Posted May 27, 2010 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (May-June 2010)

by Paulette Curran.

I am writing this column on Wednesday of Easter week, our first day back at work after our celebrations. And, as many of you know, we really celebrate.

It took lots of teaching on the part of Catherine Doherty and lots of entering into the liturgies and celebrations on our part before it really entered deep into our hearts that the deepest truth of our faith is that Christ has risen from the dead, and that the highest feast of the year is Easter.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The time-frame this column covers this month begins during Lent.

During Lent, we made the special Russian foods for our Easter celebration. Dawn Kobewka made the koolitch, the Easter bread, and the main house kitchen made the paska, a delicious sweet white Easter food that is a symbol of Christ.

Maple syrup time has come and gone. Fr. Louis Labrecque and his crew put in 1800 taps. (Fr. Louis, a French Canadian who grew up working in a sugar bush, seems to tap every sugar maple tree in sight.) He and his crew were kept busy collecting sap and boiling it down in a huge vat.

Sugaring time, as always, was an enjoyable time, a time when the sugar shack was a Sunday gathering place. We hiked there, visited with one another, helped collect sap, and sampled the new syrup on pancakes and crêpes and as taffy made on snow.

St. Raphael’s Handicraft Center was another gathering place during Lent. Lessons were given there every Sunday afternoon on how to make pysanky, those exquisite Ukrainian Easter eggs. The place was open at other times, too, so that we could work on our eggs in our free time.

Lent was also a time of retreats, Stations of the Cross, and Lenten readings during after-lunch spiritual reading time.

Some of our priests gave retreats and parish missions, including Fr. Murray Keumper who gave a five-day retreat to teenagers and Fr. David Linder who went to Virginia to give a retreat to the staff of our three southeastern American houses: Washington D.C.; Roanoke, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

A number of staff made individual retreats of one kind or other, and the applicants made a three-day one.

One very special retreat was made by five members of "the class of ’58." For probably only that one time, our foundress, Catherine Doherty, gave the first promises’ retreat. The talks were taped, and this year these five people used those tapes from their first promises retreat for another retreat.

The theme was "community of love." About that theme, a couple of the retreatants said, "It’s still challenging."

Lent is not generally a time when we have a lot of visitors, but we always have some.

These included three or four of our associate priests; Marissa Henry, a friend, neighbor, and former working guest who is soon to enter a Benedictine convent; a Brazilian member of the Shalom community in Toronto, and a group of students on their spring break from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

We also had a short visit from the deputy ambassador at the Polish Embassy in Ottawa, accompanied by his assistant and the attaché. The deputy ambassador had heard a lot about Madonna House and wanted to see it. They loved our chapel and main house, especially all the books and the Russian corner.

Lent was also a time of classes, as we said in our April issue. One class was to prepare the guests for our celebration of Holy Week and Easter. Well, actually, it ended up being three classes, all held at the same time: the regular one, one in Korean, and one for the students from Aquinas College who wouldn’t be celebrating the season here.

Some of us gave talks and some attended them. Anne Marie Murphy gave the keynote address at a CWL (Catholic Women’s League) Communion breakfast.

Several of us attended a talk Michael O’Brien gave at the Academy in nearby Barry’s Bay: "The Role of Catholic Culture in a Secular World." Michael, our friend and neighbor, is a writer and artist.

Karen Maskiew and Derek Pinto attended a series of classes on the Theology of the Body given by our parish, and Raandi King and Teresa Reilander attended a two-day seminar on Bioethics by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.

Alma Coffman and Deirdre Burch went to "Seedy Sunday," a local fair for those who save their own seed, produce honey, natural jams and jellies, etc. There were also talks about eco-friendly concerns.

Among the riches of the Lenten season are the joyous feasts that occur within it, particularly the Annunciation and St. Joseph’s Day.

St. Joseph is the patron of the MH men, so of course it was an opportunity to express our gratitude to the MH laymen for all they are in our family as well as to celebrate St. Joseph. And for the Annunciation, which we celebrate as a major feast, we sang the Acathist, a beautiful Eastern Rite liturgy of praise to the Mother of God.

Fr. David May and Victoria Fausto attended the ordination of Bishop Don Bolen. Bishop Bolen was a working guest here for nine months in the early 1980s and was ordained a priest in 1991.

He became an associate priest and has always stayed close to us—both here in Combermere and in our house in his home diocese of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Then suddenly, it was Holy Week. During the beginning of the week, we had a penance service and an evening of Easter egg dyeing. The applicants and the members of our spiritual formation program (for men seriously considering priesthood), and our MH seminarian, Michael Weitl, as well as our priests, attended our diocese’s Chrism Mass.

As always, our Holy Week liturgies were very beautiful, and included the Eastern Rite Burial of Christ service on Good Friday evening. As always, too, a number of our friends came to share Holy Week and Easter with us.

And this year, at the Easter Vigil Mass, we were given the added joy of the reception into the Church of one of our longterm guests: Miriam Story.

What to say about Easter, "the feast of feasts" as Catherine called it? There were, and still are, of course, as I write this, beautiful Easter liturgies, flowers, joyous songs, festive foods, and a tangible, quiet joy.

And after the busy days of preparation, there was time to relax, to visit with one another, to hike, to go to the farm to see the new lambs, to play games, to read, to sleep, etc., etc., etc.

All were enhanced by some very unusual early April weather: hot (temperatures well into the 20s), with brilliant sunshine.

When most of you receive this paper, it will still be Easter season. May the Risen Lord fill your hearts with his peace, joy, and hope, for the truth that he is risen is deeper than any darkness.


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