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Combermere Diary

November or thereabouts is usually the least beautiful time of year around here—the time between the bright autumn leaves and the snow. It’s the time when everything in nature is brown or beige or gray or dark green. But this year that time was short, for the snow came early and so far at least is staying, making everything white and bright.

This is a quiet in-between time for us, a time between the harvest and food processing, and Advent.

We did have Linda Lambeth’s funeral; please God it will be the last for a while. Outside of that, our biggest news is that construction has begun in earnest on our new addition—essentially our new kitchen.

Why are we putting up this building? Is it really necessary? Yes, it is necessary; our current kitchen is not up to building code according to Ontario law and cannot be made so.

Those of you who have been here might well be wondering: where is this new building? It is between the main house and Our Lady of Combermere. Trees have been cleared, and another casualty is the lovely stone wall Mary Davis built in the fifties or sixties. On the other hand, we are leaving the trees gently surrounding Our Lady of Combermere.

One good thing is that we have a “ringside seat,”—actually more than one inside ringside seat—looking out the windows in the dining room and what we call “the little library” to see every change. At this early stage at least, seems like there is something new every day.

So far, the footings have been poured, and the foundation wall of ICFs (insulted concrete forms), have been laid. Today, concrete is being poured between the Styrofoam forms.

This new building will be joined to the main house by a passageway, and so a doorway will be made in the wall of our dining room/library as well as the basement and area outside the chapel upstairs. But it has been decided not to do this until after Christmas, so that we can enjoy the season in the beauty we are familiar with.

So far, the building seems to be going well, but on other fronts, as is far from unusual, things break down and need fixing.

One day, Tom White got a call that the farm freezer had broken down and then not long after that another call that the fridge at St. Joseph’s House had also quit. The farm freezer had recently been filled, among other things, with the meat from 42 sheep and 2 cows!

Just before the contents of this very large freezer would have needed to be moved, Tom got it going again. The fridge at St. Joseph’s, obviously much smaller, had to be replaced.

Meanwhile, of course, our ordinary life goes on. As always, the “little saints,” local children dressed as saints, visited us right after supper on Halloween. They were a delight as we tried to guess, from the clues they gave us, which saint they were dressed as.

On All Saints’ Day, one of the days we celebrate differently every year, we had a music night called “Music Making with Saints in the Making.”

Emceed by Nicholas Parrott and Martha Reilander, it was casual and fun and quite varied. Songs and instrumentals included classical, blue grass, and current liturgical songs. “Madonna House’s got talent,” let me tell you!

The next day, All Souls’ Day, we said the rosary at our gravesites—the main house did so at the parish cemetery where some of our staff are buried and St. Mary’s at our own cemetery.

Thirteen members of the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy, Fr. Gaitley’s group, spent a week with us. These are young members of a very young community, and their freshness, enthusiasm, openness, and love of God were a joy. Plus, it was great to have this sudden influx of workers at a time when the number of working guests was low.

Also visiting, but only for less than a day were twenty high school art students from Oshawa and their teacher. One of our artists, Daniel Rabideau, hosted them in his studio, and Raandi King did so at our handicraft center. Daniel said it was a great meeting, a time of their learning about the spiritual side of painting.

Our elders have some news: Nicholas Parrott, who was a personal fitness trainer before joining Madonna House, leads them in exercises twice a week, and those living on the floor called Holy Family, had a day of recollection with Fr. Tom Talentino.

The season marches on. “The Small Shop,” which is what it is in the summer, has been transformed by Carol Ann Gieske into the Christmas Shop, and in the kitchen and elsewhere plans for Advent are already underway.

And we are enjoying a book display. That’s when the library puts out their newly accessed books and leaves them on display where we have two weeks to look at them and sign up for them. Great fun for book-lovers!

Well, I guess that’s it for now. May God bless each of you abundantly with all the graces you need.

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