Restoration

Restoration

Posted September 16, 2010:
The Orange Snake

by Tom Kluger.

I was listening to a series of tapes of classes our foundress Catherine Doherty had given to the applicants back in 1957 on the history of Madonna House.

One day not long ago, my brain was skidding out of control on the learning curve for a particular job in my work in our Publications department.

The decision had been made to publish some of Catherine’s talks that year on CD, and my job was to use brand new audio software to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the background noises in them.

As I tried to figure out what commands to use to eliminate the various different noises, my brain was protesting that its own "hardware" was overloaded. And staring at that spectrogram, I was getting sleepy, very sleepy.

More than fifty years ago, when Catherine gave that class, recording technology was not the same as it is today.

Moreover, in those early days of Madonna House, there wasn’t a lot of space to have a class. Catherine was giving those classes in the middle of the main house where other things were also going on.

People working nearby were calling out to one another, typewriters were clicking, chairs were dragged across the floor, doors were slammed. The list goes on.

But my great nemesis was a whistler in the background. In the spectrogram, that whistle was bright orange, and it looked like a snake.

While this particular tape was playing on the audio program, and the screen was scrolling from right to left, I often saw that orange snake slithering along. Oh no, I groaned inside each time. Not again!

How incredibly tedious this job was!

I continued to listen, focussing on the noise but also hearing some of what Catherine was saying. The topic was one of her favourites: the cross.

She was describing the agony of the collapse of Friendship House in Toronto because of a vicious rumour campaign against her. Then she talked about how Friendship House collapsed again, this time in the United States, because of dissent within the community.

Here she became truly sublime. She spoke of how "God the Father shapes us into the image and likeness of his Son," and how the Lord, too, had had to endure the abandonment by his disciples who all ran away.

And suddenly, there it was again. The orange snake!

That’s when the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, decided to break into my self-pity fest and to hit me over the head with a revelation: the heroic cross and the "orange snake" is the Madonna House vocation. Well, heck, it isn’t just Madonna House. It’s life!

The sublime and the ridiculous, the exalted and the tedious: it’s all one package—at least in this world.

Hadn’t Catherine often talked about the duty of the moment and enduring the tedium that comes with it as our offering to God?

I slumped in my chair and smiled. It turns out that Catherine, more than fifty years later, had me in her class, too.

 

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