Posted February 22, 2016 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (February 2016)

by Maria Victoria Fausto.

As I begin to write this column during the first week of 2016, I am looking out the window at a huge snow-covered pine tree and its surrounding wonderland of snow-laden maple and oak trees. You might be thinking: of course the trees have snow on them—you’re in Canada! But wait, it’s not ho-hum, no big deal–at least, not for us.

Apparently our December here in Ontario has set records for being positively balmy—more like spring than winter.

Not only did we not have a white Christmas, but Christmas was so mild that roguish Michael Amaral put up a hammock in the front yard! And a few people used it.

Mary Beth Mitchell was seen napping in the sun, with her cane dangling below, alongside our dog Kaylee who posed while Mary Davis snapped a picture. Perhaps if we have one of those super-cold weather fronts in the coming weeks, we’ll be glad to remember that we’ve had it easy in December.

But there have been other things going on that affected our Advent-Christmas Season more than mild weather.

Quite a few of us have or had the flu. I happen to be one of the ones still standing, which is why I am writing this column. Paulette, our regular Combermere Diary writer, is sick in bed. In some ways this flu caught us by surprise given the fact that it did not even feel like winter.

This issue of Restoration not only has an "irregular" columnist like me, but it will be one about a time when we are feeling keenly the absence of Fr. Pat McNulty.

On December 17th, in the midst of the preparations for Christmas, when the final days of Advent were marked by the crescendo of the O Antiphons, we received word that Fr. Pat had died peacefully.

The following morning we were greeted by a larger-than-life photo of him in the dining room, with the words, "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal.2:20) taken from the title of his book.

We received many friends and family members for Fr. Pat’s wake and funeral—far too many to list—including some associate and local priests and Bishop Michael Mulhall. There would have been even more had he not died at one of the busiest times of the year.

We waited until after the funeral to decorate the house and chapels for Christmas. I must admit that I thought decorating at the last minute with many of our newly-arrived guests would be a real push, but I was happily proved wrong.

It was fun. Perhaps it was the joy of seeing the colorful Christmas lights light up immediately when plugged in a dark area outside the upstairs chapel.

Or perhaps it was the wonderful sound of gentle Christmas music and the smell of shortbread cookies baking in the oven that put me in the mood. At any rate, we pulled it off!

Of course those who are familiar with our customs and celebrations in the Advent season will remember that we go from feast to feast, or so it seems.

We celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas with a skit based on his life, and we received the gift of freshly baked gingerbread cookies along with the name of someone to pray for in a special way throughout the coming year.

Two days later, on December 8th, we enjoyed a day dedicated to the Immaculate Conception with a "Sunday schedule" and special prayers of gratitude for our upstairs chapel, which is dedicated to Our Lady under the title of Immaculate Conception.

A number of us went on an afternoon pilgrimage to the Divine Mercy shrine at St. Mary’s Church in nearby Wilno, marking the beginning of the Year of Mercy.

It is no secret around here that I love the season of Advent and all of our feasts; but my favorite is Our Lady of Guadalupe. As usual, we started the day with Las Mananitas—gentle and prayerful songs to Mary very early in the morning.

It was still dark when we processed from the main house basement to the island chapel. Both the "morning larks" (the wide awake) and the "night owls" (still half asleep) were offered hot chocolate to fuel our enthusiasm.

Some angel managed to put up a beautiful display composed a large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, flowers, and little vigil lights, below the altar. A number of us sang beautiful hymns in various languages, all in very dim light, before saying our usual morning prayers as the sun was rising.

In the evening, our main dining room was transformed. In the morning, we simply had the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the most prominent place at the back of the room where we were invited to light taper candles.

Then after supper, there were roses—real ones!—in several places and lots of authentic fiesta decorations. (The roses were a gift from a local funeral.)

We had a Mexican meal which included tortillas, beans, rice, and salsa. Ana Sofia, our guest from Guadalajara, Mexico, walked in from the kitchen and with a big smile said, "Wow. You’re serious about Our Lady of Guadalupe here!"

The dramatic narration of the Guadalupe story had a cast that included all three directors general, dressed up, respectively, as Bishop Zumarraga, Queen Isabella, and Christopher Columbus.

On Gaudete Sunday, which this year was also the feast of St. Lucy, Mark Schlingerman announced the appointment of Patrick Stewart as the new local director for the training center (main house).

In celebration of Catherine Doherty’s 30th anniversary of death, we held a day of recollection. In the homily at Mass, Fr. Blair Bernard centered on seven gospel sayings of Catherine that formed our community of love. Fr. Denis Lemieux linked Catherine’s life and our own, to stages of the journey to the heart of Mercy.

It was through the ears of mercy that we heard Andorra Howard give a report of her travels in Thailand. While in Bangkok, she worked and prayed with the Night Light Apostolate.

This Christian group give support to victims of human trafficking. Andorra shared with us her personal journey that led her to Thailand. Her passion to uphold the dignity of persons was clearly visible in the pictures of the new friends she made through her work with Night Light.

Carl Hétu, the national chairman for the Canadian branch of the Catholic Near-East Welfare Association, came to speak to us after his recent trip to Israel and the Ukraine.

Besides sharing some of his extensive knowledge of current conditions in the Middle East, he put the current problems in the context of their history.

Fr. Brian Christie, Nadine Bruneau, and Pascal Richard attended the Christian Catholic Outreach (CCO) event, Rise-Up, in Montreal over New Year’s.

Our three MH representatives witnessed much hope and joy among the hundreds of young adults they encountered. We are definitely "on board" with all those who tirelessly proclaim the love of the Lord through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Bob Wild has another book out—Madonna House as a Divine Milieu—an introduction for working guests. It’s available from MH Publications.

Our working guests tell us that Advent at Madonna House is beautiful, and we who live in Combermere are also enriched by their presence.

In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we find ways to celebrate the extraordinary beauty in the ordinary, and encounter the mystery of the other with mercy in our hearts.


If you enjoy our articles, we ask you to please consider subscribing to the print edition of Restoration; it's only $10 a year, and will help us stay in print. Thanks, and God bless you!


Restoration Contents

Next article:
Milestones (February 2016)

Previous article:
What's Not to Love?



RSS 2.0RSS feed

Madonna House - A Training Centre for the Lay Apostolate