Posted November 04, 2013 in MH Krasnoyarsk, Russia, and in MH Resteigne, Belgium:

by Cristina Coutinho, staff, MH Belgium.

Le caillou, in French, means "the pebble." It is the word that comes to me when I am in this poustinia close to the river where I can see many little pebbles being washed by the water.

What a wonderful word! It makes me think of the stone David threw at Goliath. And of the call of our Catherine to be a pebble in the hand of God—just to be there ready to be used by him in the ways he wants and when he wants.

It is in this poustinia that I am writing about the "Russian Project."

The visit of the group of seven Russians to our house in Belgium was for me an experience of letting go of my defenses, of being vulnerable.

Sometimes we hide ourselves because we are afraid of being vulnerable. We lack trust in each other, and in this process of hiding, our hearts can become hard.

When our friends arrived, their wide open hearts were an invitation to me to open my own. It was then that I understood better the expression "wounded heart" that Catherine used.

This connected with the prayer that we also learned from Catherine: "Give me the heart of a child and the awesome courage to live it out as an adult."

So during this retreat, I did not have to hide my pain, creating an illusory person to show to the others; I did not have to try to show how perfect I am.

It was humbling and sobering for me to meet each person in the group in truth. And in so doing, I could see how hospitality of the heart is based on the acceptance of each other in love.

One of the lines of the Little Mandate of Madonna House is, "Go without fear into the depths of men’s heart. I shall be with you."

For this to happen, for me to be welcomed into the depths of my neighbor’s heart, I have to let the Holy Spirit penetrate me, and during this retreat, I prayed for this grace for all of us.

Certainly God was among us because there was a peace coming from way beyond ourselves.

God threw these seven little pebbles from Russia in the direction of my heart, and through them, he wounded me with his love.

Through them, he killed once more the Goliath of fear and pride and brought me deeper into my Madonna House vocation.

At our last meal together, our Russian visitors gave each of us staff a card with an icon of Christ giving communion to his disciples, and on each one they had written a personal message. My message was about hospitality of the heart. But how did they know? It still surprises me.


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