Posted January 25, 2012 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (January 2012)

by Paulette Curran.

One of the wonderful things, about being Catholic, at least for me, is the liturgical cycle. And the feasts, both the great ones like Christmas and the smaller ones that spring up like flowers in the green of Ordinary Time.

To celebrate the feasts is to rejoice in beauty and love and to live the Gospel. This is true even of the parts that are not usually thought of as "religious"—the food, the decorations, the being together, etc.. For God is in those things, too, and they are our human ways of expressing, increasing, and incarnating our faith and joy.

As I write this column, we are coming to the end of November and are poised to begin Advent. The grayness of November—that month between autumn leaves and snow—is a natural preparation for the brightness of Advent.

But even in November, the Church has not left us without feasts to celebrate. There are two wonderful ones right at the beginning: All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Our celebration of All Saints Day began on the eve of the feast—with what we call "the little saints."

These are local children who come dressed as saints—children from families who have chosen to celebrate All Saints Day instead of Halloween.

The families go from place to place as a group after which they all have a party. We are on their route for a longish visit at the end of our suppertime.

When they arrive, they parade around the dining room while we sing, "When the Saints Go Marching In." Then one by one they tell us about "their" saint.

As always, there was a St. George. (Little boys love wearing a helmet and sword.) And the costumes, as always, were clever: A baby was dressed in a little lion suit, and his mother told us he had "nibbled Daniel."

Some of the parents dress up, too. One mother wearing a shawl said, "I feel very at home here." She was dressed as Catherine Doherty! That was a first!

The next day, we had our own All Saints party. Each year is a little different, and this time, we dressed as Madonna House saints, that is, saints we pray to as a community, and saints after whom our rooms and buildings are named.

Mary Speicher was the main organizer and emcee. The "saints" told us about "themselves," and of course, there were some clever touches.

Applicant Loretta Fritz, as Julian of Norwich, came in a box with a barred window cut out. (Julian was a recluse.) Teresa Reilander, also in a box, represented a building rather than a person: Nazareth, Susanne’s cabin.

At St. Mary’s, their All Saints party took the theme of Desert Fathers and Mothers. Among their presentations was a drama written by Shatzi Duffy, a drama based on the life of St. Mena, a monk of Egypt.

While we are on the subject of feasts and celebrations, we don’t want to forget to mention the non-religious celebrations that happen here from time to time—like Fr. Pat McNulty’s 80th birthday party. We don’t usually have all-house parties for birthdays, but, well, this one just kind of happened, and it was a wonderful party.

And now, as I said, Advent is very close. The Advent classes for the guests have begun, weekly classes in which the guests learn all about Advent by doing presentations. (This year they will be led by Eliana Ribeiro das Chagas, Paul Mitchell, and Fr. Blair Bernard.)

This past Sunday, another feast, Christ the King, we sang wonderful Christ the King songs at Mass, had exposition of the Blessed Sacrament all day, and members of the liturgy class gathered greens for the Advent wreath.

Feasts are also occasions for creativity. And they are also illustrations of the proverb: "Necessity is the mother of invention." Over the past few years, we have been getting fewer and fewer new religious Christmas cards in donation.

So now we are making what we need, something some of us had been doing already. Anne Marie Murphy, who is responsible for our handicraft center, put a lot of effort into making card-making less effort for us.

Thinking ahead, she had begged for card stock and used cards in "One Man’s Scrap," and our benefactors responded generously.

Last Sunday, she gave an afternoon class in "Beginners’ Card-Making." She and the staff of the handicraft department laid out card stock they had cut to match the envelopes we had and put out everything we need: used Christmas cards, ink pads and rubber stamps with Christmas designs, punchers that make star shapes, other little odds and ends we could use our imagination with, and of course such things as scissors and glue.

This made card-making hassle-free and fun. And the results, so far, are lovely.

Three people have taken major trips in the past months.

Fr. David Linder went to our house in Krasnoyarsk, Russia and the centenary celebrations of our parish there.

Two other staff, Janet Bourdet and Pat Probst, at an invitation from the founder of an organization that works with orphans in Romania, went there to give Montessori classes to the children. Our staff were astounded and profoundly moved to see these children, who had been so extremely abused and neglected, respond to the Good Shepherd.

In a trip closer to home, Fr. Tom Rowland gave teachings on the new Mass translations to a number of parishes in the Kingston, Ontario archdiocese.

Even closer to home, Marian Moody, Chris Hanlon, and Fr Murray Kuemper gave a talk to the Knights of Columbus in our diocesan seat, Pembroke, and Fr. Denis Lemieux helped give a weekend retreat centered on bereavement.

Marysia Kowalchyk and Veronica Dudych attended the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Eastern Catholic Sheptytsky Institute and the 30th anniversary of Holy Spirit Ukrainian seminary in Ottawa. The seminarians were thrilled MH was there; many of them had made retreats here.

On the first anniversary of the death of Diane Kunz, we had the blessing of her cross (grave marker). Her two daughters and their husbands came all the way from Fort Wayne, Indiana, for the occasion and also for Fr. Pat’s 80th birthday.

Here are a few last items of news:

Within a couple of weeks, first the women staff, then all the men, had a day of recollection. We had a contest to give a new name to our flea market, because it really isn’t a flea market. The winning name: "St. Hubert: The Small Shop." Eliana Ribeiro das Chagas, Irene Sullivan, and Deirdre Burch, are taking a course in portrait painting.

Last, but not least, Fr. Wild has had a new book published, Catherine’s Friends, put out by Justin Press, a new Canadian Catholic publishing company. The book can be ordered from MH Publications.

May 2012 be a year rich in all kinds of blessings for each of you. You are in our prayers.


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