Posted September 23, 2010 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (September 2010)

by Paulette Curran. 

By the time you see this column, summer will be ending, but as I write it, it is at its peak. So far it’s been a hot one, but obviously this is not the case just in Combermere. Someone here read "somewhere" that worldwide this summer’s heat has been at a record high.

But regardless of the weather, summer is a very busy time for us; for some of our work departments, it is the busiest in the year.

It’s certainly the busiest time for our shops and pioneer museum, for our part of the Madawaska Valley is a vacation area.

And Cana Colony, our retreat-vacation camp for families only happens in the summer.

It’s certainly a busy time for the farm and gardens. Many of our guests, men and women both, are spending their days in the fields mostly weeding. We also have a farm bee for all able bodies every Tuesday evening.

Then, of course, there is the summer program for young adults. It’s a rather unique program. Those taking part in it live our Madonna House life with us as working guests always do, with the addition of some extra talks and activities.

Lots of young visitors are here this summer—listening to talks on various aspects of how to live the Gospel, working (for many, it is their first experience of farm work), attending Mass, praying, swimming in the Madawaska River, making music, picnicking, plus a number of various et ceteras.

So far, the main event of the summer has been the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Our Lady of Combermere, which took place on July 11th (even though the anniversary of her blessing was June 8th).

The celebration was oh-so-simple, as simple as the presence of Our Lady of Combermere among us.

It consisted of the rosary in front of the statue and a picnic on the lawn at St. Mary’s.

Linda Owen designed and she and others made a 25 ft. long banner which hung from the outside wall of St. Mary’s. Linda also baked a cake which she and others decorated with little people (Our Lady’s children) made of icing.

Our Lady of Combermere would have liked the picnic: the simple fun of being together with (mostly) local friends and neighbors and eating outside on a perfect summer day.

One of the joys of the day was the children. Our pro-life friends and neighbors have lots of them, and they had a great time. On our part, it was great watching them and playing with them.

It was also great just to soak in the atmosphere. People played musical instruments and children spontaneously danced to the music. People played volley ball and soccer, and little girls and adult women jumped rope together.

That day, we also had the blessing of a bell for St. Mary’s chapel, a beautiful and solemn blessing. From the words of the Church’s blessing, we learned, among other things, that the toll of a church bell is a call to prayer, a call for heavenly protection, and a sound which makes evil spirits flee in terror.

Our new bell, which we heard for the first time immediately after the blessing, has a rich, beautiful sound.

There have been other beautiful feasts as well. For the last number of years, we have been having a Corpus Christi procession with the people of the parish (and anyone else from the area).

The parish church is located on the road between our main house and St. Mary’s, and our procession route begins at St. Mary’s, passes the parish church, stops at Our Lady of Combermere, and ends with Benediction at our island chapel.

And this year, because it was the final day of the Year for Priests, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart more than we usually do.

We had a special Mass and supper and a holy hour in which we prayed for priests. Fittingly enough, two priest visitors happened to arrive that day: Fr. Andreas Kluger and Fr. Eric Jensen S.J. (for his 41st annual retreat at MH!).

This celebration of the priesthood continued the following week with a priests’ picnic supper for both the closing of the Year for Priests and the 65th anniversary of Fr. Paul Béchard’s ordination. At that supper, the priests were invited to share with the group something of their own experience of priesthood.

Fr. Paul wasn’t up to a big celebration but various people celebrated him in smaller ways. The applicants feted him and were enriched by his stories of the early years of Madonna House, and his cousin, who came for the occasion, took him out to supper. The main celebration was a leisurely supper at Mary’s.

Fr. Paul said, "The secret of 65 years is that Jesus held me by one hand and Mary by the other, and even when I tried to shake them off, they held on tight."

They must be holding tight to him still. Fr. Paul radiates peace.

One of our joys this summer was a five-day visit from our associate, Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of the diocese of Rimouski, Quebec, accompanied by his brother, Roger and his friend, Fr. Roger L’Abbé.

The archbishop used to visit us often but since be became bishop a few years ago, he hasn’t had time to do so.

The archbishop made a retreat "within the community" and said Mass and gave some beautiful homilies. He also talked about his relationship with Catherine and MH over the years and how much this family means to him.

Fr. Louis Labrecque said that the archbishop was responsible for his Madonna House vocation. It was he who gave him (Fr. Louis) Catherine’s book, Poustinia, and encouraged him to visit MH.

When we have ears to hear and eyes to see, we get reminders every day that God is in control. Occasionally he lets us know that more obviously.

One day in June the whole place was shaken—literally. For about 30 seconds, we experienced an earthquake whose epicenter was about 25 km. north east of Ottawa and about 20 km. underground. Though the quake was felt over a very vast area, most places, including here, suffered no damage. God does take care of us.

Here’s some news in brief: A bear raided the bee yard – but fortunately only damaged one hive. Five staff attended a three-day conference on healing from an Eastern Christian perspective at the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Ottawa.

Steve Héroux and Raandi King made a drum with clay pottery base (Raandi) and the tanned skin of one of our sheep (Steve).

Marie-Thérese McLaughlin gave another talk on lullabies. Fr. Robert Johnson, Fr. Tom Zoeller, and Fr. David Linder went to Quebec to help at Nazareth Family Camp, a camp which has been strongly influenced by our Cana Colony.

Last but not least, with everything else going on, many of us managed to squeeze in some of the soccer games of the World Cup. And for those of us who didn’t, Fr. David May gave the results during his after-breakfast report on the news and weather.

That’s all for this month. May God give each of you his peace.


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