Feast of Venerable Catherine de Hueck Doherty (August 10)   2 comments

Above:  Combermere, Ontario, Canada

Image Source = Google Earth

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EKATERINA FYODOROVNA KOLYSCHKINE DE HUECK DOHERTY (AUGUST 15, 1896-DECEMBER 14, 1985)

Foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate

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The hunger for God can only be satisfied by a love that is face to face, person to person.  It is only in the eyes of another that we can find the Icon of Christ.  We must make the other person aware we love him.  If we do, he will know that God loves him.  He will never hunger again.

–Venerable Catherine de Hueck Doherty, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 352

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Venerable Catherine de Hueck Doherty comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).  In that volume, her feast day is August 15.  On this Ecumenical Calendar, however, I reserve August 15 for St. Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God.  Furthermore, I do not wait until I add “new” saints with December feast days to add Doherty to this calendar.  I have, therefore, moved her feast.

Social justice is a spiritual and divine mandate.  This message runs through the Law of Moses, the teachings of the Hebrew prophets, and the ethics of Jesus in Nazareth.  This message continues to animate many professing, practicing Jews and Christians, frequently to the frustration and consternation of merely professing Jews and Christians.

Ekaterina Fyodorovna Kolyschkine was originally a subject of the Russian Empire.  She, born on a train in Nizhny, Novgorod, on August 15, came from minor nobility.  Her father was Fyodor Kolyschkine, a Polish-Russian industrialist and diplomat.  Our saint’s mother was Emma Thomson Kolyschkine.  The family religion was Russian Orthodoxy.  Ekaterina spent much of her childhood abroad because of her father’s diplomatic assignments.  The family returned to Russia in 1910; our saint matriculated at the Princess Obolensky Academy, Saint Petersburg.  At the tender age of 15 years, she married a cousin, Baron Boris de Hueck (1889-1947), in 1912.

The revolutionary age of Russia had begun.  The First Russian Revolution (1905) ended Czarist autocracy, to an extent.  That revolution led to the creation of something of a constitutional system.  World War I (1914-1918) hastened the Second Russian Revolution (1917), which ended the monarchy and left power in the hands of the ineffectual Provisional Government.  The Third Russian Revolution (1917) brought the Bolsheviks to power.

The de Huecks spent much of World War I apart.  The Baron, in military service, was on the Eastern Front.  The Baroness worked as a nurse.  The two of them, eventually reunited, fled Russia after the rise of the Bolsheviks to power.  The couple joined the Roman Catholic Church en route to the New World.  They arrived in Canada in 1920.

The de Huecks were nobility, but they were poor in the New World.  Venerable Catherine worked a series of low-paying jobs in Canada and the United States.  The de Hueck family had grown to three people.  The newest member was a son, George.  Eventually, our saint earned real money on the lecture circuit; she described her experiences in Russia and escaping from that country.  As time passed, she regained her economic good fortune yet lost her marriage.  Venerable Catherine began to question her life, with its materialistic plenty.

Our saint, obeying what she perceived as the call of God on her life, radically simplified her life in 1930.  She gave up most of her worldly goods and moved into a slum in Toronto.  She, with the support of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, founded the first Friendship House.  This institution offered Roman Catholic education, fellowship, and a soup kitchen.  Ironically, some conservatives mistook our saint for a communist sympathizer.  Friendship House, Toronto, lost support and had to close in 1936.

Yet Dorothy Day (1897-1980) understood our saint and what she was doing.  Day’s Catholic Worker Movement operated on similar principles as did Friendship House, Toronto.  Father John LaFarge, Jr. (1880-1963) also understood what Venerable Catherine was doing.  In 1937, he invited her to establish a new Friendship House in Harlem.  Friendship House, Harlem, opened the following year.  In Harlem, our saint learned about racial prejudice and injustice.  She continued to travel and lecture.  In Savannah, Georgia, a group of white Roman Catholic women nearly beet Venerable Catherine to death after a lecture.  In 1941, Thomas Merton (1915-1968) heard our saint speak.  He summarized Venerable Catherine’s message:

Catholics are worried about Communism:  and they have a right to be….But few Catholics stop to think that Communism would make very little progress in then world, or none at all, if Catholics really lived up to their obligations, and really did the things Christ came on Earth to teach them to do:  that is, if they really loved one another, and saw Christ in one another, and lived as saints, and did something to win justice for the poor.

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 353

The Baroness, of “the B.,” as her friends referred to her, carried the air of authority naturally and did not suffer fools easily and gladly.  Once, a high-society, racist woman told our saint,

You smell of the Negro.

Venerable Catherine replied,

And you stink of hell!

The marriage to Baron de Hueck formally ended via annulment in 1943.  That year, Venerable Catherine married journalist Edward J. “Eddie” Doherty (1890-1975).  They had met when he was on an assignment to write a story about her.

Leadership-related tensions at Friendship House, Harlem, led our saint to resign from that organization in 1947.  The Dohertys moved to Combermere, in rural Ontario, Canada.  There they helped the local poor and sick.  And there they founded the Madonna House Apostolate in 1947.  The Madonna House was a place of prayer and spiritual retreat.  Our saint emphasized withdrawing from worldly compulsions and listening to God.  The place of retreat, she wrote, could be anywhere, really, and varied according to circumstances.  Yet retreating and listening remained crucial.

Eddie, ordained a priest in the Melkite Rite in 1969, died in 1975.

Venerable Catherine, aged 89 years, died in Combermere on December 14, 1985.

Our saint’s Madonna House Apostolate has continued.  So has the message, apart from the Apostolate.  For example, Venerable Catherine wrote and spoke of the “duty of the moment.”  She emphasized the moral imperative of doing at any given moment what God would have one to do at that moment.

What, O reader, is God telling you is imperative for you to do at this moment?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHABBAZ BHATTI AND OTHER CHRISTIAN MARTYRS OF THE ISLAMIC WORLD

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, CELTIC MISSIONARY BISHOP; SAINT CAELIN, CELTIC PRIEST; SAINT CEDD OF LASTINGHAM, CELTIC AND ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BISHOP OF ESSEX, AND ABBOT OF LASTINGHAM; SAINT CYNIBIL OF LASTINGHAM, CELTIC AND ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK; SAINT CHAD OF MERCIA, CELTIC AND ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, ABBOT OF LASTINGHAM, BISHOP OF YORK/THE NORTHUMBRIANS AND OF LICHFIELD/THE MERCIANS AND THE LINDSEY PEOPLE; SAINT VITALIAN, BISHOP OF ROME; SAINT ADRIAN OF CANTERBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, CANTERBURY; SAINT THEODORE OF TARSUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY; AND SAINT CUTHBERT OF LINDISFARNE, CELTIC AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, HERMIT, PRIEST, AND BISHOP OF LINDISFARNE

THE FEAST OF DANIEL MARCH, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN STUART BLACKIE, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN SCHOLAR, LINGUIST, POET, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDMILLA OF BOHEMIA, DUCHESS OF BOHEMIA AND MARTYR, 921; HER GRANDSON, SAINT WENCESLAUS I, DUKE OF BOHEMIA, AND MARTYR, 929; SAINT AGNES OF PRAGUE, BOHEMIAN PRINCESS AND NUN; HER PEN PAL, SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDRESS OF THE POOR CLARES; HER SISTER, SAINT AGNES OF ASSISI, ABBESS OF ASSISI; AND HER MOTHER, SAINT HORTULANA OF ASSISI, POOR CLARE NUN

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Lord God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom

the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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2 responses to “Feast of Venerable Catherine de Hueck Doherty (August 10)

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  1. Kenneth, Catherine Doherty is one of my favorite spiritual writers. Her books are a great introduction to Catholic & Russian Orthodox spiritual traditions- and to to the love of Jesus for all people. Blessings!✨ 📚✨🕊✨

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