Posted June 19, 2012 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (May-June 2012)

by Paulette Curran.

When you receive this paper, the Easter Season will be ending, or perhaps it will be over. I am writing at the other end of it: on Wednesday of Easter Week.

This is our first day back on our ordinary schedule, though the celebrating is far from over. The Church in her wisdom and love has given us eight days of Easter and fifty days of Easter Season, and here at MH, we live the whole Easter Season as best we can.

Though we are of course back at work and the celebrating gradually tapers off, it is only when Pentecost is over that we take down the last of the Easter decorations—the last banner and the last pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs)—and sing our last glorious "alleluia."

Each Lent, and each Eastertime, is unique in some ways and this year the last week of Lent, the week before Holy Week, was certainly colored by an event: a flu epidemic. It was a severe flu, a stomach flu, but the good news was that it was short-lived. Most of us got it, but most of us were up within three or four days or even less.

But it came at a busy time, and it was a challenge to "cover the bases." When you heard Elizabeth Bassarear, the local director of St. Mary’s, say, "We don’t have anyone to cook dinner, so we’re just going to put out some food, and you can help yourselves," you knew just how short-staffed we were.

But God timed it well, actually. By Holy Week, almost everyone was up.

Holy Week was intense, busy, and beautiful, as always, and a most beautiful addition this year was the baptism of Ka Yun, a longterm Korean visitor, at the Easter Vigil.

We had journeyed with her and seen her increasing longing and blooming as a person, and we have been well taught what a magnificent, transforming thing baptism is. And during the ceremony and after it, Ka Yun was radiant. Just to see her was a joy.

She chose as her baptismal name, "Faustina Clare,"—a fellow guest from Poland had told her all about St. Faustina—and Ka Yun has asked us to now call her "Faustina."

She left this morning to return to Korea, and yesterday evening, she shared with us some of her journey while she was here.

When she was first here, she told us, she worked in the garden planting amaryllis bulbs with Mary Davis. Mary told her that in six months big beautiful red flowers would grow from them.

Ka Yun could not believe it. "They looked like onions." She kept checking them out, waiting for them to bloom "like I waited for myself to bloom."

Of course, the liturgies are the center of the Triduum, including for us the Byzantine Rite Burial of Christ Service on Good Friday night. Plus as always, we had other big and little ways of celebrating the feasts.

This year, on Easter, Derek Pinto and Teresa Gehred led a small group on a pre-dawn hike up a small mountain and said morning prayer at the summit.

On Easter Tuesday, Fr. Robert Johnson celebrated a Tridentine Mass for all who wished to attend. And, as always during Easter suppers, every once in a while someone began singing an Easter hymn, and we all joined in.

And as always, we enjoyed three days off, making our own breakfasts, visiting with one another, hiking, reading, playing games, etc., etc., etc.

Backtracking a little, let me give you a little news from Lent, which is when a number of our priests gave retreats and parish missions.

Most were nearby or at least in eastern Canada, but one was far away indeed—a retreat to a religious community in Poland—the Community of Love Crucified—given by Fr. Bob Wild and two staff from MH Belgium: Paul Moore and Noella de Laforcade.

For Fr. Wild, who is the postulator for Catherine’s cause, the time in Poland was, among other things, a coming to a realization that Polish Catholicism was one of the sources of Catherine’s spirituality. (Catherine’s grandmother was Polish.)

And it was Catherine’s spirituality which prompted our invitation to Poland.

One of the leaders of the Community of Love Crucified had been carrying the book, Poustinia, around with him for many years, and it was while he was making a two-day poustinia that he was inspired to invite Madonna House to give them a retreat. (A two-day poustinia every two months is part of their rule.)

Fr. Wild said that the Polish people seem to have a special affinity to Catherine’s spirituality. (Would you believe that six MH books have been translated into Polish and have been published by a Carmelite publisher in Poland!)

Our team gave a number of talks, which of course needed to be translated. When the English translator got exhausted, Noella and Paul spoke in French, which someone else then translated into Polish.

And what did the people get out of the retreat? Various things, of course. Some people, for example, were struck by Catherine’s love for priests and how she accepted their human frailty. And one woman heard "love, love, love without counting the cost," in relation to her adopted son she was having difficulty with.

Meanwhile, back in Canada: The work of our MH artists is a hidden one, and the products of that work sometimes end up in unexpected places.

Recently, one of our artists, Patrick Stewart, was commissioned to paint a portrait of Père Pierre-Adrien Toulorge, a Norbertine priest martyred during the French Revolution, who was to be beatified on April 28 of this year. Patrick’s portrait will be the official image for the beatification.

Back in Combermere again, the week after Easter is a time of good-byes. It is a natural time for longterm guests to leave, and most of them did. This time also marks the end of the annual spiritual formation program, our program for men discerning priesthood.

This year there were three of them: Andrew Schwark (from Saskatchewan), Adam Stevens (from North Carolina), and Ryan Best (from Florida). Yesterday evening, as is the custom, each of them spoke for a few minutes on what they had received and learned here. As always, these were touching talks.

We also said good-bye to the three first year applicants, but just for a little while. They left for their holidays, during which they will be visiting some of our mission houses.

Other little things have been happening, too, of course. Mamie Legris, our oldest member, both in age and length of time in Madonna House, celebrated her 96th birthday. And we had a lovely celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, one of the feastdays we celebrate differently every year.

This year, little had been planned for entertainment, but we ended up with more than we had expected since a few people spontaneously (well we had to beg some of them a little) did a song or dance. Such celebrations always bring joy, laughter, and beauty.

In this month of May, an especially beautiful season in many parts of the world, let me wish you "moments" of beauty and joy, song and laughter—gifts God gives his children even in times of struggle and darkness.


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