Posted July 11, 2013:
A Gathering of Men

by Mark Schlingerman, Director General of the Laymen of MH.

In late April, the laymen of Madonna House did something we had never done before. With the prompting of, and arrangements by, the Holy Spirit, all of us, from both Combermere and all the mission houses worldwide, gathered in Combermere for a "sobor."

"Sobor" is a Russian word best interpreted as "gathering." Our foundress Catherine Doherty gave it additional meaning in relation to "sobornost," a word she used to signify a unity of heart and mind among people living a life in Christ.

We laymen did not know exactly what this first sobor would look like, only that it is you, Lord, who accomplish all that we do (Is 26:12).

What we did was to gather for four weekdays and a Sunday.

Mornings, we worked together in small groups at the Rural Apostolate (St. Joseph’s House), at our farm, and on the renovations at the guest house for visiting priests. Then we had lunch together, followed by an afternoon assembly during which we were available to whatever the Spirit might bring.

Each afternoon, one of us said a few words to give a direction; then we waited and listened and spoke.

Over the four days, the Holy Spirit gave us simple, solid words and a spirit of listening to each other from the heart—with eloquent silences in between.

The themes were: We Follow a Crucified Christ, (Forgiveness was central to this one.); Burdens We Carry (and help each other carry); and Signs of the Times (to say what God is doing with us and in the world, a work assigned to the laity).

The fact that all the laymen were able to come together, to be together, to enjoy being brothers together, meant more than words can convey.

Let the photograph of all the laymen of Madonna House, gathered together for the first time in almost 30 years, stand as a symbol of the striving for unity among us.

It shows men who are continually learning to live a life in Christ—in union with their sisters and brother priests in the apostolate. The work of Madonna House is to receive the gift of unity-sobornost, which the Holy Spirit offers, for ourselves and so that we can pass it on to others.

How good it is when brothers dwell together in unity … for there the Lord ordained the blessing: life forevermore (Ps 133).

The understanding was that we did not have to produce anything out of our gathering.

The work together, the listening to each other—coming out of silence—and the powerful, tangible support our sisters and brother priests brought to this sobor: these are what the Lord used to accomplish much among us laymen of Madonna House. Glory to God for everything!


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