Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes has heard me mention Madonna House.
Madonna House is a Catholic community of men, women, and priests whose main house is located fairly near Algonquin Provincial Park in the Canadian province of Ontario. For those who think in terms of cities, that’s four hours northeast of Toronto and two hours west of Ottawa.
Guests (both from North America and internationally) who make arrangements ahead of time share in the community life. A weekday starts with Lauds, using the Gelineau psalmody, then breakfast and on to the day’s work. There’s very much a Benedictine ora et labora (prayer and work) quality to daily life.
The community grows most of its own food, so summertime frequently finds guests working in the gardens, processing the harvest (women) or splitting firewood (men). There’s also a gift shop, the proceeds of which are sent to various missions in other countries. At mid-day lunch, there is spiritual reading, then on to the afternoon’s work. The house is right on the Madawaska river and I used to use the afternoon tea break for a quick swim. The work day ends with Mass, then supper. During the summer, each week several families spend a week at Cana Colony, which is down the road.
That’s the factual information. What can’t be conveyed in words is the depth of prayerfulness that permeates Madonna House that comes from the rigorous living out of the Gospel since Catherine and Eddie Doherty settled in on May 17, 1947. That’s 62 years of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice that has more than once given me the feeling of being on holy ground. I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture. Living closely in community has its frictions. That’s where living the Gospel without compromise comes in. The title of this post is the title of a book by Catherine Doherty about living the Gospel whole-heartedly and doing so in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
This is an overview as background for later posts. Those who would like more information about Madonna House can find it on their website.