These weeks in Madonna House have been all about the new life bursting forth all about us. It is the big push for planting on the farm—in recent weeks we have had work bees after supper to plant first onions, then potatoes, then cabbage. Broccoli awaits us this week. For some years now the community has committed itself to a weekly farm garden bee, and it has proven to be an efficient way for us all to work together to plant, thin, weed, or harvest, depending on the season.
Meanwhile it is apple blossom season, and what a year for apple blossoms it is. The central feature in the MH main house grounds is a small apple orchard next to our parking lot and the path to our chapel. The trees have been thick with blossoms this year, their delicate sweet scent perfuming the air, the buzzing of many bees letting us know that the pollinators are doing their job, too.
Best yet, the apple blossoms coincided with the first really warm days of the year. In past years we have had late frosts that have damaged (or in the case of last year, completely wiped out) the apple harvest. This year, no such misfortune has occurred, and whatever else we end up eating from our land, it would appear that we will be hip-deep in apples at this rate.
Our guest population has had a small bump, courtesy mostly of the men’s side of things. Several seminarians from Philadelphia are spending a few weeks with us after their academic year; others have come to join us as well. Now it is the women’s turn to scratch their heads as the number of women guests has dwindled to a handful. Any young ladies out there want to come for a spiritual adventure at Madonna House? The door is open!
The priests have been busy guys, running around here and there giving retreats and days of recollection. Two of them gave or helped to give retreats to seminarians; I gave a day of recollection on the Year of Mercy near Ottawa; we have had numerous requests lately to cover Sunday Masses in parishes in the surrounding towns.
A big push right now is Cana Colony, our MH family camp. For those new to the blog and unfamiliar with it, this is a six week program we run where as many as nine families can come each week for a vacation-retreat experience, with daily Mass and a conference and lots of time together as families. The season starts more or less a month from now, so there is a great deal of work to get the camp cleaned up and set up to receive the families.
This is the one apostolic work we do that actually has a papal mandate, having been the one specific thing Pope Pius XII personally asked Catherine Doherty to do when she had a private audience with him in 1951. It has always been a very fruitful apostolate, and I personally believe it is the grace of that papal mandate at work.
Our gift shops had their big opening last weekend, which was a holiday long weekend in Canada. This is where we sell all the ‘nice’ things that come in donation here—collectibles, jewelry, objets d’art and so on—as well as our MH books and handicrafts. There is also our used book store. All the proceeds from the shops do not remain in Combermere, but go directly to missionaries across the world.
In Canada the May long weekend is the typical time people open up their cottage for the year, and this is very much cottage country, so the shops were busy as can be last weekend. It is a herculean effort to keep these shops running, but the results are beyond value—schools, orphanages, hospitals, dispensaries, seminaries, and so much more receive funding from these little shops tucked away in an obscure corner of the Ottawa Valley.
Finally, the men are hard at work on the women’s guest dorm, the upper level of which is well along with being renovated. Dry walling and painting is occurring at this point, which is always a good sign that the project is approaching completion. We have been grateful for the influx of men guests, who have thrown themselves in to that project with enthusiasm.
That’s about it for now—MH is a busy, busy place between the farm and the rest of the summer season. In the midst and through it all, be assured of our prayers for you all and for our troubled world.