Posted April 20, 2015 in MH Resteigne, Belgium:
We Have 86 Doors

by Giulia Velocci.

I arrived at MH Belgium, my first assignment as a Madonna House staff worker, on November 28, 2014 just after midnight. Since it was so late at night, or actually so early in the morning, the only thing that made an impression on me was the number of doors. [MH Belgium is housed in a very large former convent.]

For those of you who like facts, I decided to count all the doors in this house. For the sake of my own sanity and, in order to keep this article at a moderate length, I did not include in my statistics doorways without doors, nor did I count our bedroom closet doors or the two doors of our small chapel that don’t have handles on them.

I counted 86! For a household of seven women, I consider this a very large number of doors.

When I first arrived, our director Joanne Dionne, said to me, "If you don’t know what’s behind the door, just open it." I took this literally but also symbolically.

This house is big, and the number of friends we welcome into our home and hearts each day is also big.

The doorbell rings; did you hear it? Cristina Coutinho heard it and in case the rest of us didn’t, she reminds us that, "Le Christ est à la porte." "Christ is at the door." It’s a good reminder of what Catherine Doherty taught us—that Christ is in every person we encounter.

Of course, there are about a zillion dishes to wash and a meal to cook, but when the doorbell rings, it’s time to let these things go, at least for a few minutes, so that we can make a cup of coffee or tea for Christ knocking at our door.

At times Christ appears as a woman needing to talk about her troubled marriage. Sometimes He appears as children coming for catechism class in preparation for their profession of faith. He also enters our home as a married couple, one of whom has a terminal illness.

Just before Christmas, Christ came through an unmarried couple, non-believers who felt the need to bring us Christmas food. At another time, Christ presented himself in the form of a poor person looking for the most minimal food package he could receive.

As a matter of fact, every month about thirty families come to us for food.

Christ also comes to us in the form of priests. We have many priest friends, and just like our Madonna House priests, each one is so different. Some are more intellectual, some more charismatic. Mostly the priests come to spend their day off with us. I like when they come because it means that we can have Mass at home.

Other times it is us who do the visiting, who knock at Christ’s door. Not long ago, Noella de Laforcade and I visited a couple. As soon as they found out we were coming, the wife began baking a traditional Belgian sugar pie for us. The couple is non-believing yet their hospitality really astonished me.

I have not been really surprised at what I have seen of the Church here so far. Before leaving Combermere, I was well aware that Catholicism in Belgium cannot be compared with that of the area where Combermere is located, an area where seriously Catholic home-schooling families are fairly common.

And having experienced Catholicism in Italy, I was not too surprised to see that, though Belgium is a Catholic country, for the most part, it is only culturally so.

All in all, I am enjoying being in Europe. I enjoy the beauty of the countryside here in Resteigne, and I love the Ardennais horses, which are everywhere.

One morning as Joanne and I were walking home, we came across two horses on the loose wandering about blocking two cars trying to get by.

One driver got out of his car and tried to drive them into a field. Joanne, a neighbor, and I tried to help. Well, actually, I was too scared to help, especially when the horses began running towards Joanne and me.

I hid behind Joanne and watched her as she stretched out her arm, putting her hand in front of the horses’ faces. To my astonishment, they stopped immediately!

Before coming to Resteigne, I never thought much about doors. Approximately 86 doors later, I still find it hard to believe that it is possible for a seven-person house to have so many. But the doors are not just for us. They are for Christ who comes each day to us through a different person. "Christ is at the door!"

The question I’ve been asking myself is this: Am I going to open that door wide for him or only halfway?


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