Posted April 16, 2010 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (April 2010)

by Paulette Curran.

This past while—February and late January—has been a relatively quiet time. Barring deaths (we had three last February) or some unusual event, this time between the Christmas Season and Lent usually is.

One major event just before Lent was what we call, fittingly, "The Pre-Lent Event." It’s our equivalent of Mardi Gras or Carnival (as it’s called in Brazil and the West Indies). Essentially, it’s an evening variety show composed mainly of skits, some of them about our Madonna House life.

This annual show certainly brings out our creativity, and it’s always a fun night.

This year the performances included "Toga Tunes," (well-known songs such as "I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad," and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in Latin), a pantomime of Jonah and the Whale (read by Patrick McConville and performed by Derek Pinto), and "Telephone Protocol," by the applicants.

This was a take-off on answering the phone at MH including a take-off on telephone recordings. (You’ll never hear any recording if you phone us in Combermere. You’ll always get a human being.)

Plus imagine the acting out of Robert Service’s Yukon Western-style poem, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," by an all-Korean cast!

On Shrove Tuesday, there was opportunity for confession and our traditional pancake supper.

Then, suddenly it was Ash Wednesday. Out came the purples: the display cloths in the dining room, the altar covers, the chasubles at Mass. And ashes. The library put out a display of Lenten reading.

Every morning during Lent, we begin prayers with a profound Byzantine song, "Open to Me the Doors of Repentance," and end them with the Byzantine Prayer of St. Ephrem. Both really put you in the spirit of repentance.

During Lent, certain activities are added to our life, such as Stations of the Cross and the making of pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs.

During Lent, also, we have staff study time every Friday afternoon. We choose our topics, study in small groups or singly, and always there is quite a variety of topics.

This year these include calligraphy, computer, carpentry joints, Pope Benedict’s new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), a several-part movie from Russia (with English subtitles) based on Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, Art Appreciation, the dramatic reading of six plays, how to sing Gregorian Chant, and the Fundamentals of the Spiritual Life.

In a place the size of ours, as you can imagine, maintenance of buildings is constant, and renovation and repair work are fairly ongoing as well. This winter Peter Gravelle and others did major repair of our Dutch bread oven and bakery and Patrick McConville and others added insulation and dry wall to a couple of poustinias. Peter Gravelle and Derek Pinto are now working on cabinets for a kitchenette at St. Mary’s.

God really provides for us. We received a large bread donation shortly before the bread oven was due to be out of commission for several weeks.

Also in February, we did several things for Black History Month and the anniversary of Friendship House Harlem, a house Catherine founded in an African-American area before she founded Madonna House.

Andorra Howard and others presented readings about black history in America, the applicants presented readings about Friendship House Harlem, and the library put up a large display of books about African-American history and culture. We also saw the movie, Boycott, about the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, a major event in the Civil Rights Movement.

On February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation, and the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, we had a day of recollection.

Thirteen lambs were born at the farm in early February, a very cold time for them to enter the world. Apparently the ram was not segregated early enough last year!

We are continuing to give away potatoes mainly through a food bank and St. Joseph’s House, our mission in the area. This past year our crop was three tons more than usual.

Madonna House gave the diocesan retreats this year: Fr. Tom Zoeller and Scott Eagan, the men’s, and Fr. David Linder and Marie-Thérèse McLaughlin, the women’s.

Some of us attended a musical play, Oliver, put on by Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, a nearby town. It was a great opportunity to visit with local friends as well as to see the play.

Students from the academy (a post-secondary liberal arts school) came to us as well. A few of the students spent their reading week as working guests with us.

MH Publications, with the help of some of our Korean guests, is translating some of our MH literature into Korean. Also at MH Publications, David Thomas has been investigating ways to increase our outreach on the internet.

Last but not least, here’s an event we found delightful in more ways than one. One day St. Mary’s received a gift of pizzas, enough for supper for their community, from the owner of a restaurant in Ottawa. On the delivery truck and on each of the boxes, in big, bold letters was the name of the restaurant—Donna’s Pizza. It was the first anniversary of Donna Surprenant’s death, a fact unknown to our generous donor!

Blessed Holy Week, Easter, and Easter season to all of you.


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