I don’t think this summer could have flown by any faster! I got engaged and this, of course, led to lots of celebrations. Fatigue aside, its been an incredibly happy season and Zaid and I are both so excited for what the future holds. Don’t we look excited?
But all joking aside, it really has been wonderful and the adventures we’ve been able to squeeze in around project deadlines, meetings, and other obligations have been a real treat. One such adventure was a road-trip to the Ottawa Valley this past weekend to visit Madonna House.
Madonna House Apostolate is a Catholic community of lay men, women, and priests, who are dedicated to loving and serving Jesus Christ in all aspects of daily life. Its community members come from all walks of life, and from various countries and cultures. At Madonna House, they learn to serve God in great yet simple ways and discover the sacred through ordinary tasks.
The chapel of Our Lady of the Woods (above) was built on the island in 1972 by the men of Madonna House and some locals using discarded logs from 100-year-old barns in the Ottawa Valley. And trust me, it is so, so beautiful inside as well.
The statue and shrine of Our Lady of Combermere (below) was blessed on June 8,1960. Our Lady of Combermere’s statue is situated in a stand of trees a few hundred yards from the main house. The path that leads to and from Our Lady is well worn, a sign of the great devotion of the whole community. Her arms are outstretched to embrace Madonna House, the valley and the world.
I traveled to Madonna House with Zaid, my cousin Muffy, and my grandma. Z has a friend currently staying at Madonna House who was able to get the day off from kitchen duty to give us a tour of the main property and the farm. I was over the moon, guys. We learned all about the farm operation, food production and preservation, the Madonna House bees, their maple syrup operation and the list goes on.. It is often said that Catherine Doherty, the foundress, was consistently fifty years before her time and I’m convinced that this is true. The Madonna House community is truly living Laudato Si’ and they have been doing it in their quiet, humble way for decades!
The farm was absolutely buzzing when we arrived because it was canning day for the peaches and beans. Young and old alike were busy in the farm kitchen, industrious and joy-filled. I couldn’t help but think as I looked at the lay men, women, and priests carrying buckets of water, washing jars for canning, feeding livestock or tilling a garden with such purpose that this is man fully alive. A real utopia.
It is also so reflective of the spirituality that Catherine imbued Madonna House with. In a reflection entitled The Adventure of Washing Dishes, she writes:
What can a person do who tries to love God tremendously?
Everything, from turning the lights off to save electricity to refraining from getting new clothes all the time, to not being picky about food, to going where God calls you.
Once I know God’s will, I am going to try to do it perfectly. My heart swells and I say, “This also, Lord, for love of you.” I know very well its redemptive value.
Here’s another way of putting it: I have empty hands. I consider that I have to bring something to the altar to offer at my next Mass.
What can I bring? I can bring clothing washed with great love, understanding full well that because of my attention, these clothes have redemptive value. I can bring hours of conversation or letters written with attention to details.
It never occurs to me that I can possibly separate anything from love. For example, I will speak of washing dishes. If I have the attitude that this is a beautiful little thing that I can give God, then washing a cup becomes an adventure. Do you get the picture?
Every little thing should be done perfectly, completely connected with God. Otherwise, it ceases to be interesting. It has no sense and no being.
No matter what their job, everyone has to do little things. But for us at Madonna House, doing them with our whole hearts is of the essence of our vocation.
—Adapted from ‘Grace in Every Season’ available from MH Publications
Ooooh we sure love her here at f&pb! She never fails to put us in our place…
Moving on. After the farm visit, we stopped at a little cemetery down the road where members of the Madonna House community were interred and their graves marked with the simplest of crosses. I was so moved to have the opportunity to stand and pray there, invoking the intercession of Catherine and Eddie for Eunice and our blogging endeavors, and for Z and the journey we are embarking on towards marriage. And I hope Catherine and Eddie will intercede for us–we need it!
Overall our mini pilgrimage was a wonderful one and left me super inspired. I highly recommend visiting if you find yourself in Eastern Ontario or dig into some of Catherine’s books, available through Madonna House Publications. And please keep me in your prayers as I prepare for a new vocation!