Posted May 11, 2010:
Hidden Among the Trees

by Paulette Curran.

One of our associate priests from Ghana had a dream: he wanted to come to Canada to visit Our Lady of Combermere.

How he managed to come is a story in itself, but anyhow he arrived at Madonna House. He didn’t think he’d see the statue right away. He imagined her in a large elaborate setting away from the main compound, and he figured someone would take him there soon.

His first day here, he was walking around the main house, just looking around, and he took a small footpath through the woods.

Suddenly, there she was! A tall bronze statue surrounded by towering trees. A small clearing had been made in front of her and a rustic wooden bench faced her, but that was it. There was nothing to keep him from embracing her. He was filled with joy.

That’s one of the wonderful things about the statue of Our Lady of Combermere. It is as official a shrine as that of Fatima and Lourdes, but the surroundings are so, so simple, their beauty that of forest, birdsong, and river.

When people asked Catherine Doherty about Mary’s place in Madonna House or about her own devotion to Mary, she would usually reply that Our Lady is so integrated into our life that it’s hard to talk about her. The same could be said about the statue of Our Lady of Combermere.

Since she is so near the main house, she is often either on the way or just a short detour to wherever we are going. So many, perhaps most, of us have a habit of stopping by for a quick visit as we walk by. Or we go specially and spend time with her.

We hug her, kiss her, lean against her, share with her our daily lives, tell her our joys and struggles, ask for her help. We sit with her and look at her.

And when we are in any kind of pain, she is a refuge, someone with arms to cry in, someone we know will bring comfort and peace and answer our prayers.

Yes, she’s a part of our life, though most of us don’t talk about her much. And it’s not only MH staff and guests who love her and come to her.

We’ve made a footpath to her from the road, and we often see local people at the statue. Like us, they sit on the wooden bench, hug and kiss her, and pray before her. Sometimes we see a father lifting up a small child to kiss her or touch her fingers.

Often in summer, we see vases of flowers at her feet or a flower or two between her fingers. Local people bring them as well as Madonna House people.

Teachers from the parish school down the road occasionally bring their students, and our friends and neighbors bring their children and visitors from elsewhere.

We know of at least two couples who were married after a proposal at the feet of Our Lady of Combermere.

There are times when the presence of Our Lady of Combermere is especially palpable.

In August 2006, for example, a tornado hit the village of Combermere, including Madonna House. Though there was substantial property damage throughout the village, and though we had had no warning of the tornado, not a single person was seriously injured.

Some of the stories of protection were nothing short of miraculous. One car, for example, was lifted up into the air and gently put down on another road. The driver, the only person in it, was shaken but completely uninjured.

During and after the tornado, a number of people, both in MH and in the village, had a strong sense that it was Our Lady of Combermere who had protected us.

People far away know and love her, too; our associate priest from Ghana is certainly not the only one. Only Our Lady of Combermere knows who each of them is, and only she knows all the prayers she has answered and all the people she has touched in the last fifty years.

And she seems content that she and all she does is very hidden.


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