Madonna House

The Wisdom of My Island

by Catherine Doherty

Here in the natural peace of cool woods and greenery, I try to endure the pain that fills my soul, mind and heart.

What is the essence of that pain? The essence of that pain is Christ, whom so many of us are failing.

I have witnessed the leadership that belongs to Christians slip from our hands and pass over into the hands of the secular world.

There, men follow not the standards of the loving, merciful God, but the standard of mere humanitarianism in which God has almost no part.

We Christians—with a few exceptions—seem to be islands, not bent on sticking our necks out but on protecting ourselves.

From what? From whom? From getting involved, it seems to me, in the burning questions of the day. Questions of principle must now be lived in the marketplace, no matter what the cost.

Yet, we prefer to remain little islands, minding our own business, never making bridges between ourselves and others.

The pain in my heart grows bigger. I didn’t think it could. But my island—its beauty and the reflection of God’s face it portrays—gives me the strength to put down bridges in all directions, bridges of prayer, fasting and penance.

The vigil light, lit at sunset before my Russian shrine, glows like a jewel in the dark when I return to my island from the mainland.

It is before this shrine that I kneel in the quiet of a summer night. I beseech the Mother of God, Our Lady of Kiev, Our Lady of Russia, to save her children the world over, save them from the catacombs into which so many of us are headed.

We may be leading the Church into those catacombs through our non-involvement, our non-commitment, through our remaining islands without bridges.

What else, I ask Our Lady, can I do? Only what I am already doing? The apostolate of Madonna House grows and gets involved in every phase of Canadian-American life where involvement is needed. But that is not enough. Nor is it enough simply to raise one’s voice in print and through lectures.

“Stand firm as we do and don’t be moved,” say the trees. “Cease not to pray like we do,” whisper the grass and the flowers. “Continue to weep over the sins of mankind,” sings the river as she passes by my island.

There is always an answer to be found. I thank God for giving me such a wise island which allows my pain to remain and counsels me how to assuage the pain of Christ.

From Welcome Pilgrim, (1991), pp. 49-51, MH Publications, out of print