Christmastide in Combermere

An unexpected opportunity to visit Madonna House last week turned this Christmas season into a very holy and happy one.

Used to bread and cheese for Friday supper, I arrived on Dec. 30 to the feast of the Holy Family and a sumptuous supper, at least by Madonna House standards.

New Year’s Eve brought a holy hour and praying for every nation on earth. It was both simple and profound at the same time. 

Sunday was the celebration of Mary, Mother of God and the first of three days off for staff and guests.  It was a joy to be at daily Mass and simply be present to the day’s liturgy.  The absence of overtones of the liturgy wars, both during Mass and in general conversation, was notable. The Masses were all Latinn rite, but the December schedule was still up and I noticed they had a Byzantine liturgy (Melkite rite) on December 8 for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Beyond daily Mass and Adoration, catching up on old friendships and meeting new people was good. The women’s dorm had the usual Canadian and US guess, plus the recent presence of several Korean women, with a housemother from Hungary. The men’s dorm was very international, ranging from North American to France, Ukraine, Belgium, someone from South America(?) and several others that I don’t remember. The cultural diversity was seen in the “entertainments” after supper, frequently carols in various native languages.

It is difficult to convey the context of what “days off” mean to a community who choose to live a life that reminds them of others’ poverty.  Try using the outdoor jon when it’s zero degrees Fahrenheit.  At the very least, one does not dawdle.  It is only when one is unplugged on a daily basis from the internet, cell phones, iPhones, etc. that one can appreciate the pickup hockey game, pinochle, hand and foot, Apples to Apples,  and videos.   Mostly though, people talk with each other. 

It was indeed a very blessed time.


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