Christmastide in Combermere

January 7, 2012

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.


Not Inevitable, Not Surprising

June 25, 2011

Prior to last night’s vote on “gay marriage” – why are these votes always late night, pre-holiday, any time other than regular business hours? – a local newspaper ran a poll worded “Whether you support it or not, do you think gay marriage is “inevitable” in New York State?” I voted as “not inevitable” but neither was I surprised when I heard it was enacted into law. Given the determination of those pushing the homosexual agenda, it was a disappointment but not a surprise.

I couldn’t find the “religious exemptions” when I initially searched. I found it at (The “link” icon doesn’t seem to be working.) That’s from a NYT piece written on Friday, before the vote.

If I read this right, the exemptions are for for religious organizations. Maybe that’s to protect Catholic Charities adoption agencies from having to close down, but it offers no protection to individuals who, in good conscience, can not recognize “gay marriage.”

The second thought is that “the other side” is more unified and to be honest, more determined. “This side” is very much fragmented. To be picked up in a later post.

OLV: the landmark

September 23, 2010

Rochester’s  Landmark Society is focusing on the “St. Paul Quarter” for its “Inside Downtown” tour this year.  One of the landmarks is … (drum roll) … Our Lady of Victory church.  The tour guidebook includes a wonderful description of Our Lady of Victory.  The tour cost $18, but you can always see the church during Mass 🙂

Pope Benedict XVI: Don’t Silence Religion

September 18, 2010

Here is a link to the Daily Mail’s article on Pope Benedict call to not silence religion.

Signs of Hope in Russia

September 18, 2010

(I thought this posted earlier this week.  Dratted computers.)

How the Catholic Church in Russia is doing is not mainstrem news, so it was fascinating to read about a recent trip of several members of Madonna House staff to Moscow and their field house in Krasnoyarsk (central Siberia).

In his piece Signs of Hope in Russia, Fr. David May describes the 24/7 prayer in a small chapel at Red Square, the many churches at the Kremlin, and attending the Divine Liturgy at the parish of a contemporary martyr.

It sounds like there are signs of hope indeed.

Schools versus Christianity

August 27, 2010

Earlier this summer, there were three instances of colleges and grad schools terminating three Christians for stating the Christian view of homosexuality.

Kenneth Howell was re-instated after being fired for teaching Catholicism in an Introduction to Catholicism course.

Jennifer Keeton is appealing the judge’s decision that she has to take indoctrination … er, sensitivityclasses because of not affirming homosexuality.

Another case being appealed is Julea Ward’s, in which she referred a client to a different clinician because of the “values conflict.”   

Please keep the cases being appealed in prayer.

Reflections on the Feast of the Assumption

August 20, 2010

Singing for Sunday’s Assumption Mass brought two things to mind. One is how much I like chant. The other that August 15 is indelibly connected in my mind with Byzantine (Melkite rite) celebration of the day, in particular, Archbishop Raya. 


The topic of chant during liturgical prayer is an ambivalent one for me.  On chant itself, I have no mixed feelings.  It’s a wonderfu way to pray the psalms and parts of Mass.

In some ways, I feel I’ve never been without chant. Others have not been so fortunate, which is one reason why it was nice to have chant at Sunday’s Mass.  Among my memories of the pre-1962 Mass, chant is not an immediate one  but undoubtedly there as background.  Time spent at the Abbey of the Genesee was also a deep experience of chant.  Mostly though, I draw on my time at Madonna House where mornings start with chanting the psalms. Music purists turn up their noses at Gelineau psalmody, which is what Madonna House uses. That reminds me of a quote of Tolkien’s about those who didn’t like LOTR.  While chanted psalms are a perfect way to start the day, a chanted Gospel in Mass drives me up a wall.  I think the difference is that the psalms were written to be sung and the Gospels weren’t.  I’m well aware the Gospel is chanted at Mass – I’m just saying that I find it to be a distraction.

The ambivalence on the topic of chant is mostly because it is a focus in the liturgical wars and even the most neutral mention is likely to draw heated comments. I have and will continue to mostly stay out of discussions about music at Mass. Partly it’s because I like a wider style than whenever the topic arises. Partly it’s because I’m equally irritated with both those who refuse chant in any form and those who disdain anything other than Gregorian chant. At any rate, I enjoyed the chant at Sunday’s Mass.


A Latin rite Catholic’s first experience  of a Byzantine liturgy is generally an eye-opener. The effect is even more pronounced when the celebrant is Archbishop Raya, whose physical body barely contained his joy in the Lord.  He knew suffering but his entire being manifested suffering as only a prelude to the glory of the Resurrected Lord and he did so better than anyone I know.

That is particularly apt for the feast of the Assumption or as the Eastern rites call it, the Dormition of Mary.  During Archbishop Raya’s time at Madonna House (he died in 2005: Wikipedia entry here; Madonna House bio here), the weekend of the Assumption was busy as they celebrated both Latin and Byzantine aspects of vespers and the day itself.

Now that I think about it, of all the major feast days, Mary’s Assumption/Dormition most reminds me that “the Church breathes with both lungs.”