by Catherine Doherty.
Catherine Doherty didn’t initiate; she waited on people and events. She listened to the Spirit, and when events happened, she moved with them. Bringing the rich religious tradition of Russia to Madonna House was no exception.
Here, in words she wrote in 1959 or ’60, she shared her excitement and reflections about one of these "Russian events"—and memories of another one.
For well nigh 40 years now I have been asking myself why I, a refugee from Russia, a stranger in this new land which I love so much, why should I be chosen by God to found a lay apostolate?
But that night the icons came, I finally got my answer. God might have chosen a Russian in order to bring to this land a little bit of our simplicity, of our contemplative spirit, of our passivity.
Perhaps he just wanted a humble bridge between the Latin and Eastern rites, for in Russia I was brought up in both. From babyhood I have been steeped in both Orthodoxy and Catholicism and have absorbed them both.
At Madonna House, we now have in our chapel, icons of the Lord Christ of Russia and of the Bogoroditza, which in Russian means the Mother of God.
These icons, gifts of Fr. Joseph Raya, a Melkite Rite pastor in Alabama [later an archbishop and member of MH], were especially dedicated to the reunion of East and West.
They were installed, blessing the Western world in an Eastern way, bringing about by their very presence a unity based on love, on prayer, and on understanding of one another’s traditions.
For 35 years I have been trying to work and pray for the unity of Eastern and Western Churches.
At the beginning of Vatican II, we built a Russian shrine. A vigil light burned before the icon of Our Lady for the deliberations of the Council. And all during the years of the Council meetings, there was a Latin shrine facing the Russian one. On my island the two Churches were already blending into one.
Perhaps I have exaggerated a point or two here, but all I know is that all that night after the arrival of those two icons, my heart was filled with a gratitude to Jesus Christ that was beyond expression.
May the name of the Lord be glorified forever—at Madonna House and everywhere else! Truly his love, his mercy and compassion are infinite and everlasting. Alleluia!
—Adapted and excerpted from Welcome Pilgrim (1991), pp. 52-53, out of print.
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