Nestled in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Madonna House Roanoke is a large rambling southern home located in the heart of downtown Roanoke. We are a poustinia in the marketplace—an oasis of prayer and the presence of Christ in the inner city.
We welcome through our blue door young and old, laity and clergy, anyone seeking refreshment in the Lord under the mantle of Our Lady. We are called a house of prayer and listening.
Three Madonna House laywomen are assigned here, consecrated under lifetime promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, faithful to the teachings of the Church and Magisterium. Opened in 1979 at the request of Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, Madonna House is a visible prayer presence to the people of the Diocese of Richmond.
Those who come may visit our chapel with the Blessed Sacrament, browse the shelves of classic Catholic books, or go into poustinia, the 24-hr. retreat of silence, praying with the scriptures and fasting. Two poustinia rooms are available.
Sometimes a person just needs a place to come and talk things over. We open our hearts to listen to the struggles and concerns of those who come to us, confident that Jesus is the real Listener. All that is shared with us we lift up to the Lord in our prayers and tasks of the day. Once a week we make a day of poustinia to pray for all the intentions the Lord has brought to us.
Poustinia, the Russian word for desert, was introduced by our Foundress, Catherine de Hueck Doherty from her Russian heritage. At the turn of the 20th century the child Catherine would pilgrimage with her mother to the hut of a poustinik situated outside a village or town. This person was called to a solitary life, interceding for the villagers and the whole world. The poustinik not only prayed and fasted but was available to listen to those who came for counsel and also to help the townspeople in time of need—such a bringing in the harvest.
Catherine brought this way of union with God and neighbor to North America in the 1960s and made it available to anyone yearning for a deeper relationship with God. In the poustinia of today, one spends 24 hrs. of silence in a simply furnished room. Bread and water are provided and the soul is nourished by the Word of God. Once the busyness and noise of daily life is quieted you are able to hear the Lord speaking to your heart in the Scriptures. One leaves the poustinia with a deeper knowledge of God’s love and presence within. Shorter times in the poustinia are also possible.
Our foundress Catherine liked to say, “I can do anything between two Masses.” We begin our day with Mass at one of the local parishes. At other hours we stop for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, to pray from the Liturgy of the Hours, and to recite the rosary together. One day a week we close the house in order to make poustina.
An essential part of our Madonna House spirituality that we share is our Nazareth way of life. Volunteers of all ages help us with the cooking and cleaning, gardening and office work. All the ordinary tasks and encounters of the day, when offered to God are used by the Lord to pour out his transforming love upon the world. The peace that passes understanding grows in all hearts who pray this way. In the words of St. Pius X it is a way to “restore all things in Christ”.
Twice a month local priests celebrate mass for us in our chapel. Everyone is welcome and afterwards shares in a potluck breakfast. Newcomers may have a tour of the house.
Parishes and groups are welcome to meet at Madonna House for a day of retreat, or to come for a presentation on our MH life, prayer and spirituality. Campus ministries, the RCIA, secular religious organizations and students of all ages are regular visitors to this house of Our Lady.