Posted May 19, 2010:
She Is Our Mother

by Madonna House Staff.

MH staff don’t often talk about our relationship with Our Lady, but here three of us do.

My family went to Cana Colony when I was a teenager, and on our first visit there, we learned the hymn to Our Lady of Combermere. I got a copy of it, and that week there, I played and sang it over and over on the old pump organ in the chapel.

After I got home, I continued singing and playing it every so often, and it would always in some unidentifiable way draw me close to Our Lady of Combermere and fill my heart, seeming to continue the graces I received at Cana Colony.

Our Lady of Combermere spoke to my heart of Nazareth, of ordinary life filled with God, and of the poverty and simplicity and great love I imagined the first Christians to have.

I have now been a member of Madonna House for many years, and throughout those years, Our Lady of Combermere has walked with me. I placed every vacation in her hands, and they have been more than wonderful, even though I often began them with almost no money.

Our Lady has always answered my deepest prayers but in such ordinary ways that it appeared as if the answers were natural developments. Sometimes on her feast day, I make up a list of requests and put it in my Bible, looking at it every so often later on. It’s mostly only then that I realize that she listened and answered.

I also love the way that Our Lady of Combermere teaches me, if I ask her. She is very thorough and teaches me in bite-size portions that I can assimilate and make my own.

Toni Austin

I want to write something about Our Lady of Combermere, though I’m not given to mystical experiences! I’ve never even developed the habit so many have of stopping by her statue whenever I leave the yard or enter it. But she does have meaning for me, of course.

What I like best about Our Lady is that my attention, devotion, to her began in such an ordinary way. I wasn’t Catholic when I first came to Madonna House, and people prayed to her and talked about her as Our Lady of the Kitchen, Our Lady of the Laundry, Our Lady of the Garden, Our Lady of Combermere.

And then I found out that there really was—is—an Our Lady of Combermere! Not just a statue, which came afterwards, but a person who desired a people dedicated to her, in Combermere, for the Church and for the world.

The statue, by divine inspiration it seems to me, shows us who she is, how she welcomes everyone. There is so much space near her, so you can rest on her and be sheltered in her embrace. She is our mother in this way.

Her arms are wide open so there is no obstacle to approaching her, running to her, when we are in need. She welcomes us with tender love and accepts each of us just as we are, not trying to change us by that love and acceptance.

Although I have no specific miracle-of-prayer-answered story to tell, I know that it was she who beckoned me to this vocation and nurtured me and made possible this Madonna House life in me. She is always there for me—a still, hidden-in-a-way, presence. The miracle of my life in Madonna House is enough for me to be grateful to her.

a staff worker

When I was sixteen years old, my father died suddenly. The way of living for our family changed. I had been in boarding school for three years, but we didn’t have enough money for me to return. We also moved into a poorer section of the city. I needed to have a friend, but I was not able to find one.

I visited my parish church nearly every day on my way home from school. There was a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception there. In this statue there was a little space between Our Lady’s feet and her outstretched arms, and I imagined myself standing in that space—still, silent, and secure.

In my imagination, I drew the outline of the statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception wherever I went, even in the sky. Our Lady was my dear friend; she was always with me.

In the vestibule of our house was a framed picture of Our Lady seated with the Christ Child, about two years old, sitting on her left arm. Her right hand was pointing to him, and she seemed to be saying, "Not me; go to my Son."

Sometimes in the early evening, I would stand just looking at that picture to imprint it on my mind. I would just keep looking at it until it grew dark.

At Madonna House, I go to the statue of Our Lady of Combermere. When I tell her she is pretty, she seems to smile at me. I know she loves me very much.

I visit the statue of Our Lady of Combermere as often as I can. When no one is around, I bow before her as I approach her statue. She seems to like it.

I talk to Our Lady about things I do not understand. Then I begin to understand.

Our Lady is in all our troubles. Her loving, dear presence is always with us.

Dear Mother, let me take your hand and walk with you.

Mary Pennefather, who died in 2006


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