Posted April 11, 2007 in MH Resteigne, Belgium:
Belgian Happenings

by Gérard Lesage.

I’ve been here for more than three months now, and so I’m still very new. But I’ve been stationed here before, and the busyness of this house draws you in very quickly. It didn’t take me long to get re-adjusted.

We took a few days to visit Points-Coeur, one of the new lay communities in France. We had been in a bit of a quandary before we went deciding whether to go or not because Tante Cécile died the day before we left. She is one of three sisters living together near here.

We decided to go, and no sooner had we come home than we found out that Tante Gabi also had died. This leaves Tante Yvonne, age 94, living alone for the first time in 90 years, as she says. She is not slowing down though; she has decided to take on teaching catechism to the four children in the neighbouring town.

While we were at Points-Coeur, the founder, Fr. Thierry, and Fr. Paul Crochat were visiting Madonna House in Combermere, so we had lots to talk about.

It was very interesting to see how close this community feels to Catherine Doherty. They even use her writings for the formation of their members. We found ourselves talking a lot about sobornost, poustinia and other MH topics.

It was a wonderful contact to make, and little did we know that we would be seeing each other just a few weeks later for Bishop Léonard’s retreat at the abbey we live in.

Bishop Léonard, the bishop of our diocese, gives a retreat here once or twice a year, and it usually attracts only five or six people. But this year, partly because of the seven people who came from Points-Coeur, we had a full house—26 retreatants for the weekend.

Once again, all of us staff had to be "on" to help cook meals, set tables, wash dishes etc. It was a very full weekend and everything went smoothly.

We were each able to take in at least three of the four conferences, and the bishop is an excellent teacher who shares his heart with his listeners.

Just as when I was here two and a half years ago, many priests come through our doors. Mostly, they come for a rest or just to be with us for a few days. It is wonderful to be here for them as they persevere in their priesthood.

They have a hard time because here, as in many other places in the world, there is a shortage of priests. So they have to look after many parishes. They often have to rotate Sunday Mass from one parish to another, which leaves the parishioners quite upset.

Some of the priests share their struggles with us. One told us at table that he had stopped saying the prayer, "Lord, make me meek and humble of heart like you," because this meant that "my heart will be torn apart."

I asked him to start praying it again and told him that we would pray for his strength. He agreed to do it.

We have changed one rule for all the people who make retreats here: they have to eat one meal a day with us so that we can get to know them and they us.

We didn’t know if that would work out but most of the feedback has been more than positive. This means that we have guests for many of our meals.

Sometimes a simple event will lead to something we hadn’t planned on. One such event was when Joanne Dionne and I went to meet the pastoral workers of the Rochefort deanery. They wanted to get to know Madonna House.

So we met with about ten priests, two or three deacons, two nuns, and a lay woman, and we talked about Madonna House. They had a lot of questions about how we live poverty.

As a result of this encounter, Noëlla de Laforcade and I ended up giving the workshop on "Celibacy Chosen out of Love" at a day of recollection for the whole deanery. The theme of the day, which occurred near St. Valentine’s Day, was love, and it attracted approximately a hundred people. It was good to see this kind of simple day of recollection available for local people.

Only four came to our talk, but the most profitable thing about it was our preparing the talk by reflecting on the subject of celibacy with our whole house.

A couple of evenings ago around 11 p.m., Joanne was lying on her bed half asleep listening to the French Catholic radio station. Suddenly she heard the name "Catherine de Hueck Doherty." Of course, she became wide awake.

She then heard a very good ten-minute talk about Catherine’s whole life. It was given by one of our friends, a Dominican sister in Rome, and, Joanne learned, it had originally been aired on Vatican Radio.

These are some of the recent happenings of this "room" of Madonna House Apostolate.


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