Posted August 10, 2009 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (July-August 2009)

by Paulette Curran.

June 8, an ordinary day for most people, is for Madonna House one of the most joyous of the year. It is the feast of Our Lady of Combermere and the day some of our staff make or renew their promises, their total commitment to God as members of our Madonna House family.

"For the glory of God and because I desire with my whole heart to respond to the call of Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel with my life," each one said in turn, "I, _________ hereby promise, with the help of Our Lady, to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience, for (one year, two years, or forever) according to the Madonna House spirit and mandate."

It was a beautiful day on every level. As always, the whole community had been focused for days on lavishing love on those making promises—making the grounds and decorations beautiful, the food elegant and delicious, the music all that music can be, and doing many other things besides.

Numerous family members and friends of those making promises came to share the event, some from far away. The farthest was a nun, Sister Mercy, Derek’s aunt, who came all the way from India.

The atmosphere before Mass, in fact the atmosphere all day, was much like that of a wedding, which indeed promises day is similar to in many ways.

The Gospel for the day’s Mass was that of the beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12). There was no need to change that one for the occasion. Fr. David May, in his homily, went through each beatitude, presenting our vocation as the vocation to be the beatitudes.

"Of course," he said, "that’s the call of every Christian. So what else do we do? "I don’t know," he continued, "but those who visit here touch the light of the Gospel."

Yes, that is the mystery, the joy, and the pain of our vocation. We do the little ordinary things every day, believing in faith—but mostly not seeing or experiencing it—that God is doing something for someone, even for the world, through our offering and through our fidelity to our duty of the moment.

But every once in a while, God gives us a glimpse of the glory hidden in our vocation—like when we see young people, our brothers and sisters, throw their lives at the feet of God embracing our oh-so-simple, oh-so-hidden, oh-so-humble vocation.

They made their promises firmly or in voices shaken by the magnitude of what they were doing. Who could fail to be moved?

And today after a beautiful, lavish, festive day, it is an ordinary June 9th. Trina, one of the new staff, left for a vacation with her family, and Derek, the other one, had his first day at his new assignment—the farm.

As for the finalists, those who committed themselves to Madonna House "forever," Eliana is back cooking in the St. Mary’s kitchen, and Nikola and Sofia are soon to head back to their ordinary work in far-off places—Nikola to Yorkshire, England and Sofia to Krasnoyarsk, a city in Russia.

Another major event in our apostolate happened as always in May—the annual meetings of the directors of our houses. Some of them must have questioned the expense of this in the past for Catherine once said, "I don’t care if you have to eat less, you must come to the meetings." That’s how important she saw the meetings to be.

One of the top priorities of our family is unity of heart and mind—a deep, deep unity that we call sobornost, a oneness that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Our part is to pray much and communicate much, and much of both these things went on during the meetings. Then after three weeks, the directors returned to their houses across the world—to Ghana, Belgium, the West Indies, England, and Russia as well as to various places across the United States and Canada.

Please God, they were renewed to face another year of striving to live the Gospel, to become saints, and to build a community of love and a culture of life.

Our foundress Catherine Doherty had a special love for priests and this love has spilled into our apostolate to priests, an apostolate which has taken many forms over the years.

At Vianney House, their guest house, for example, priests, deacons, and seminarians come for a variety of reasons—many of them for a time of renewal and healing. Some also come for retreats, especially in May in preparation for their ordinations to the priesthood or diaconate.

And away from here, Helen Hodson was part of a team of directors including two of our associate priests, who gave Ignatian retreats to twenty-five seminarians, ten permanent deacon candidates, and four priests.

We are very aware these days of the struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death, between the forces of good and the forces of evil, and we are taking part in this struggle in ways both hidden and unhidden.

One of the less hidden ways was a holy hour held on the eve of the annual March for Life in Ottawa. About a dozen of us, including a few of our priests, also attended the march itself.

What else has been happening?

Marie-Therese McLaughlin, Sofia Segal, and Catherine Scott (a friend) recorded a CD of lullabies, many of them Irish, that Marie-Therese collected.

MH Publications recently put out a wonderful book, God Calls Me Miriam, the autobiography of staff worker Miriam Stulberg, a convert from Judaism.

It tells about her journey to God, centering especially on her time in our house in Magadan, Russia, and her inner struggles and transformation during that time. I’ve rarely read an autobiography so open about someone’s spiritual life.

If you like the vocation stories and other personal witness articles in Restoration, you’d love this book.

Four of us made pilgrimages: Mary McNamara and Linda Owen to Lourdes and Mary Kay Rowland and Bonnie Staib (Restoration’s circulation manager) to Turkey, where they journeyed in the steps of St. Paul.

As postulator for Catherine’s Cause, Fr. Bob Wild was interviewed for two television programs on Salt + Light, a religious Canadian television station.

Lisa Diniz went to Ottawa to be part of a vocations panel to a group called Teen Life. Marysia Kowalchyk and Raandi King have started a drama club.

And last but not least, the year-long renovation of the men guests’ dorm by Peter Gravelle, Patrick McConville, Paul Mitchell, and others is almost finished —close enough for them to have had an open house. The building had deteriorated so badly that, among other things, they had to tear down and completely rebuild the kitchen and bathroom.

As you journey along through your ordinary and not-so-ordinary moments, may God grant you, too, glimpses of the glory that is truly there.


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