2 Apr 2012

Madonna House: The People of the Towel & Water

Video made at Madonna House, Combermere, Ontario, Canada

I have visited the Madonna House community in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, a number of times, in 1985 and in 2005. One of many blessings was meeting and working with a priest of Madonna House, the late Monsignor Art Bukowski, from Michigan, USA, in Kentucky during the summers of 1969 and 1970, when I was a young priest studying in the USA. He was much older than me and when I first met him he had just finished 29 years as president of Aquinas College, Grand Rapids. He later, I think, spent some time in Latin America. He died in 1989. I remember him for his quiet, missionary zeal as a priest and his driest of the dry humour. I also remember the Madonna House cross that he wore.

 Monsignor Arthur F. Bukowski

The video, which begins with part of the gospel for Holy Thursday, highlights the consecration of Catherine de Hueck (de HUEeck) Doherty and her husband to Jesus through Mary. This consecration comes form the teachings of St Louis-Marie de Montfort. The film mentions that that saint had a similarly deep influence on the spirituality of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed John Paul II. It was also the bedrock of the spirituality of the Venerable Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary.

Something else emphasised in the video is 'Nazareth spirituality', which deeply influenced Blessed Charles de Foucauld, though in a somewhat different way. It is also implicitly part of the spirituality of Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche and co-founder of its 'cousin' Faith and Light. Both of these, like Madonna House, are very Marian. Indeed, Faith and Light grew out of an international pilgrimage to Lourdes for persons with learning disabilities and their families in 1971.

The very title of this video also reminds me of something that Jean Vanier places great importance on, the washing of the feet. In a retreat I made under him in Manila in 1995 we spent a whole afternoon reflecting on this, ending in small circles where we washed the feet of one of the persons beside us. The one who washed mine was Lala, about whom I've written a number of times before.

 Lala taking care of Jordan in the 'Nazareth' that is the L'Arche community, Cainta, Rizal, near Manila

Though based in England at the time, I was chaplain to the small Philippine group at the Faith and Light international pilgrimage to Lourdes during Holy Week 2001. After the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper we had our own washing of the feet ritual in the garden of the hotel where the Filipinos were staying.

'Nazareth spirituality' shows the extraordinary presence of God in the ordinary. Most of us spend our whole lives in 'Nazareth' and yet very few of us are aware of this.

A quiet joy comes through this film, the kind of joy that Pope Benedict spoke about in his message for this year's World Youth Day, observed yesterday, Palm Sunday.

1 comment:

  1. Footwashing is an ultimate act of humility exceeded only by having one's own feet washed. I'm also reminded of the words of an Irish mother to her son every morning about feet: "Get down on your knees and thank God you can stand on your two feet and get them dirty every day.

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