Posted December 06, 2010:
Catherine’s Loneliness

by Kathy McVady.

I was only a young staff worker when the Lord permitted me to see an aspect of Catherine that remained largely hidden: her loneliness.

Stationed at our house in Winslow, Arizona, I had just spent a week of holidays back in Combermere. I had planned to say good-bye and receive a blessing from our foundress the previous night, but this had not worked out.

She would not be "in public" until late morning, and my bus left before that. However, her secretary assured me that she was awake and in her cabin and urged me to go there.

I trotted across the little footbridge leading to the island where her wooden isba (Russian cabin) was located. I knocked and a subdued voice answered, "Come in."

As I gently nudged the door open, I was confronted by the sight of Catherine slumped on a low stool in the middle of the room. She was still wearing her nightgown and robe, and her hair was still disheveled from the night’s sleep. A hairbrush hung from her hand.

My heart was immediately pierced: I had never seen such loneliness before, and somewhere in the depths of my being, a prayer formed: "Lord, if there is ever anything I can do to assuage this pain, I want to do it."

At that point, Catherine lifted her eyes and realized that the person who had entered was one of the youngest of her spiritual children. She straightened up and smiled at me benignly, her eyes now sparkling with love and life. "Oh, yes, you are leaving today, aren’t you?" she said. "Come, let me bless you."

I am sure she added some words of wisdom, but they are lost to my memory, overcome by the image of what I had seen.

Some years later, the Lord answered the prayer I had uttered silently in the depths of my soul that morning. I was now local director of the house in Winslow, and through an unusual series of events, we had been given a second house.

Catherine was at that time in considerable physical pain, and suffering spiritually and emotionally as well. This house was available, and she came down to stay for four months.

There she soaked up the love of the MH staff and of the people of Winslow, and that house became for her a place of peace and restoration. In the years following, she returned twice more when she needed to do so.

During one of these later visits, she was talking with us about the changing needs of the world and looking at ways Madonna House could adapt its work to meet those needs.

One of the crying needs of the world, she told us, for was people willing to enter into the loneliness of others. She could well see this loneliness, for she herself had tasted deeply of its chalice.

I doubt that her loneliness was ever completely dissipated; it seemed to be a trysting place with her Beloved. But I know God permitted her oases in the midst of these deserts, and I trust that her sojourns in Winslow were among them.


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