Posted December 12, 2011 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (December 2011)

by Paulette Curran.

If you read last month’s "Combermere Diary," you might remember it as a column with lots of events squeezed into it. Well, this month this column will reflect a less eventful month.

Less eventful but still busy, for as I write this in mid-October, we are still harvesting and putting up food for the winter. And we are still doing all the getting–ready-for-winter things that need doing every year.

We have had a beautiful autumn so far—much of it very mild and sunny. On wonderful "made-in-heaven" Sunday afternoons, we have been hiking, biking, boating, and taking walks—and even reading or just sitting in the sun. It was warm enough for that!

And at the peak of the autumn colors, the applicants went on their introductory tour of the area.

By now, the colors have passed their peak though they are still beautiful, and one of the pleasures of fallen leaves is walking on the crunchiness and on the soft cushion-ness of the pine needles.

In this year of abundant harvest, one of the foods that did exceptionally well was apples, for which we are especially grateful. Since few kinds of fruit grow well this far north, apples are our main fruit.

From late August till early October, the gardening crew have been picking them—from our own trees and from trees on farms where people let us pick.

For apples that will be used for apple sauce or juice, the method is simple. Someone climbs the tree and shakes it vigorously. The apples fall to the ground and are gathered from there.

And these are not all our apples. Others have been donated to us as well.

The food processors have made lots of apple juice and apple sauce, and some apple butter. And the best varieties of apples we are enjoying fresh.

We are nearing the end of the food processing season, and during this time, the hard-working crew, under the direction of Maryana Erzinger, have been, among other things, making pickles, jam, and sauerkraut.

Then last week the farmers, slaughtered 7 cattle (6 steers and 1 dairy cow) and 49 sheep. This week both farmers and food processors and two professional meat cutters, (John Blom, who is retired, and Norm Buffard who have generously come to help) are doing the follow-up work with the meat.

Still to be done (among other things, of course) are cooking down the meat bones for soup stock, rendering the fat, and harvesting the rest of the root vegetables.

Meanwhile, the gift shop staff have been cleaning the museum and everything in it and transforming the flea market into a Christmas shop.

The men have cleaned the windows, put up storm windows, shut down the irrigation system, and will soon be cleaning and putting the boats to bed. The farmers and gardeners are also "putting to bed" all our fields and gardens, cleaning tools, etc., etc.

Autumn is, of course, also the time of school beginning, and here, though classes are only a small part of our life, those we have are in full swing.

The applicants have a full afternoon of them on Friday.

The spiritual formation program for young men discerning priesthood has also started for the year. In this program, which is slightly shorter than a school year, the men live the same life as the working guests with a day of classes on Wednesday and a weekly meeting added in—plus an occasional outing, such as the Chrism Mass.

This year four men—two Canadians and two Americans—are participating in this program: Andrew Schwark (Saskatchewan), Benjamin Loewen (British Columbia), Adam Stevens (North Carolina), and Ryan Best (Florida).

Plus, all the guests are taking a class every Wednesday morning, The Fundamentals of the Spiritual Life, which Fr. Denis Lemieux is teaching.

One major event of this past month took place at St. Mary’s, our community within the community of MH Combermere. Steve Héroux, who with Elizabeth Bassarear has been the co-director of St. Mary’s, was transferred to Marian Centre Regina. Peter Gravelle is now co-director pro tem.

Of course, St. Mary’s gave Steve a big farewell party, and one feature of it was a large cake which Linda Owen made in the shape of a hammer dulcimer. (Steve plays this musical instrument, as well as the drums, and has, moreover, made a beautiful hammer dulcimer from scratch.)

Like everyone else in Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving. The librarians and sacristans put up displays featuring fruits and vegetables from the farm, and the kitchen made a festive meal—not turkey but hamburgers and fries, a treat for us.

And what did we have for dessert? Why, apple pie, of course! We had gotten together a couple of nights before in an evening work bee to cut the apples and make the pies.

Later that week, on October 15, we celebrated the foundation of the first of the apostolates founded by Catherine Doherty—Friendship House Toronto. We had displays, another festive meal, and a presentation comprised of some of Catherine’s writings including stories from her Friendship House Toronto days.

In September we had a beautiful Byzantine liturgy for the Exaltation of the Cross, which included the blessing of the four corners of the earth and the distribution of purple basil, the purple symbolizing royalty and the sweetness and fragrance of the herb symbolizing the sweetness of the cross.

We also, for the first time, had the Franciscan prayer service for the vigil of the feast of St. Francis: Transitus, which included the veneration of a relic of St. Francis. Fr. Pelton introduced us to this custom and led the prayer service.

Marysia Kowalchyk, a staff worker and iconographer, gave a talk about icons at a conference put on by the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in Toronto.

Nineteen of us took part in the Life Chain, an annual American and Canadian pro-life hour of prayer and silent witness. We did this in the nearby town of Barry’s Bay.

Also in Barry’s Bay, at another time, at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, several of us attended a talk about the new evangelization.

May God give you a blessed Advent. Along with the busyness that will be part of that time before Christmas for many of you, may it also be a time of peace and longing for the coming of Christ. And may God also give you a joyous Christmas.


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