Monday, July 31, 2006

Madonna House (part 1)


I had the opportunity to visit with a friend, what can really only be described as a commune called Madonna House

Madonna House consists of men and women, including a number of priests, who live prayerful lives together as celibates. They grow their own food, including eggs,meat, milk and cheese according to principles (which as I read them sound like organic farming!) laid down by their foundress, Catherine de Hueck Doherty. They also sell books and donated items to raise money for their own missions.

Catherine's cause for sainthood is being examined and promoted by those in Madonna House, and others.

MH is also a Catholic community.

There are many MH communities throughout North America and around the world, but the first one was the one I saw yesterday.

I had been here before, but I only saw what visitors usually see. A quick tour of the main house, the museum, the bookstore and the used goods store. Yesterday was a treat as I went with a friend who had spent a year there. I got to see some areas not usually seen by visitors.

First, we drove out to the farm. As we droved I realized that MH covered a lot more territory than I'd realized, even though I"ve been there on at least two other occasions.

We were given a tour of the farm. I patted horses for the first time in years. I saw their Ayreshire and Holstein dairy cattle. I saw the sheep and their 'guard llama' named Dudley.

One wonders if the name 'Dudley Llama' was one of several puns I caught as we toured the various farm buildings. The buildings are named for various saints. The farm buildings definitely show a sense of humour. The walk in freezer was called St. Isadore (try saying that with a long 'I'). The hay barn was called St. Timothy. St. Lawrence O'toole I need to tell you? I even noticed an icon of the Transfiguration in the cheese making room of the dairy. I didn't have the nerve to ask if it was a commentary on what happened to the milk.

Farming techniques are really only recently starting to be mechanized. Scythes are still used to cut long grass and hay. Hay tongs still hung in the barn. The foundress believed that by employing simple, non-mehanized techniques, the people would be prepared for any conditions they may encounter as they were sent on missions.

The little chapel on the farm was lovely. The altar was handmade by residents of MH. I suspect the cover on the Tabernacle was also a local creation. Icons were seen almost everywhere and reflect the strong influence the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church had on Catherine Doherty, who was born in Russia.

We went back toward the main house before the peanut butter cookies, being baked by one of the farm residents, were ready. My friend had an appointment. On the way, we picked up another friend of hers and I got a tantalizing and brief look at the archives for MH. In a community where toilet facilities do not include running water (although they are immaculate), the archives had climate control, and alarm system, and a very professional and up-to-date looking set of mobile shelving.

A book that caught my interest in the computer room was called "The Mass of the Future". It was copywritten in 1947! I would love to get a chance to read it!

After dropping the friend off at the staff house, which is a school converted to dormitories, we proceeded to my friends appointment. While she went in, I was to sit at the lakeside in one of the wooden chairs (I avoided the Muskoka chairs as I wasn't sure I'd be able to climb out of them!) under the shade of several trees. I had been given a copy of "Apostolic Farming" by Catherine Doherty as I said good-bye to those we met at the farm. I proceeded to read the little book and enjoy the coolness of the breeze.

I knew from experience that MH residents are very quick to notice visitors. They guard their privacy carefully and visitors paths are guided. I had been coached by my friend as to what to say if anyone approached me in her absence.

Well, the hour passed, and the only notice anyone appeared to take in me was an elderly lady who walked by and waved in my direction...and kept going.

At this point, I'd better leave off for now and put my family to bed. I will finish this tomorrow!

God Bless

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