Restoration

Restoration

Posted July 19, 2012 in MH Rimouski QC:
What Does God Want Us to Do?

by Jeanne Guillemette.

Our house in Rimouski, Quebec, in French Canada, is the newest foundation of Madonna House. We opened in November 2010, and we moved into our "permanent" house in July 2011.

Jocko d’Ursel and I are still very much feeling our way as to what specifically God wants us to do here, and one Scripture passage that recently spoke to me about that was Acts 16:6-10.

They traveled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the Word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia, they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night, Paul had a vision: a Macedonia appeared and appealed to him in these words: "Come across to Macedonia and help us." Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

They were a new Church, and we are a new house. And one thing about a new house is that a lot of discernment needs to take place.

What are we doing here? How can we best serve? What does God want us to do?

Our directors general gave us three words: prayer, presence and friendship. That helps, but it’s a bit general.

What specifically does God want us to do?

It’s true that God can reveal his will in extraordinary ways as he did to Paul and Timothy, but he usually doesn’t do it that way. Catherine Doherty used to remind us that God generally reveals his will through persons, events, and circumstances, and that’s how he’s been doing it with us.

The first person through whom we hear God’s will is Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier, an associate bishop of Madonna House who invited us to his diocese. He leaves us pretty free, but every now and then he asks us to do something specific. When he does, we do it.

For example, he asked me to attend a forum on catechesis. Formerly, catechism was offered in schools, but throughout the province of Quebec, this is no longer the case. Now the provincial government, in the interest of teaching the children "toleration," has mandated an ethics course that teaches all religions.

So now our diocese is in the process of developing a comprehensive catechetics program for all the parishes.

So I attended the forum. That would have been the end of it for me, but God sent another person, the director of the diocesan program. She told me they had two openings for catechists in a certain parish and couldn’t fill them. Would Jocko and I be willing to teach catechism?

We prayed about it, and we were both willing. So now we are doing a work neither of us on our own initiative would have chosen to do.

One condition of our lives that helps us discern the will of God is the building we are living in.

One example of this is what happened with adoration, something people in our parish had been asking for.

There was a group of Adoration Sisters in Rimouski for ninety years. Two years ago, the elderly sisters were no longer able to continue. The convent has been closed, and the Sisters have returned to their motherhouse.

These Sisters had perpetual adoration, and people miss being able to go and adore whenever they wished.

"Maybe you could do this," people were telling us. But how could we two people replace sixteen Sisters?

It would be difficult, but we considered it. Setting up for it in our chapel would have been possible—except for the layout of our house. It was not possible to separate the chapel from the rest of the house. So we’d have to walk on tiptoe and leave the front door open all the time, and we would not be able to go out freely.

So it was clear that God did not want us to take on perpetual adoration.

But that didn’t mean we were to drop the idea altogether. Along with our pastor, we were able to help get adoration established somewhere else. Then Jocko and I signed up to "cover" two hours a week.

Then there were the Stations of the Cross. Jocko was talking with a Polish couple, who were saying that they longed to have traditional Stations of the Cross during Lent. We took their request to the pastor and helped get it organized at the cathedral one Friday evening. 25-30 people came. They said, "Next year, we’ll do it every week." We said, "We’ll see."

When we say we know God’s will through people, that means ourselves as well as the people we meet. God works through our personalities, our gifts, and our limitations, and he works through what we know.

Making pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs, during Lent, is part of our Madonna House tradition, and both Jocko and I like making them. So during Lent, we gave classes in making pysanky. Thirteen young adults and others attended these classes and seemed to enjoy them.

People have been talking to us about the young people. "Now that there are no Catholic schools, it’s hard to reach the young people," someone said. "Maybe you can do something."

We listened and prayed. One day, during a conference, Jocko was sitting next to a young person. It turned out that she was a university student from France. Jocko invited her to come and pray with us—vespers and the rosary—which she did. This was the beginning of a friendship.

Then shortly after that, a young woman who had made a poustinia at our house also joined us for prayers. She returned another day, bringing a friend. Then two of these young women came to a pysanky class. We were beginning to become friends with young people; something was perking.

Through these and other relationships, we have begun to help with a monthly gathering for youth.

And these contacts have led us to take on university students in prayer—very much including the students who are (at the time of this writing) striking over proposed tuition hikes. We are praying for these striking students without judging, without taking sides.

Sometimes, like with adoration, God makes it clear that he does not want us to take something on. Other times, he wants us to take it on. Every day we look at the events of the day and at what people are asking of us. Though this process of discernment is never simple, it can be exciting.

Now let me tell you about a lovely event that happened through moving with a situation.

We participate in a gathering of a community called Fraternité du Pain" (fraternity of the bread). It was founded as a way of serving the poor and consists of Scripture reading, sharing, and a meal.

The gatherings are on the first Thursday of every month, and this year, the April gathering fell on Holy Thursday. So at the March gathering, we told the people there that we would not be able to attend the next one, because we had our own Madonna House traditions and customs for Holy Thursday, including a special meal we called, "The Supper of the Lamb."

They said, "Can we come to your place?"

Twenty people in our tiny kitchen? We talked with the leaders later and worked out the details of combining the two events. We were really squeezed together, but it was one of the most beautiful meals I have ever experienced.

Then after our meal and sharing, we all went to the cathedral together for the liturgy.

There weren’t a lot of people at the liturgy, but the sense of oneness among us was indescribable.

So you see, though he hasn’t given us any mysterious dreams as he did to St. Paul, the Lord is gradually making his will known to us here in Rimouski on the beautiful shores of the St. Lawrence River.

 

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