Madonna House

The Deepest Kind of Communion

by Fr. David May

Mamie Legris finally found him whom her heart loves.

Perhaps her story is not unlike that of Mary Magdalene who meets the risen Lord at the tomb. Nothing else and no one else was quite enough for her: not an empty tomb with neatly folded garments, not two angels or a sympathetic “gardener” asking why all the tears.

For Mary Magdalene, only one person would do. Only one could allay her sadness and the awful thirst in her heart for love: Jesus himself. Our prayer and our hope for Mamie is that she, like Mary, heard the Lord call her name—Mamie! Or did he use the more official Mary Theresa Bridget?

When Mary Magdalene heard her name called out and she recognized the true identity of the mysterious gardener, she clung to him saying, “Rabbuni” (Master). But she wasn’t allowed to stay for long in that brief moment of consoling touch.

She was told not to cling to Jesus but to go and tell the disciples a message about ascending to the Father. Immediately, she obeyed.

What comprises the deepest kind of communion with Jesus our Beloved? Is it the touch of a tangible grace, a conversation, a nice walk together in the garden?

It may include any or all of these.

But perhaps the deepest kind of communion is that of carrying out the mission for which the Father had sent Jesus himself: to go forth and to announce the Gospel by living it and by speaking it. To be emptied of consolation and comforting, as Jesus emptied himself to become one with us, becoming even humbler yet…

Perhaps at times, the deeper the communion with God, the greater the darkness of understanding. It seems that Mamie was given such a path to trod. For she walked the way of a tremendous darkness of faith.

A dedicated Catholic all her life, and one of the original members of Madonna House when we began to make promises here, she was looking for Christ all her life.

Nothing unusual about that, right? All of us who walk the path of faith, to whatever extent we may have “found” the Lord, still must seek him in life over and over again. Fulfillment is mostly for the next world, not this one; such is our hope and the common experience of most believers I know.

Mamie was not the usual believer. She walked in a darkness of faith that seemed to be unending. At least it appeared that way to anyone she ever talked to about her spiritual life. We walk by faith and not by sight, says St. Paul—one passage, at least, that Mamie would have understood well (2 Cor 5: 6ff).

Faith has many expressions, and individual experiences of it vary tremendously. Today, if you ask most anyone who professes to be Christian where he or she is most “at home”—in the body or elsewhere—you probably would get a look of astonishment that such a question could even be asked.

The answer to most would be obvious: “In the body, of course!”

However, that’s not what St. Paul says: We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him (2 Cor 5:8-9).

Now, Mamie was known as a down-to-earth person, and very “down-home.” In this she had the mark, you could say, of being born and bred here in the Ottawa Valley. People from hereabouts are known as very “salt of the earth.”

But we mustn’t forget that such people can also be “light of the world.” They can be people of great faith, who have a longing for their heavenly home, the eternal, the transcendent.

Maybe that’s why Mamie had such a tremendous flexibility throughout her apostolic life. She was able to visit country after country, be responsible for foundations all over the world, because while loving her earthly home, she knew that her true homeland was not on this earth, but elsewhere.

Walking in darkness of faith, she was a true “pilgrim of the absolute” her whole life—a phrase Catherine adopted to describe those who have the Madonna House vocation with its commitment to the evangelical counsels.

A reading from the Book of Revelation (7:9, 14b-17) describes the immense crowd that stands around the throne of God in heaven, singing his praises. They are participating in the eternal, non-boring liturgy!

Who are these people? These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

 

As one of the pioneers of Madonna House, Mamie had her share of tribulations and ordeals. Everything was untried; everything was at an experimental stage.

Once, Catherine resigned her post as director-general, to be present, she thought, in a new way as “foundress.” It fell to Mamie to assume the post of director, but it was an arrangement about fifteen years ahead of its time in our community history.

Mamie resigned after about a year and a half. Resigned—but didn’t quit her vocation.

There are many ways of shedding blood in a vocation and becoming one with Christ. This is how Catherine Doherty described one of them in a letter written to the community at that time:

“Now, if I were to share my last year, I would say—and I think I would be very honest and simple—that the blood of Mamie and my blood mixed, and in some kind of rivulet, it flowed to the foot of the cross. And in some incredible kind of way, his blood mingled with our blood.

“I must apologize to Mamie for the pain I caused, because in all her culture and in your culture, which she shares and you share, I was what the French call de trop(too much).

“I understood this after a long time, and Mamie’s blood and mine mingled. She carried on in what for her must have been a torturous situation….

“The fantastic perseverance of Mamie under [what was] for her a most difficult situation is an example to all of us of what perseverance as a virtue really means—the humility, the acceptance, the resignation—all these stand out before you as so many signposts that show the way, Christ’s way.

“What you witnessed is a work of God within a community he has brought together. Take it to heart, keep it in your soul, never forget that the price of people coming, the price of being an icon, the price of being a Christian, is pain. But the pain turns into joy. We very often think about it, talk about it, but you have it right here.”

The Lord has proclaimed some very consoling promises for those who suffer for him and give their testimony, and this is our hope for all who have strived to live as Mamie did:

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev 7:16-17).