by Jeanne Guillemette.
When I arrived back in Belgium on my second assignment here, we had five chickens. We had had a rooster, too, but he met an untimely end when he began to hurt the chickens.
"The girls" were getting along nicely, producing four or five eggs a day, and all was well for a while.
However, our chickens had one little "fault;" none of them produced white eggs. Not a problem for most of the year, but Madonna House makes pysanky (Russian Easter eggs) during Lent and for this we needed white eggs. We decided to buy some only to discover that they were very difficult to find.
A generous benefactor donated money so we could get another rooster and a few hens that would produce white eggs. The more the merrier, we thought.
But no sooner were three new chicks and a beautiful Leghorn rooster introduced into the coop than the other chickens got sick.
Have you ever seen a chicken cough and sneeze? It’s kind of pitiful.
Our retired veterinarian friend assured us that it was not serious, and sure enough, they eventually got better. But they stopped laying eggs. Eight chickens and one rooster and we were obliged to start buying eggs!
We consulted our veterinarian friend once more, and he came by with some medicine—a treatment for depression!
By the grace of God, we are doing better at adapting and living together than our chickens. All the recent staff changes in our "coop" here in Belgium have not stopped the fruitful flow of this busy apostolate.
After my arrival in April, Neil Patterson joined us in June. He is settling in nicely, re-organizing the workshop, fixing things, and helping with the bees.
Gerard Lesage was transferred to Canada, and Cristina Coutinho, who, like me, was here before, has just arrived on a temporary assignment.
Of course, most of what we do is not for the birds! This is an apostolate of contacts.
Whether we are meeting people at the gathering of new communities hosted by Focolare, giving a retreat for twelve-year olds preparing for Confirmation, hosting the yearly meeting of pastoral teams from our deanery (65 people attended!), visiting with friends saying good-bye to Gerard, etc., our chit-chat apostolate is thriving.
A regular flow of people making poustinias and other retreats also come to our house, and we recently had live-in guests from Holland and Poland. Many visitors pop in. For example, on Sunday night we had two guests from Paris, and yesterday, two from Luxembourg. Some days, it seems like the world walks through our doors.
Another world we are discovering is that of bees. One day, around the time of elections for Belgium and the European parliament, Dina came in and breathlessly announced, "Good news! We have a queen!"
It took a few seconds for me to realize that she was not talking about the government but about one of our hives which had successfully replaced the queen it had lost.
Yes, we now have four hives, and we are learning all kinds of new French vocabulary and facts about these fascinating little creatures. Plus, we just had our first taste of their delicious honey. Did you know that one bee produces about a teaspoon of honey in its whole lifetime?
As for me, it’s a joy to be back in Belgium. I love this new house, which is full of light and is thoughtfully, tastefully arranged. The area in which we live is also quite beautiful—lots of hiking trails, rolling hills, and greenery.
But best of all is the discovery that the staff I live with—Joanne, Bill, Paul, Diane, Dina, Noella, Neil and Cristina—are not "chicken" (cowardly) as they (we!) valiantly work at forming a community of love so as to witness to the Gospel of hope we have received.
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