will be a holy Catholic church, where Jesus Christ and his people will dwell!

In faith and hope we had left the crowded apartment where we were now meeting for worship, to come to this spot. With eyes of faith, we were seeing the great work which we trust that God will continue to do in this church which has had such a humble beginning. It was a day of faith, hope, and joy.

To commemorate the faith and courage of Archbishop Hurley who started this church where there had been none, Bishop Mazur gave him a gift—a rosary and its box made from stones from Siberia. The stone was the same as used for the altar of the cathedral at Irkutsk and for a rosary the bishop had given to Pope John Paul II.

Later Bishop Mazur said that it was fitting that the blessing of the church site took place in the bitter cold. Magadan is a place where there has been great suffering, the suffering of those in the prison camps. These people had shared in the sufferings of Christ, and it is through those sufferings that hope, life and love are coming forth. Yes, though it is winter in Magadan, it is also a time of sowing. It is a springtime of faith.

 

 

NEW WAYS OF KNOWING

by Arlene Becker

When I first arrived at Madonna House, I was a dietician with two years experience at Mayo Clinic, a prestigious medical instituion in Minnesota, under my belt.

According to my way of thinking, there was one way of knowing about nutrition: empirical science. Heaven knows that I—and my parents—had paid a high price for me to acquire this body of knowledge. And I wasn’t alone in my confidence in it. Why, I could give you the names of fifty other people who thought just like I did! But at MH my enclosed system of knowledge was soon challenged by ways of knowing that I had never heard of.

Almost immediately, my background in science collided with a formidable force: Catherine Doherty. It was not that Catherine did not respect nutritional science. No, quite the contrary! She was interested in any knowledge that would further her vocation to restore all things to Christ. As I found out, however, restoring all things to Christ included the restoring of dieticians.

One day she said to me, “You will be going to the kitchen to be trained by Laurette (the head cook).” “Trained?” I said to myself. “But I’m already trained.”

Shortly after I began to work there, I was asked to bake a cake for a community celebration. “Well,” I asked, “Where are the scales?”

“The scales?” asked Laurette.

“Yes, the scales. You know, for weighing the grams of protein, fat and carbohydrate.” (That’s scientists’ talk for ingredients.)

“No, no, no,” she said. “A cake is just flour, eggs, sugar, butter, baking soda, cream of tartar, liquid, and flavoring in such and so proportions.”

“Oh,” I said, silently remembering the stainless steel Hobart mixers and the tried and true institutional recipes of days past.

That day began a long journey of learning that there do indeed exist many ways of understanding nutrition, and it was Catherine who opened my mind for the journey.

In those days of the early ‘60’s, to give one example, Catherine made sunflower seeds, fresh and unshelled, available to us. It seemed a bit queer to me, but, since they were the closest thing around to junk food, I soon joined in the snapping and cracking.

Then one day I found a faded pamphlet in the library which gave the nutritional content of sunflower seeds. That pamphlet made me feel so much better. Those little sunflower seeds were pure nutritional gold!

Back in the days of the Russian Czars, Lelord Kordel wrote, soldiers on the battle fields were given what was called their daily `iron ration’, a two-pound bag of sunflower seeds each. The soldiers often lived exclusively on this tasty, light-weight food which had enough nutritional value to keep them in good condition for battle.

In my journey of transformation, sunflower seeds became a symbol of the godly nutrition of a Russian farming culture that was close to nature. In that way of life, people obeyed the laws of nature by using compost to nourish the soil, eating indigenous foods according to season, and intruding as little as possible on the natural form of food.

Slowly, inexorably, my belief in science fell into a larger frame of reference, one that transcended science and brought me in touch with wisdom.

Through my clashing with an immovable force—Catherine—I became a dietician who weighs her science on the scales of Catherine’s heritage.

For inspiration on Nourishing Traditions, read Sally Fallon’s book by that title. It can be ordered from: The Weston A. Price Foundation

PMB #106-380

4200 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.

Washington, DC 20007

 

 

My Story - Part 2

FROM POVERTY TO GRACE

by Bonnie Staib

We continue Bonnie’s story—a story about God’s leading and saving her through Scripture. When part 1 ended, she was serving at our house in the Yukon and was in so much inner pain that she was tempted to commit suicide. It was then that a friend invited her to a charismatic conference in Juneau, Alaska.

———-

One of the speakers at the conference, a Catholic psychologist from Montana, spoke of what he called “God’s psychology.” He had worked many years with patients in mental institutions and elsewhere and had taught them to pray the Scriptures out loud and even to sing them. He presented reasons why this worked, but I was interested simply because I was so desperate.

Over the years, my own ability to drink from the Word of God had dwindled, but after the conference I started to pray in this new way. As I worked, I would sing songs based on scripture phrases. I sang and I sang. I was not a great singer, but it didn’t matter. I needed to sing those words to myself, to proclaim the Gospel to my heart.

When I’d be out walking, I’d sing. Or sometimes I took one word of Scripture and simply said it over and over, loud enough that I could hear it.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Ps 23:1). I felt like I was wanting; in fact, I felt like God had asked me for my life and then abandoned me.

You, O God, are my refuge. You are my stronghold; in you I trust (Ps 94:22). Though I didn’t feel this, I said to the Lord, “I will give you my mouth, and you have to take care of my heart.” I gave him my mouth, over and over and over.

I remember one woman who had spent a number of weeks living with us in our hostel. When she later had a job and came back to visit, she said to me, “Do you know what I miss about Maryhouse? I miss your singing. You were always so happy!”

I thought, “She doesn’t know.” Though once in a while I might have been happy, basically, I was crying out.

I was singing out of desperation. I was dying inside and I wanted to die. Death seemed to be my only answer. But God was teaching me to pray with Scripture, and he had another answer.

When I was transferred from the Yukon to Moncton, New Brunswick, in eastern Canada, I travelled down the Alaska Highway by bus, then across Canada by train. The trip took almost six days in all.

During that time I sang and I prayed whenever I could. When the bus stopped, I walked and sang. My trip became a retreat, and I started to glimpse a new life entering me. It was not coming just because I was leaving the Yukon. Rather, I was catching on to God’s mercy and His presence.

The next years of my life were springtime. God gave me a new life. Much to my shock, very soon I was not only grateful that the pain of the Yukon had ended, but I became grateful for that very pain—because it had opened to me God’s mercy and love in ways I never knew before the Yukon. I had gone from poverty to grace.

Moncton and Washington, D.C. were prayer houses in which God deepened my love for Scripture and taught me more and more to live in his mercy. Often I listened to others speak about their pain, prayed with and for them, trusted in God’s mercy for them, and trusted that he would lead them, too, from poverty to grace.

In the fall of 1985 I received a phone call in Washington, telling me that I was appointed director of our house in Arizona. I’d been a director once before, short- term, and I knew that this was a call to be poor.

How to manage this work of God, not according to my own ideas, but according to his? How be available to my fellow staff and the people we serve? Yes, to be called to be a director was to be called to experience my poverty—my inability to do it by my own power.

I remember saying—just after that phone call—that there was nothing that would make me feel my poverty more. Then a week later I faced a second, equally demanding experience of poverty. I learned that my twin sister had cancer.

Soon I left the support of the Washington house I so loved, to move to the house in Arizona. The first month I was in Winslow I participated in a retreat with the men’s Scripture Group. These men clearly knew that they were anawim, God’s poor, those who know they need to lean on God. They openly shared their poverty at this retreat.

And, as much as I would have liked to come in as a strong, new director, I came in as a poor, broken one with nothing to give. I, too, shared my poverty with them.

The men taught me a song on that retreat that became for me a special word. Once again I used the technique of praying out loud with Scripture. Overwhelmed by my poverty in Winslow, I would sing. Sometimes I would have to force myself to do so, almost choking on the words.

Periodically I went to California to see Barbara, my twin, who was dying. The song the men had taught me carried me there as well. I would spend some time with Barbara, and then I would go out for a walk or a run and sing.

I needed to draw my strength from the Lord, and so I would sing over and over the words from the prophet Habakkuk: Even though the fig trees do not blossom and the crops in the fields all barren lie; even though the cattle barns are empty, and the sheep in the pasture die—yet I will rejoice, I will rejoice. I’ll be happy abiding in You. Yes, I will rejoice, I will rejoice, as the God of my salvation brings me through (cf. Hab 3:17-18).

My journey from poverty to grace continues. New experiences of my poverty greet me daily. But I have learned that God has given me a technique which is always at my disposal.

Regularly I must let the words of Scripture call me to truth and to his loving kindness. I continue to sing.

 

 

My Story

HOW GOD LANDED ME

by Viva LeBlanc

I’d like to tell you a fish story. I call it “How God Landed Me.”

When I think about my life, I have an image of a fisherman hooking a fish. He throws out a line, a hook, and a nice juicy bait. The fish goes for it, grabs it, and is hooked. Then the fisherman begins to reel it in.

But when the fish discovers that it’s caught, it begins to pull away and fight with all its might. So the fisherman lets out a little line to give it some slack. The fish then forgets it is caught and thinks it’s on its own—until it feels the tug of the line again. And so the struggle goes on.

I am Cajun. I grew up in a Catholic family in a Catholic area of Louisiana, and I went to Catholic schools. Though I was immersed in Catholicism, I don’t remember making a personal response or deep commitment.

I was like a fish in water. For the fish, water just is; and for me, Catholicism just was.

I stayed in the Church all through college and even beyond, but when I was 28, I decided I really didn’t need it. So I dropped out.

That began the next period of my life which I call “searching for the experience of life.”

I moved to Montana where I taught elementary school. When I wasn’t teaching, I was camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and just generally spending a great deal of time in the wilderness.

I thought that if I experienced nature very directly and in its most elemental forms, I would know the secret of life. I would know how to live, and I would have inner freedom and peace.

A line from Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden, expresses what I was living at that time. “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life and see if I could learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I had lots of fun doing all those things, but I didn’t reach the depths of what my heart truly desired. God had lured me through the beauty of his creation, and now I was searching for the experience of God Himself.

But the wilderness continued to call to me until, finally, I left teaching and went to live in the back bush of Alaska where the challenges of survival in a harsh land still left me time for reading and reflecting.

In my reading, I gravitated towards spirituality—spirituality of all kinds, such as the Bhagavad Gita, Tao, Zen, and Sufism—and I learned how to do Zen meditation. This meditation appealed to me because it gave me a definite method to use in my search.

Then one day, I started thinking, “What about my own tradition?” Christianity was the one tradition that I hadn’t looked into.

Since I didn’t live near a church of any kind, I decided to get a Bible and read it during church time. So every Sunday morning I sat down and read the Gospels. (I didn’t like St. Paul.)

And every time I read them, my heart burned like the hearts of the disciples on the way to Emmaus.

So in the stillness of the Alaskan wilderness, I started to walk around and talk with God.

I had what I had wanted. I had gotten away from all the trappings of civilization and was surrounded by sheer beauty. My life was idyllic.

Yet there was still one little corner of discontent in me. What was I lacking, I asked God. The word I heard was “community.”

Since community means living where there are people, I decided to move back to Montana. I had been in Alaska for four and a half years.

Then as I was packing in preparation to leave, I had a premonition that God was going to ask something of me, something that wouldn’t be easy, and something that I would say “yes” to. But I had no idea what that would be.

At about this time my Dad died, and I went home for the funeral. As I sat at his wake for two days, my mind was on his new life, and, for the first time, I felt certain that there is more to life than what I can see or hear about. Now I knew that I wanted to live a life of faith and to look to things that are eternal.

So I went back to the Church. Well, not quite all the way. I was still searching. After all those years of experiencing nature and reading, I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to live from inside myself and see what I could discover and know with certainty.

I got as far as the level of my desires. I learned that I could know what I wanted and that I then could do whatever I needed to do to make it happen. And I set about to live that way.

But it wasn’t long—about a year—before I realized that this wasn’t deep enough, and that my desires weren’t based on anything absolute. They were just my changing desires.

Once again I became hungry for Scripture. So I joined a Bible study group. And then when I read Scripture, not only did my heart burn, but I began to fall in love with the Lord. More and more I was being reeled in.

And then in 1982 I made a weekend retreat, a Cursillo. That’s where I really met the Lord Jesus and began a personal relationship with Him. I experienced Jesus in His passion, and I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that he was at the right hand of the Father and that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were pouring their love on me.

Now I really was in the life of the Church. God, the Divine Fisherman, was landing me.

I wish I could say that I never thrashed around again, but in fact, that old desire of mine for a definite method reared it’s head again. Why didn’t the Catholic Church have a definite method?

One evening when I was feeling drawn to a particular non-Christian Eastern method, I closed my eyes to pray and immediately before my inner eye, there came the figure of a cross. Suddenly I knew that the cross was the method, the path of Jesus himself.

I think I was ready to give my whole life to God at this point, but I had no one to guide me. Two more years went by. Then I began to notice that little feeling of discontent again.

I had been working as a social worker for a state agency, but that didn’t seem to me that that was the work to which God was calling me.

So in the summer of 1985, I went to Madonna House in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, to pray about what he wanted me to do.

And that’s where I learned about Madonna House. After that weekend of prayer, I came to Combermere where I planned to stay two months.

But while I was here, it became clear to me that there was something here that I needed to find and that I couldn’t set a limit on how long it would take. I needed to stay here until I “got to bedrock.”

I knew that, after all those years of being on God’s line and thrashing around in shallow water, I would go into the depths, touch bedrock, and let myself be reeled in and landed by God.

Did I? Yes! I found God’s mercy, and I found God’s will for me—my vocation to Madonna House.

 

 

HAPPINESS

by Joe Hogan

According to one dictionary, happiness is the joy of the possession of the good. St. Thomas Aquinas has a less abstract definition: “Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the divine essence.” He also says that the fellowship of friends, external goods, and good health are conducive, but not essential, to happiness.

There is a certain kind of happiness which can come in old age, and that is the joy of repletion. In this kind, a person is happy because he perceives that his goals in life have been satisfactorily accomplished. He has dreamed his dreams. He has persevered in the calling Christ gave him at a young age, and is in possession of other goods and talents which give him joy.

My own happiness is that I have remained in my calling to Madonna House since 1956.

I have faith and, at the same time, I pray every day for an increase in faith. My faith comes from a knowledge that Christ has accepted me, lowly as I am.

My calling to live in community means much to me. It means that I am able to live in the intensity of the Body of Christ in faith, hope, and love. My love for my brothers and sisters is bathed in the grace of the Holy Spirit. And those with whom I live and whom I see every day give me a unique blessing by their presence and witness to Christ.

My happiness comes from an outpouring of love as expressed in service, the service I do and the service done to me. My life is lived in the communion of the saints, with those on earth and those in heaven.

I know the saints in heaven and they know me. I am near to them and to the holy angels because I am near to Christ as Christ is first near to me.

This is the beginning of eternal happiness. My life is already at the commencement of a life in eternity with Christ, with the Father of Goodness, and with all the saints, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

My trajectory in eternity began with my baptism and continues by grace and the Holy Eucharist. This is the faith of all believers and this is my happiness.

Look at what Paul wrote in his letter to Ephesians (1:17-18): May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you.

 

 

My Dear Family

A KEY TO FREEDOM

by Catherine Doherty

Whenever charity permits, every Friday, I go to my little poustinia. One does not go to the poustinia for oneself only but for the community. Therefore one must be ready to share with others the key thought God has revealed in the poustinia—the word that God has left in one’s heart after spending twenty-four hours alone with him in fasting and prayer.

Last Friday, the word I came out with was “joy.” It seemed like a very strange word to me because it appeared to be rooted in pain.

I couldn’t fathom how this was possible. People strive desperately for peace, happiness, and joy. In our minds, all of these mean the total absence of any kind of pain, whether emotional, intellectual, or what-have-you. Yet in my poustinia, the word “joy” seemed to have deep roots in pain.

Still wondering, I began to leaf through the Bible and to look at the concordance. Then a phrase came to me from Psalm 126: They who sow in tears will reap in joy. I remembered that in Isaiah we read that the meek will increase their joy (29:19). And Matthew speaks again and again of the joy of the Lord.

Having considered it further, I began to understand this “poustinia word” that the Lord was giving me to share. Just before he died, Christ spoke of the immense joy of eating the Pasch. He died after being tortured, and it was a terrible death on the cross—let’s face that fact!—and yet that too, was an act of joy.

Slowly, like a child learning how to walk, I began to understand the meaning of this word given to me in my poustinia. This joy was the key to freedom. If one enters this kind of joy, then one is truly free. So God was giving me the key to freedom.

I looked back on my life, and I saw that there was much pain in it. Ever since I left my parents and went with my husband through the first World War and the Russian Revolution, ever since I became a refugee and a stranger in so many places, I had (in a manner of speaking) put forth roots into the domain of Lady Pain.

But the Lord had given me the gift of fiat, surrender. So I allowed my roots to grow more and more deeply into that land of pain. Slowly, it cleansed and healed me. It healed me of memories, healed me of many things that could have wrecked my life. I was healed and given peace.

Slowly again, imperceptibly, I began to know joy and freedom—freedom from all of the things that people seem to find so very important, and I entered into the freedom of God.

Don’t ask my how it happened, but on that Friday in May, in my poustinia, I knew freedom… and a joy beyond any understanding! And, my friends, I knew a peace that is also beyond understanding.

I wish that I could impart to you the fantastic state that this freedom and joy gives, even though the roots of both are still growing in the land of pain. One thing I know is that those who pass through pain in faith and love, receive from God what I think are “the keys of his kingdom”—peace, joy, freedom.

I wish I could share all of these with you because with them go tenderness, compassion, and understanding.

I simply bring them to you. That is all I can do.

From Dearly Beloved, Vol. 3, pp. 30-32, available from MH Publications.

 

 

MH Ottawa

CORNER STORE

by Arlene Becker

“Small is beautiful!” This phrase has been more of an experience lately than an intellectual dawning.

In our neighborhood we have a corner store, a very small one. Going there is like visiting a friend. Harry, the storekeeper from the former Yugoslavia, is always available. And so is his female cat, who lounges on the boxes of canned food, stretches, and invites us to pet her.

At first, the atmosphere is jolting. Then you shift some inner gear. You become more alert, more present. You can hear better, see better, and you feel better.

You begin to feel rested. You find yourself contemplating—contemplating the cat, watching her drop off the box, stretch, change boxes.

It’s all so still. There is no line, no waiting, no tension, no being rushed. We chat, discussing the weather, the headlines, the latest wars and rumblings, and our fears and hopes. He writes out a receipt by hand for the ten 46 cent stamps I just purchased.

Then when you’re ready to leave, it’s “Have a good day.” (Or a good evening, a happy Easter, or whatever.)

Subsequently you notice that your neck and shoulders have relaxed, and you feel very kindly toward Harry. You entertain thoughts of bringing him some Christmas bread when Christmas appears again.

Realizing that you haven’t felt crowded, you haven’t felt burdened, and you haven’t been ignored, you feel pretty good. In fact, downright peaceful. Yes, and even loved by the neighborhood storekeeper in his small, so small corner store.

So he’s become our model. We’re always correcting the drift around here, amending our lives toward a new balance. Harry, the storekeeper, is going to help us achieve balance. We’re going to do what he does. He really does what he’s doing; he seems to be all there. No assembly line approach, no multi-tasking.

We’re going to try to be small and beautiful like Harry, and perhaps, like him, we will gain interior peace. Perhaps, as Paul Endokimov says in The Struggle with God (which Catherine called her “Russian Bible”), we will “acquire interior peace, and a multitude will find salvation near (us).”

 

 

Notes from Far and Near

GHANA

I was stationed in this house when I was a layman of MH, and am here again, this time as an MH priest. And I am grateful to be back among these beautiful people. There is a difference in the Evegbe language between “returning” and “returning to stay”, and often when I use the latter phrase, delight fills people’s faces.

One of the most memorable events of the Jubilee year was a Jubilee festival and pilgrimage held at the Agbenoxoe Marian Grotto in mid-December. It was a splendid three-day event in which five dioceses participated.

The celebration included a three-hour procession from Kpandu, numerous prayer vigils, and two hugely-attended Masses (50,000 plus). Two of the MH staff, Kwame and Darrin, spent a night at the grotto sleeping under the stars. Our Papal Nuncio was the celebrant for the closing Mass on Sunday.

Early January witnessed another big event for the diocese—the canonical erection of our local diocesan order of sisters into the Institute of Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church. In existence for 26 years, they are now sixty members strong, and our bishop, Bishop Lodonu, has worked hard to canonically establish the community.

I also made a two-day visit to Keta and Dzodze to meet three of my MH brother associate priests—Frs. Kpeglo, Odzangba, and Sraha. It was the first trip of a plan to build bridges and get to know our eleven Ghanaian MH associate priests by spending one overnight with each of them.

My own ministry is slowly expanding beyond the house. A Presbyterian couple come regularly for spiritual direction, and the parish Legion of Mary has asked me to be its chaplain.

And twice a month I celebrate Mass with a group of sixty students at a nearby secondary school. They are a lively bunch, and my participation helps to relieve the pastor of an evening Mass after a fatiguing Sunday.

Fr. David Linder, MH Ghana

EDMONTON

We at Marian Centre are certainly a multicultural family these days. We ten are from five different countries: Spain, Korea, Singapore, the USA, and Canada. (And if you include staff from strongly ethnic Canadian backgrounds, you can add two more countries: Germany and Ukraine.)

Catherine Ching (a Singaporean) is the stew cook for our soup kitchen, and for Chinese New Year’s, instead of the usual stew, she made a Chinese meal for all the people we serve. And while they ate, she played a tape of traditional music. The meal was terrific and everyone was delighted.

Maria Park, a Korean who is seriously looking at our vocation, is with us to study English full-time, and her homework is to talk to us. So every evening, among other things, we talk, talk, talk. On Saturdays, she helps with the work of the house which usually includes helping Veronica Dudych cook supper. One day she made us a Korean supper with all the trimmings.

We gave a retreat day for some youth, and a number of R.C.I.A. groups have come for tours and talks. We have also gone to schools to give talks about the work of our house and about our vocation.

Paul, Catherine, and Ralph took a six-week computer class for beginners, and Fr. Bob, Pat, and Linda are taking some courses in conflict resolution, courses which will take about two years to finish, and which are both helpful and demanding.

Though the craft classes we were teaching are ended (except for the pysanky class during Lent), we continue to gather with friends on Friday afternoons to make things for the gift shop in Combermere—that is, if they actually get there. Many items are sold here and the money sent to Combermere for the poor.

Linda Owen, Marian Centre Edmonton

ENGLAND

The five of us went to MH Belgium where we visited with our sisters and brother there and our two sisters from MH Paris. There were twelve of us in all—all the staff from the three European houses—and it was a joy to be together.

Fr. Bob Wild gave us a retreat focusing on our MH vocation and on growing in the vision of MH. We enjoyed the warm, homey monastery, the hospitality of the Belgian team, the friends of the house, some sight-seeing, and a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Banneux. I know that I feel renewed, enlivened, and encouraged by my time there.

Last week saw us with a little group of women in Scarborough who are fairly recent converts. We had been invited to speak to them about Our Lady and the Church.

A parish organization called “Calix” came to MH (amid snow, sleet, and rain) for a day of recollection.

Shatzi, with some help and support from a friend Richard Calvert and from the rest of us, prepared and animated several sessions on Catholic faith and culture for the Catholic children from a local boarding school.

We celebrated St. Stephen’s Day by having vespers and supper at MH with the vicar of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church here in Robin Hood’s Bay, and his wife and little daughter.

Then a party we gave this January was another ecumenical event. The ministers and members of four local Christian churches attended, and it was a time of visiting, singing together, and sharing “party pieces” (people entertaining with songs, poems, etc.). The party ended with vespers together in our chapel.

Kay O’Shea, MH Robin Hood’s Bay

 

 

Love One Another

CITIZEN OF TWO WORLDS

by Fr. Emile-Marie Brière

The Christian belongs to two societies. He is a member of secular society, of a particular town or city, state or province, and nation.

Ideally, the citizens of a particular place work together to satisfy the needs of all—the need for food, clothing, shelter, education, recreation, and fellowship. They contribute to making the world “a better place to live.” A least that is the plan of God for secular society. When people care only for their own interests, serious trouble develops.

The Christian is also a member of his parish, his diocese, and the universal Church—Christ’s Body, a society which exists to unite people with God and with one another. How is this done? What will be their program and approach?

One approach has been to set up places of worship where possible. Yes, all agree on this. The local community should have a place where its members can worship the Lord and receive instruction in their beliefs.

Another way has been to develop institutions such as schools and hospitals. Until recently, the vast majority of Christians have given its nod of approval to such projects. Such a movement began in the fourth century when, under the emperor Constantine, Church and State, the temporal and the spiritual, became so intermingled that they were often indistinguishable.

Today society has become almost totally secular, and the Church exercises its influence over fewer and fewer institutions. The Church has been rejected in some localities, and churchmen in many. Some of the Church’s cherished institutions have been taken away from her, sometimes by force.

Faced with these profound changes, the Church is reassessing and re-examining the essential values and the essential mission which Christ has entrusted to her. What exactly is her role and the role of the committed Christian in today’s world?

What is the role of the Church if not to form Christians who will witness to Christ in society and spread his message of peace and love to others?

We are called to be the leaven in the dough. We are to join hands with people of other faiths, or of no faith, and shoulder to shoulder, work to make the world a better place.

The Christian brings to this immense task his Christian love nourished by the faith-community to which he belongs. Without the element of Christian love, society can indeed be built, but there is a strong possibility that it will grow into a monstrosity. (Think, for example, of the societies created by atheistic Communism.)

Yes, it is the glorious task of the Christian to be the leaven in secular society, a leaven which, under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, can penetrate the whole mass of secular society

From The Power of Love, pp. 97-99, available from MH Publications.

 

 

OVERCOME BY BEAUTY

by Mark Schlingerman

The Lord uses beauty to attract us to himself. This is one reason I carve: to attract people to the Lord. Beauty is how he attracted me to him in the first place.

My mother was not a Christian, but she was a painter who loved beautiful things including paintings of the Virgin and Child. Besides these, we had no other holy pictures in our house. Thus, I was attracted to the face of Christ, the angels, and the saints, through my mother’s love of beauty, who herself didn’t believe in Jesus—perhaps not even in God.

But she was attracted to beauty, and beauty points to God and is of the essence of God.

One of the ways in which beauty has entered our Madonna House way of life is through the Eastern rites. Madonna House is a Catholic community, but Catherine’s background was Russian Orthodox. Also, our first associate priest, now Archbishop Joseph Raya, is Greek Melkite.

Through these two people especially, we have had a living relationship with the Byzantine Rite, which is part of the Lord’s plan for our community.

It is one thing to have an academic, intellectual relationship with another tradition, but it is quite another to have a heart-to-heart, living relationship with it.

I would say that, for most of us in Madonna House, our deepest relationship with the Eastern Church is through the beauty of the liturgy—its movement, its music, and most especially in the art form of the icon. The sheer beauty of it all attracts us deeply. From this beauty we are able to enter into the great treasures of the Church from another perspective.

To do so is to experience another facet of the beautiful diamond which is our faith. For us, this is an affair of the heart.

Archbishop Raya speaks of this in his Introduction to his book, Abundance of Love, The Incarnation and the Byzantine Tradition:

———-

Theologians, artists and poets, together with the saints and monks of two thousand years, combined their geniuses to produce a theology, an iconography, and a hymnology, unmatched in history. Byzantine theology, liturgy, and the icon are not the product of one nation or of one culture. They express East and West, far East and far West. All nations and cultures find in them an echo of their mind and heart because icons, liturgy and hymnology are expressions of the sublime and the beautiful.

———-

There is a famous story that in the tenth century the Russian czar sent envoys to find the religion which would satisfy the religious hunger in the souls of his people. They visited many churches but, when they came into the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and were present at the liturgy, they were overcome by beauty.

“We didn’t know whether this was heaven or earth,” they told the czar when they returned. “We never saw such splendor and beauty. We cannot tell you what it was like, except to say that we are sure that God dwells there among men.”

Beauty can draw us, too, into God’s saving power. So let us allow ourselves to be attracted to the Lord by beauty, and let us learn to use it to attract others to him.

From Living Fully in Our Times, pp. 132-134, available from MH Publications.

 

 

One Man’s SCRAP - Another Man’s GOLD

“We celebrate the death of death, the annihilation of hell, and the beginning of life new and everlasting” (from the Byzantine liturgy for Easter). Yes, the life that shone froth from the grave has given us the incomparable gift of joy to transform us. Let us enter into this joy of our Risen Lord!

In the light of this Easter joy, our ordinary life takes on new meaning. Even the begging we do for our humble everyday needs takes its meaning from its participation in God’s kingdom, and this applies to everything in your everyday lives, too.

One of our great joys here is that of knowing that Catherine’s cause for beatification is on its way. She has been declared “Servant of God” by the Church (a first step in the process), and now it’s up to us to gather her words and the account of her life in order for Rome to proceed further.

Since Catherine wrote a great deal, we will need a number of 3-hole binders with one inch rings to collect it all. Can you contribute to this “cause”?

Nowhere is our joy more apparent than when we come together in the liturgy to celebrate our life in Christ. If you have any of those little cardboard circles called “drip-catchers” left over from your Easter Vigil we’d be happy to have them—used or new. And if you have any extra 11/8-inch diameter acolyte candles, 16 inches or taller, we are now using our last pair for Sundays.

More mailings than usual have been sent from our offices of late—our semi-annual begging letter, flyers announcing our summer program, and this issue of RESTORATION. (Subscribers from countries other than the U.S. and Canada and those getting more than one copy receive their RESTORATION in envelopes.)

These mailings have just about depleted our envelope and paper supplies. So we need a stock of 81/2 by 11 and 81/2 by 14 paper both white and colored, and #10 envelopes with or without old return addresses. Self-adhesive white labels, which we also need, would make it easy for us to cover the old addresses.

We would also welcome 6 by 91/2 inch envelopes to use to send our MH literature to people who inquire about us. And, if you could send a bit of Scotch tape 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch wide, that would keep us going for a while.

The mission shop is gearing up for the warmer season when the number of visitors will go up dramatically. The staff there are cleaning and polishing the donations you’ve sent and re-arranging the shelves. When you do your spring cleaning, would you keep them in mind? They appreciate any saleable items you no longer need.

The folks at St. Raphael’s handicraft center—both those who work there and those who do crafts for recreation—have certainly done their part this winter to stock the gift shop with handmade craft items. They’ve been weaving wool, knitting, cross-stitching, and making candles and pottery as well as rosemaling all manner of wooden goods that have come in donation.

One of our seamstresses made a priceless lace and silk christening dress from liturgical pieces and table linens that come in donation. Our artisans have also restored many broken figurines, religious statues, and jewelry. They have just one request this month: black fountain pen ink.

You have our heartfelt thanks for looking after our needs in the cleaning department. It’s a great help to have the cleaning product that can do the job, especially a specific job like de-liming the dishwasher. Can you send a small supply of CLR Cleaner (calcium, lime, rust)?

We are fortunate enough to have several vacuum cleaners for our many rooms, but we are quite low on bags that fit them. If you would like to help us out, here are the sizes:

1) Hoover Spectrum Powermatic 850 - canister bag Type S

2) Hoover Turbo Power 4000 - upright bag Type A

3) Eureka Mighty Mite #2 - Type N.

I don’t want to forget our nurses who faithfully come to the rescue to relieve our common ailments. They would love to receive Band-Aids, Chlortripolon, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, antacids, and hemorrhoidal suppositories or cream.

May the Risen Lord bless you.

In Our Lady of Combermere, Jean Fox

 

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Madonna House - A Training Centre for the Lay Apostolate