Posted November 08, 2013 in MH Krasnoyarsk, Russia, and in MH Resteigne, Belgium:
A Phone Call In Moscow

by Catherine Lesage, current director of MH Russia.

What is Madonna House? Who are you? What do you do?

People in Krasnoyarsk often ask us these questions.

The questions are simple, but the answers are not.

After weak attempts to describe "the breadth and the length, the height and the depth" of the spirituality of Madonna House, I often answer as Jesus did in the Gospel of St. John. When asked by the disciples, "Where do you live?" Jesus simply replied, come and see (John 1:39).

Madonna House has been in Russia for 20 years—the first thirteen in Magadan. It has been a dream of mine to someday be able to present to our friends a more complete picture of Madonna House.

When dreams are dreamt in God they become a reality. Mine did. In June of this year, seven of our friends from Russia and I embarked on a pilgrimage to Madonna House in Belgium where we spent ten days living, praying, and working with the staff.

It all started when I returned to Russia after my mother’s funeral in September of last year. It started very simply—with a phone call.

After landing in Moscow where I had a one-day layover, I turned on the cell phone of MH Krasnoyarsk to see if there were any urgent messages. (Karen, my fellow staff worker there, was on vacation at the time.) Someone that very day had tried fifteen times to reach me!

I quickly turned the phone off. I was not yet ready to re-enter into our Russian life; I was taking the day in Moscow to ready myself to do so.

Later, when I turned the cell phone on again, I discovered that this person had tried to reach me another ten times!

But this time, before I had the chance to turn it off, it rang again, and I answered.

It was Galya Boltyanskaya, a friend from Magadan. She told me she was in Krasnoyarsk and would be there only for another 24 hours. She desperately wanted to talk to me.

My flight to Krasnoyarsk was that evening, a red eye flight. I would be arriving in Krasnoyarsk the following morning. I would have a few hours to get some sleep before Galya arrived at my door in late afternoon.

In the short time we had before her flight to Magadan, she explained the reason for her urgency.

Galya had visited Combermere a few years ago. She said she still carried the graces she received there, and she wanted to repeat the experience. But given the fact was that it is expensive to travel to Canada and that for the past few years the Canadian Embassy in Moscow has not given visas to our friends for such a visit, a trip to Canada was not possible.

What would we think about gathering our friends from Russia and hosting a Madonna House retreat in Krasnoyarsk? She had written to Miriam Stulberg about this, and Miriam had suggested she talk to me.

My answer was immediate: it is impossible! We don’t have the staff or the room—two things necessary to offer an experience of our Madonna House life.

Galya’s face fell.

"But," I said, "what if we traveled to a house in Europe that has both space and a number of staff?"

Galya lit up.

As I drove her to the airport, we both agreed to pray and see what doors would open.

Doors opened. On June 20th, nine months later, Galya, Lyuda, Katya, and Lina from Magadan, and Paulina, Andrei, and Angela from Krasnoyarsk, and I met at the Moscow airport to begin our journey to Belgium.

It was the first time we had all met, but it was as if we already knew each other. Already we were one. Already the spirit that would prevail the whole time was there: joy, laughter, unity, and family.

Then when Joanne Dionne, the director of MH Belgium graciously greeted the group at the Brussels airport, she and all the group there were immediately brought into this space, this spirit.

She told the Russians that she had intended to open her heart and home to them but found that they had done so first. They had already taken her into their hearts.

And thus, our wonderful retreat-pilgrimage began.

Only God could have created such an event, such a meeting of hearts. This was especially evident in our last evening together when we shared what we had experienced during those days.

We celebrated with song and dance, with laughter and tears—tears of joy and gratitude at the wonders of God’s love made visible in a little group tucked away in the Ardennes region of Belgium. Over and over, we had seen and experienced little, and not so little, signs of his love.

I am reminded of what St. John wrote at the end of his Gospel: There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written (21:25).

If I were to write down everything that happened during this retreat, I suppose this article would be endless.


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